Horses walk for heart in annual Beach Ride

Riders from across the country walked for heart disease research and education in Myrtle Beach Saturday. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

More than 1,000 horseback riders from across the nation enjoyed Myrtle Beach for a good cause Saturday.

It was all part of the American Heart Association Beach Ride, the only time horses are allowed on Myrtle Beach beaches.

"The crashing waves in the background, the horses know (what this means)," said Ron Syrko from Charlotte.

He came down with his 29-year-old horse to take to the sand while supporting heart research and education. He was one of about 1,300 riders to take part in the five-day walk from Lakewood Camping Resort to the Second Avenue Pier.

"People come and talk to us at these rides that research has made their lives possible," said Sherrie Hilliard of Philadelphia.

She and her horse Cinnamon rode for two of her family members who passed away from heart-related complications. She advocated for more education to combat heart disease.

"There's a lot of stories where people will have heart attacks and if there had been somebody to do CPR at the scene, they may have survived," she said before placing Cinnamon's saddle, getting ready for the walk on the beach.

There was also a memorial for past riders who didn't survive the disease. Heart-shaped cutouts decked out with names and memories signed by loved ones covered a board by the beach.

"(It) brings a little tear to your eye when you see the displays and the memories of the people that were riding here that aren't here," said Syrko.

Riders could also choose to fundraise as a group. The top fundraiser at the event, an 80 member group that called themselves "Team Noah." The name comes from a five-year-old boy who was dealt a tough hand upon birth.

His grandfather, Robbie Dunaway, said Noah was born 5 years ago with a coarctation heart defect, where a major artery of the heart that carries blood to the body narrows.

"He had open heart surgery when he was 7 days old," said Dunaway.

Saturday Noah was fine, riding a horse with close friends and family. Now they take time to give back.

"The first year, we raised as a group, about $8,000," said Dunaway. "This year it's gonna be over $41,000," he said.

Also growing, the steps along the beach, for growing awareness.

The American Heart Association has raised nearly $5 million since the first Beach Ride event in Myrtle Beach.

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