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Horsing around in the Bahamas
By Carol Perehudoff, Toronto Star
Feb 24, 2010 - 2:30:34 PM

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Secluded Barbary Beach is just one of many scenic beaches on the island of Grand Bahama. Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Reality beats reality TV as our intrepid – but horse-challenged – Bachelorette copycat takes the plunge

Grand Bahama, The Bahamas – Am I on The Bachelorette or is this a bad case of TV deja vu?

The pale aqua ocean, deserted beach and sleek black horse all look strangely familiar. My lithe female guide, Leo, the owner of Trikk Pony, confirms it.

Secluded Barbary Beach on Grand Bahama, the fourth-largest island in the Bahamian archipelago, is where Bachelorette DeAnna rode horses with Jesse on The Bachelorette Season 4, and I'm about to re-create the ride.

The only thing is, I'm not sure I want to. When I'd originally signed up I'd misunderstood the program and thought I'd be swimming with seahorses.

When I found out it was swimming in the sea with horses, I almost canceled, then reconsidered – surely I'm over my fear of horses by now.

My issues with riding began when a horse in Cappadocia, Turkey, tried to maim me.

An imperious mare who'd hated me on sight, she'd head into stiff dead trees in the hopes of poking out one of my eyes. It was so bad, I ended up switching horses with another trail rider, and the minute I got on that horse it ran into someone's garden.

Who wouldn't be emotionally scarred?

In a weird Bachelorette coincidence, only one other person is riding, a Bahamian man named Andre.

He's on Nifty, Jesse's ex-mount, a small, brown gelding with gentle eyes. My horse – or should I say, DeAnna's – is taller and shuffles on dainty feet as I approach.

"This is BB, short for Black Beauty." Leo pats her neck. "She's been a real princess ever since the Bachelorette."

I have a sudden flashback. "Wait, didn't she take off with DeAnna?"

Leo hoists me up. "She was just upset because her routine was disrupted because of all the retakes."

I promise BB I won't saddle her with retakes if she doesn't bolt. I've worked hard to overcome my fear and don't need any setbacks.

First came a trip through the Australian Outback on a cow horse named Jughead, who loved me but never listened to a word I said. Then came equine therapy at Ste. Anne's Spa near Grafton, Ont. (www.steannes.com), where I'd spent three intensive days in a battle of wills with a horse named Boomer.

The program teaches you about yourself and your interactions with others, and what I learned is that my leadership skills are deeply buried.

It took two long days before Boomer walked where I wanted him to go and I considered it a triumph – now I'm over my fear of male horses.

So, how am I going to coax a princess into the sea? Keeping in mind what I'd learned in equine therapy – that neither demanding nor begging gets results – I try to exude a calm confidence as we set off down the flour-pale beach.

Barbary Beach is gorgeous, all right. Tendrils of railroad vines crawl along the sand and a warm wind ruffles casuarina trees and silver-toned, sea lavender bushes.

I relax enough to ply Leo for Bachelorette gossip.

"It was supposed to be a romantic scene with DeAnna and Jesse leaning in for a kiss," she says. "Only Nifty didn't want to be beside BB because he's in love with Heidi."

I look at little Nifty with renewed admiration. DeAnna and Jesse didn't work out but Nifty's love for Heidi has stayed strong, especially touching considering she's 27 and he's 12. Evidently, cougar love doesn't only exist in the cat world.

As we near a rocky promontory, Leo slows her horse.

"Okay, we're going in."

I look out at the windswept Atlantic. "Like straight in?"

"Right." She and her horse push forward. Tensely, I nudge BB's sides. She hesitates. The familiar fear rises up in me, the gearing up for a battle of wills, but an interesting thing happens. I see my fear, but it's a hollow husk of emotion. What I'm really feeling is ... excitement.

I nudge BB again and she plunges ahead. Green water swallows us up. First my feet disappear, then my legs until I'm waist deep and we're moving in a methodical rhythm against the warm waves.

Behind me, Andre has a huge grin on his face and I give him a thumbs up. This might not be a TV romance, but it's surreal crazy fun. I'm floating through the ocean and it does sort of feel as if I'm riding a seahorse. Not only have I overcome my fear, I've learned something else – reality beats reality TV.

Read Carol Perehudoff's blog at www.wanderingcarol.com

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