Horsin’ Around On Provo

horse1By Kathi Barrington

“I’ve always wanted to ride a horse down the beach on a tropical island”

Until recently, that just wasn’t possible on Providenciales. There were a few privately owned horses here, but no facility or tourists. However, this year I’ve watched many people live that wistfully spoken dream, thanks to a couple of dedicated residents who have opened stables on the island.

Provo Ponies and Phillip Outten’s Riding opened their stable doors early in 2002, allowing tourists and residents alike to discover or renew their love of horses. Now we are not talking about dude ranches with a string of 30 or 40 horses. This is horseback riding island-style. Between the two outfits, they have just 14 horses. They are small, friendly places to visit, and riders are incorporated into the “family” for the duration of their riding excursion.

Phillip runs his operation on his own. Provo Ponies employs blond, vivacious Camille Slattery, native Iowan and mother of two, and 12 year old Dustin Wilson. Dustin, a student at Clement Howell High, came to the stable one evening hoping to learn the equestrian arts. Camille welcomed the lad and now he helps with the horses and absorbs equestrian lore on weekends and after school.

Ironically, the two outfits opened simultaneously. That synchronicity has helped them both. “We send each other business,” Camille explained, “so nobody is disappointed. It’s a win-win situation.” And the word is getting out–finally, you can go riding on Provo. Neither outfit lacks for eager riders.

horse2Thirty seven year old Phillip Outten is an established artist on Provo. His gallery receives hundreds of visitors and his paintings hang in many homes. But the handsome, soft spoken artist is also a horseman.
Born on Grand Turk, he grew up around the horses that have roamed that island since the times of the Bermudian salt rakers. Those early settlers shipped the animals there to provide transportation. Stardust was Phillips’s first horse, but he admits that all the horses on Grand Turk have a place in his heart. He knows them all, and has taken care of and ridden many of them. In moving to Provo, he didn’t forget his early passion.

Today, on a large plot of land near the center of the island, Phillip lives and paints in his gallery, a beautiful studio surrounded by trees and blossoming bougainvilla. And he takes tourists riding. It’s a full life and much of his painting is done at night when the riding season heats up.

When I visited the artist’s studio home, I met a menagerie in an almost fairy tale setting. The Caribbean-style studio is painted in pastels and festooned with flowering vines. The horses bestowed a casual glance from their paddocks as I walked up the bordered stone path, escorted by two very large, very friendly dogs. Chickens scratched in the dirt; a pair of parrots and two delicate lovebirds serenaded me by the front door.
Phillip has four sturdy Grand Turk horses and a recent new addition, three month old colt Peppermint, son of his mare, Sunshine. Apache, his handsome, red, three year old gelding (neutered male), is also out of Sunshine.

The Provo Ponies stables are also home to other creatures, great and small. Three dogs, three cats, two birds and a roost full of “designer” chickens (very fancy hairdos on these birds) complement the stable of ten. Behind the Slattery home a Koi pond is part of the scenery and the deck is home to Guinea pigs and baby chicks.

The atmosphere at the two spreads is casual, allowing visitors to believe that it’s a simple matter to run these multiple animal households. But just consider what it takes to own horses that work for a living . . .

The day begins at dawn, when the horses are fed. This is especially important if there’s a morning ride. Horses have finicky stomachs and shouldn’t be exercised until their breakfast has settled, so timing is essential. Feeding itself is quite the chore. Bulky bales of hay and 50 pound bags of feed provide the main course. After breakfast, the stalls are mucked out and preparations for the ride commence.

horse3For the riders, it’s idyllic. For Camille, Dustin and Phillip there’s a lot of work involved. Each horse is meticulously groomed before each ride. That means currying and brushing their coats, brushing their manes and tails to remove dirt and hay, and picking their hooves. A stone wedged in the frog of a horse’s foot is painful for the animal and will throw off his gait. (That makes it painful for the rider too.)

Saddles are surprisingly heavy and it takes real strength to tighten the girth. Gently manhandling bridles over heads, and bits into large mouths with BIG teeth requires finesse and more than a little patience. Then the rider mounts the horse, with or without a helpful “leg up.” Final adjustments include checking that the saddle is secure and adjusting stirrups for each rider’s legs. Basic instructions–how to go, stop and turn are provided, and the few necessary rules of the road, equestrian style, are reviewed.

A typical ride in paradise commences with a gentle walk down a quiet dirt road. Horse and rider size each other up and begin to develop confidence in each other. On a ride with Phillip, the path leads to the north shore and glorious Grace Bay Beach. Since this is THE beach on Provo, there are plenty of people to admire your horsemanship as you enjoy the ocean breeze and a fabulous sunset. Phillip also takes his guests to the south side, which is more easily accessible from his centrally located stables. The canals and flats, complete with flamingos, herons and ducks, make for a relaxing and interesting ride.

Phillip’s horses are relatively young, considering the equine species can live to the ripe old age of 40. Diamond, a dark brown gelding with the expected diamond blaze on his forehead, is about eight. “He’s like a Cadillac,” Phillip quipped. “He’s always good–no problems ever.” Kaya, named after the Bob Marley album, is a gorgeous deep honey colour with almost white blond mane and tail. He’s well schooled and an easy ride. But he does insist on eating the flowers in the yard so his paddock is floral free. Apache is a confident soul and seems to enjoy the tourist trade. Currently Sunshine’s day is spent with her new colt, but soon she’ll be back on the trail again.

The horses are taught to respond to commands communicated to them through the rider’s reining and leg movements. It’s a process, and an early stage is accustoming the animal to people and eventually to people actually sitting on its back. When Phillip acquired Diamond, and again when he started to train young Apache, he ran beside each horse down Grace Bay Beach in the early mornings and evenings. Inevitably horse and man attracted a crowd. “So I got Diamond, and then Apache, used to people by lifting kids onto their backs, while I held the lead and kept the horse calm. So really, a lot of tourists help me train these two horses,” he said with a broad smile. “Then when the horses were older, they were ready and people stop me on the beach and ask if they can ride. That’s how my business really started.”

The Provo Ponies stables are located in Long Bay Hills, a tranquil area dotted sporadically with homes. A 15 minute ride from the hilltop ranch delivered us to deserted Long Bay Beach via quiet dirt roads and a winding path through a stubby Provo “forest.” Most of the riders choose this route for a walk, trot or canter down miles of white sand edged by the shallow turquoise waters of the Caicos Banks.

Almost as popular is the ride along the Long Bay canal and the salinas that border it. We spotted five flamingos and numerous ducks during one late afternoon ride. The setting sun lit the salinas in a blaze of golds and pinks.

For the latest generation, Provo Ponies has a large paddock where children take lessons on Saturday mornings and horses are groomed and tacked up for trail rides the rest of the week.

The Slattery’s horse epic began when Daisy, a dainty mare from Grand Turk, came to stay in 1995. She was joined by two larger horses, originally from the Dominican Republic–a big dappled white named Dreamer and a smaller speedy bay aptly named Rapido. As much as Camille and her family loved her great big pets, they were and are expensive to feed and require a prodigious amount of work to keep them happy and fit. Being a practical woman, she considered the riding business. A paddock of paperwork was processed and Provo Ponies pranced into the ring. But three horses did not a stable make.
Four more horses, which had been brought to Provo a few years earlier, joined the Provo Ponies stable in early spring. Then, as if on cue, a girlfriend told Camille about some Grand Turk horses which needed new homes. Peg, Camille and Carol rented a barge, flew to Grand Turk to meet it, led six horses and a pony named Billy aboard, and sailed back to Provo.

Camille gained two horses and the pony from that expedition. Now, with nine horses and Billy, Provo Ponies was ready to canter into business. It was time for the horses to begin earning their keep.

Like most fledgling businesses, the operation moved forward from a walk. Seven months later, customers are galloping to their doors. The horses, bearers of novices and experts and everything in between, receive glowing reports from their riders. A lady from New York bubbled after a ride, “I’ve ridden all over the Caribbean and these are the best animals I’ve seen. They’re in great shape and they give a great ride.”
Her mount that day was gorgeous dark Limbo, with other guests on Cowboy, a handsome “paint,” Hero, a buckskin, and chestnut coloured Bruno.

Stable favourite with the regulars is Rapido, Camille’s son Matt’s horse. His trot is smooth, he always listens and responds to commands and he loves to gallop, if given the OK.

Dreamer, Hercules and Sampson (who is the only stallion in the herd) are known as the White Boys–for obvious reason. This handsome trio are great trail horses with personality plus. Turned loose in the paddock together they put on a show. Tails and manes streaming, they charge each other, rearing and raking the air in mock battles. Clearly these “servants of man” have an awesome strength and a will of their own.

Petite, feminine Daisy is the only lady in Camille’s herd. She and Billy are favoured mounts for young children. Patiently they put up with the fumblings of small but willing hands.

Horses, unlike man, choose to flee rather than fight when confronted with confusing or unknown events. Several of Camille’s horses were very flighty indeed when they first came to her. Their heads and bodies bore scars and they were nervous and rather bad tempered from a human point of view. Today, all ten follow her with their eyes, arch their necks for pats, and stand quietly to be shod or groomed.

Phillip Outten and Camille Slattery may not seem extraordinary to the casual visitor. Both carry on as if any one could do the same. But running a successful stable is no simple feat. Add the complications of unreliable water supply, the absence of a farrier to shoe the horses and the logistics of keeping sufficient fresh supplies of hay and horse feed into the equation and the very idea seems daunting.

The Turks & Caicos Islands bills itself as “Beautiful by Nature.” In a country that promotes ecologically sound tourism, horseback riding is right up there with kayaking and sailing as a means of discovering the natural wonders the country has to offer.

Thanks to Phillip Outten’s Riding and Provo Ponies, folks from six to sixty are riding Provo. You will come upon them, in twos and threes or fours and fives, exploring the back lanes and narrow shrub-lined access roads along the canals. You will find them cantering down pristine beaches with the wind in their faces and the sun in their eyes. They return to the stables refreshed and renewed. Euphoric is not too strong a word to describe the experience. I know. One of those riders is me, every chance I get.

1 Comment

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Steve Langenecker
Nov 16, 2010 23:28

My wife and I rode with Philip on our honeymoon almost ten years ago. It was an awesome experience and we are going back next week.

Leave a Reply


What's Inside The Latest Edition?

On the Cover

South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography (myparadisephoto.com) created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

Our Sponsors

  • Fortis
  • Sothebys
  • Turks & Tequila
  • Shore Club
  • Turks and Caicos Real Estate
  • H2O Life Style Resort
  • South Bank
  • Turks & Caicos Banking Co.
  • Projetech
  • Turks and Caicos Tourism
  • Jewels in Paradise
  • TIC
  • Do It Center
  • Landscape
KR LogisticsSWA
jsjohnsonDempsey and Company
Hugh ONeillTwa Marcela Wolf
Parkway Pest SolutionsJohn Redmond
Misick & Stanbrook Caicos Express Air
Island Escapes TCILandfall
Great Bone Fishing Race for the Conch


Lost your password?