Explore the Island on Horseback

another trail view

I’m always looking for something new and exciting to do on island. Believe it or not, sometimes the beach gets “old.” Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love having my toes in the sand (and a cold drink in my hand!). But there are definitely times when I’d rather do something different. That desire recently led me over to Coral Bay, to the Carolina Corral.

The Carolina Corral opened back in 1993 with just two donkeys. Since then it’s expanded to include more than two dozen animals including, goats, chickens, ducks and dogs. All of the animals have either been rescued or were no longer wanted by their owners, according to corral owner Dana Bartlett. In addition to caring for the animals, Dana also offers horseback riding on trails in Coral Bay. I recently went out with her and had the opportunity to take a nice little ride.

horse pen

(Disclaimer: I am not a horseback riding girl at all. I used to ride a bit here and there as a child, and after riding a horse that was more interested in climbing up a rocky mountain than meandering along a nice flat little trail, I vowed I’d never do it again. Fortunately Dana was able to coax me back on.)

Our day started over at the corral where Dana works tirelessly to care for more than a dozen animals. Between the feedings, the cleanings and the overall maintenance, it’s hard to believe Dana ever gets a break. So I felt extremely fortunate when she agreed to take some time out of her day to introduce me to the animals. And as I mentioned, she was even able to get me to hop on one of the horses. We took a nice little stroll down the road and were able to see beautiful views of Coral Bay from a perspective I had not seen before. The horses were very docile and I truly enjoyed my ride.

Our horses really seemed to enjoy each other :)
Our horses really seemed to enjoy each other 🙂

As were were trotting along, I asked Dana what it was like to run the corral.

“People got to wonder how I do it,” Dana said. “The day becomes night with the time not being sorted out on hours and minutes, but what needs to be done that day with the energy I have left. I pretty much spend 12 hours here and 12 at home. I’m still working toward making it a more viable place overall.”

“I had a couple tell me they’re glad I’m here and it’s always good too see my repeat customers,” Dana continued. “I like to think of myself as an relatively unchanging fixture here doing the best I know how.”

And in my opinion, Dana is doing a tremendous job, especially given how costly it is to care for the animals.

Dana offers rides Monday through Saturday. She offers a one-hour ride at 10 a.m. and a one-and-a-half hour ride at 3 p.m. Hour rides cost $75 while the longer ride costs $85. Children ages six through 12 receive $10 off. Children under the age of six are not permitted to ride. Private rides for up to five people are also available.

For those not interested in riding, the corral also accepts visitors as well as donations to help care for the animals.

The Carolina Corral is located on Centerline Road just past Skinny Legs. Take a right at the Carolina Corral sign just past Skinny Legs and the corral will be down the road a bit on your right.

You can learn more about the Carolina Corral by visiting its website at www.horsesstjohn.com. You can also contact Dana directly at [email protected] or by phone at (340) 693-5778.

dana horse





8 thoughts on “Explore the Island on Horseback”

  1. I rode with Dana way back in May 2005. We went up into the hills and could see out to islands in the distance. Really beautiful!
    After helping her settle the horses in, Dana gave me a ride back to town (I had taken a taxi). When she stopped for gas, her truck wouldn’t start back up. As is typical on the island, she flagged someone down and they drove me back to the Westin. One more reason to love St. John!
    I realize I’m way over due for another ride, so this May I’ll be calling Dana again. 🙂

  2. Dana’s corral is a for-profit business but they need all the help they can get as food for the animals (most are rescued) and veterinary bills (not cheap) is overwhelming. Likewise, the amount of time it takes to care for these animals is a huge task. If you’re on island stop by and volunteer to help clean stalls or feed the animals. Donate your time, bags of feed or money. Or do all the above and bring a five pound bag of carrots from St. Thomas grocery store for the equines. She receives no government assistance and is the island donkey ambassador. She is who is called if a donkey gets hit by a car and needs rehab. She rehabs injured animals on her dime. Please consider the Carolina Corral when you are considering donating time or money. Thank you.

  3. Thanks Della and Nancy and Jenn for your support and pretty much including everything I am and do and to all who have supported the corral over the years or even waited for us to cross the road. Today was a busy day with laundry first thing at 7:00 this morning and two rides of 6 with some lunch in between for both the animals and myself. I’ve cared for animals since a kid when our family had a dog and cats and the grandparents had dairy cows. My grandmother raised chickens and sold the eggs after cleaning and grading them. It was fun helping her. I also showed in 4-H learning about safety and care of the horses. Donkeys are easy to work with and quick learners, although I’d never handled one before moving here. Also, I wouldn’t mind going non-profit if anyone knows an efficient way to achieve this that’d be great!

  4. As I mentioned before I care for the animals and have empathy with their plight. In regards to that to those who would like to and are able to assist there are currently three dogs tied just inside the wall of the trailer next to Skinny Legs. The owner needs to be encouraged to give them the tangle free line necessary so they can at least reach their water. If you have a minute please stop by and leave a note or if possible speak to Sonny, the owner. Thanks much, Dana

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