Nathan “Lucky” Figlio and his 18-year-old quarterhorse Trooper headed out toward the shoreline late Friday morning.
A couple of weeks ago, debris from Hurricane Sandy would have made the sand too treacherous for Trooper and Figlio, who has three years’ experience.
But Boardwalk planks, tree branches and other objects displaced by the storm’s record tidal surges and 85 mph wind gusts have since been cleared, allowing horseback riding to return to the beach after a five-year absence.
Figlio and other handlers took jaunts near the surf Friday to attract attention from the Boardwalk. The wooden way — sturdy and undamaged by the storm — was crowded on a sunny and unseasonably warm November day, the first in business for Writers Alliance, the company running the rides.
About 30 people paid for rides Friday: $25 each for a half-hour, mile-long jaunt between Schiff’s Central Pier and The Pier at Caesars, or $5 for a pony ride around the metal-fenced ring built on the Indiana Avenue beach, Writers Alliance principal Pearl Epps Running Deer said.
“We’re happy with that, for our first day, especially (given) Sandy,” Epps Running Deer said.
The five-day shutdown of the resort caused by Sandy delayed her start by three weeks, in addition to hampering the casinos and other businesses.
The city government will receive 10.5 percent of proceeds — or at least $100 per month — from Writer’s Alliance, according to a contract approved by City Council in May.
When beachfront rides were last offered in Atlantic City five years ago, the city got a 10 percent cut of revenue generated by rates that were double, according to city documents and Epps Running Deer.
Atlantic City officials started vetting applicants to bring back the activity in December, a few weeks before Wildwood issued its first permits for horseback riding on the beach. Brigantine has allowed it for nearly five years.
The Atlantic City Tourism District Master Plan also advocated reintroducting horseback riding in the resort, along with other beach activities including volleyball, which has been set up near the Boardwalk at New Jersey Avenue opposite Revel.
Epps Running Deer and her partners can’t stable the horses in the city under their current contract, so Harry Ray, his daughter Kimmie, Figlio and other handlers must drive 60 miles from Alloway, Salem County, they said.
Two of seven horses there Friday were rescued animals and ranged between 8 and 29 years old, Ray said.
Their ages are a testament to the experience required to calmly accommodate inexperienced or nervous riders such as those Epps Running Deer and her partners expect to get coming off the Boardwalk on a whim, she said.
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