If you like seeing new places, especially off the beaten path, grab your camera and cowboy hat because we have an adventure for you. Experience St. Croix’s tropical rainforest from the inside-out, eat fruit right off the trees, and walk the beach along the Caribbean Sea. Paul Wojcie and Jill Hurd, owners and managers of St. Croix’s oldest and finest horseback riding stable, invite you to explore a different side of St. Croix.
Paul & Jill’s Equestrian Stable and Farm is located 1-1/2 miles north of Frederiksted, off Route 63. Bordering St. Croix’s rainforest, Paul and Jill’s welcomes both beginner and expert riders. Trails crisscross through the valley and meander through the edge of the rainforest, alongside country pastures and plantation ruins, and through a forest of indigenous trees. Some culminate on green hilltops, revealing the town of Frederiksted, the blue Caribbean waters, and a myriad of intriguing plants and trees. You’ll even get to ride along a picturesque white sand beach nearby!
Jill and her volunteers will saddle up the horses and get you situated, all you have to do is just relax and hold on to the reins, Jill and your horse (of course), will do the rest. Reining, trotting, and cantering lessons are included for beginners. If you haven’t tried horseback riding before, now is your chance. Plus, Jill is a pro at matching the right horses to her riders, so you will have the best possible riding experience.
Arriving at Paul & Jill’s Equestrian Stable, the sweet smell of ripe fruit and mango blossoms wafted through the car windows and awakened my senses. Wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers, we parked the car, grabbed our cameras and headed for the farm house. After a few moments, we spied Jill leading a herd of her ‘big babies’ up the driveway toward us. Turns out that the horses are not kept in a barn or stable, but rather kept free in a huge pasture, so Jill has to go through the mission of locating, haltering, and then bringing the horses up to the saddle room where she and Paul, or one of her volunteers, helps to get them ready for riders. Introductions were made, business was done, other riders arrived and we were set up to go. We mounted up, got comfortable with our steeds (mine was ‘Mr. McGregor’) and made our way, single file, into the lush rainforest.
We sauntered through hanging vines and under the canopy of the trees, past areas aflutter with butterflies, and onto the stunning white sand beaches of the West End. Jill, a life long resident of St. Croix, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the local flora and fauna and as we rode she pointed out a plethora of trees, plants, vines, fruits and critters. We saw a tamarind tree, whose fruit is used in jams, stews, steak sauce, and other seasonings. We rode under a rain tree, whose massive canopy of photosensitive leaves fold up at night and on rainy days. She pointed out kapok trees, almond trees, mahogany trees, and humongous termite nests.
For the next hour and a half or so, we covered 4 or 5 miles of of beautiful grounds, arriving back at the house by some mysterious circumnavigation. The fun and learning didn’t stop when the trails did; we would soon find out that plenty more awaited us. After dismounting our horses, we followed Jill for a walk through the orchard and pasture. As she guided us through, she explained the common name, local name, medicinal uses, and other uses of the trees and fruits. We even got to taste them! We sampled sugar apples, soursop, custard apples, breadfruit, papaya, and golden apples. If you like mangoes, you will like Ambarilla, locally known as the golden apple. When ripe, it has firm, sweet flesh with a bright orange outer skin and one large seed in the center. Guava, one of my favorites, is commonly used throughout the Caribbean in jams and jellies.
As our stroll concluded, we thanked Jill for a day which saturated each of our senses and expanded our appreciation of St. Croix. I would recommend this tour to anyone who loves or wants to try horseback riding, especially those who want to learn more about St. Croix. Recently, Jill has created a ‘safari tour’ for young children, so they can explore the ‘jungles’ of St. Croix and spot exotic (stuffed animal) wildlife. Paul & Jill’s also offers private tours, and riding sessions for more experienced riders. Paul & Jill’s Equestrian Stables does require reservations, so please call ahead of time to reserve your space. Happy trails!
– Updated by Jennie Ogden, Editor