Tom Seay is the well known host of a US television show called Best of America by Horseback. Seay got off the Carnival Liberty this past Tuesday on a brief visit which took him to the Banana Bank area. Aside from the wonders of the barrier reef and water sport such as scuba diving and snorkeling, Belize is also endowed with exquisite nature trails perfect for horse riding. It’s a well kept secret that is likely to change as News Five’s Isani Cayetano found out.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Pony-trekking through meandering nature trails deep within the Jewel’s pristine jungles has long been a well-kept secret among equestrians. The adventure of sightseeing by horseback is an activity offered by many resorts and hotels to their guests but it is a leisure interest seldom marketed in the tourism industry. But that will soon be a thing of the past when Belize is showcased internationally to rural Americans.
Visiting for a few hours is Tom Seay, host of popular television show ‘Best of America by Horseback’. Along with him is a group of equine enthusiasts who got off Carnival Liberty to spend their day hacking through the wooded countryside surrounding the Banana Bank Lodge.
Tom Seay, TV Show Host
“We have done rides all over America and we have been studying places to go visit. Riders would call in and say, you know, “where are some safe places to go where the people are friendly and is beautiful to visit?” And so we have been researching [and] Belize comes to the top every time, the people, the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people and it’s safe here and so I want to encourage more people to come here.”
Among those participating in the expedition is Steve Edwards, a rancher from Queen’s Valley, Arizona. From a saddle that sits restfully on the massive back of this regal beast of burden he relishes the moment.
Steve Edwards, Horseback Rider
“Horseback riding in Belize was fantastic, going through the jungles, down through the mud. Watching these horses have the abilities to do what they did was incredible.”
Led by a team of local guides the riders make their way along an intricate network of hoof marks, a path which leads into dense forest alive with flora and fauna.
“It was great and then going through the water, these horses they are absolutely incredible. They knew what they were doing. [It] didn’t take a lot to teach them where I wanted to go. They just went.”
Unlike the attractions of the Old Capital seen mostly from the comfort of a hansom cab, as many of their peers often do, these sightseers have opted for a tour of Belize off the beaten path. John Carr, who owns the lodge, believes more should be done to encourage tourists to engage in different activities including horseback riding.
John Carr, Owner, Banana Bank Lodge
“At Banana Bank we get a lot of tourists, we don’t get enough horse people. We would like more horse people but we hardly get any tourist that don’t want to ride at least two hours. Everybody wants to ride two hours. It’s an experience and the jungle is different than they ever rode before.”
That distinction, as Edwards attests to, is nature’s unique way of being in concert.
“This is incredible, seeing the howler monkeys, seeing the iguanas and what these horses can do is incredible.”
For Seay the experience definitely warrants a second visit, breaking what he says has become a standard practice for ‘Best of America by Horseback’.
“Usually we do one show a week and we only do one location one time. We’re coming back! The people here are just…you’re supposed to be here. You feel like you belong here and it’s one of the few places in the world today that you can feel that way and it’s good for tourism. It’s good for everybody and so I recommend this place highly.”
So highly touted that it has been proclaimed and certified as an international destination for trail riding.
Mariam Roberson, Chairlady, Belize Tourism Board
“Banana Bank as a destination for horseback riding was chosen by the TV show ‘Best of America by Horseback’ and in coming here they also decided to give Belize as a destination the certificate which is truly amazing because horseback riding in Belize, as John mentioned, has been traditionally from ever since one of our activities; part of our culture really. It’s something that we do not promote as much as we probably should as a component for tourism and as we were talking earlier with Tom and the group that came here these horse people are looking for destinations where they can come and do specifically horse-riding.”
…and how does one rider rate the overall experience? Well let’s see what Edwards thinks.
“I would rate it as a ten. I would love to come back [and] bring back some friends so that they can this beautiful area. This is incredible.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
The show will be aired in the United States on RDS TV later this year.