The American Heart Association’s annual Beach Ride is celebrating its 35th year, despite complaints last year after the horses left droppings on the sands of Myrtle Beach.
Sara Nelson of the American Heart Association said the event has a goal of raising $350,000 this year to aid the group in its work to battle heart disease and stroke. The annual ride draws equestrians and their horses from near and far, some of whom fund-raise for a year in order to come.
“The participants, they travel from all over the country,” she said. “It’s set up really similar to a walk, where they fund-raise to attend and they have to raise a minimum amount to come.”
However, the event last year left some in the area in a stink. After the event, some people complained of droppings on the beach. Myrtle Beach then began stricter enforcement of a rule that horses be banned from the beach year-round.
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said the horses for the Beach Ride are allowed on the beach under the special event permit for the event.
He said every year, the city tries to communicate with volunteers to ensure the beach remains clean.
“We have had some years that have been better than others in terms of that happening, but we always communicate that to the [Beach Ride] people,” Pedersen said.
Nelson said that this year, the event will include 30 volunteers on horseback and a few on ATVs to clean up any mess left by the ride on Nov. 12, when participants travel from the event’s epicenter at Lakewood Camping Resort to 52nd Avenue North. The 20-mile round trip takes some a few hours and others the whole day, she said. Volunteers clean up anything left above the high tide line, Nelson said, and the ride is scheduled so that tides are able to take care of the rest.
On the other days of the event, which begins Nov. 9, participants at the campground will remain on the roughly four miles between the Myrtle Beach line and Lakewood, Nelson said. Surfside Beach and Georgetown do not allow horses on the beach.
Nelson encouraged beachgoers to come on the day the horses ride through Myrtle Beach, however. She said many riders will wear shirts honoring a loved one lost to heart disease or stroke.
“Most people have heard of the horses on the beach and they know when the event’s in town, but they have no idea of the impact,” she said.