|Me & Gracie enjoying the Florida trails|
Meet Gracie. She's a flea-bitten grey Quarter Horse mare who's real job is barrel racing. And her owner's name is Taryn! Gracie was nice enough to carry me around the trails here in sunny Florida with my friend DeAnne and her leased horse Streak.
|DeAnne & Streak|
DeAnne boards Streak at a little facility about 15 miles from her winter home in Ft Myers, FL and Gracie lives a few miles down the road. Gracie was ready and waiting for me with Streak in his paddock when we arrived Thursday afternoon. We located her tack (Western! yikes!) and got the ponies ready, then headed over to the little park across the road, which is open to horses, bikers, and hikers, as well as fishing in the several "lakes" - we'd call them ponds. Gracie is not big as far as Quarter Horses go, but I can tell you the ground looked a mite further away than I am used to! She was willing and relaxed going down the trail at a walk, and DeAnne & I had a grand time chit-chatting away. She gave me one unexpected huge spook which I managed to hang on through, but otherwise didn't put a hoof out of line. Interestingly, during our first ride I was unsuccessful in getting her to trot. She has a lovely very slow and rhythmic lope which she much prefers to a trot, and it was very nice to ride. I aspire to have a gait like this at my fingertips on my own horses! However, being a trotting gal at heart, I was craving a nice long trot.
|No doubt she's a Quarter Horse!|
|My first view of FL trails (it's really flat here!)|
|One of the "lakes" in this park|
|The horses got along great for not ever having met before, both led & followed, and when Gracie crowded Streak, he did not mind.|
|A tiny elevation change with a soggy bit of ground that Streak had to check out carefully (he's a FL horse and knows what might lurk beneath its murky surface)|
I really enjoyed the different vegetation here in Florida. This park was full of palmetto (small to large shrub sized), long-leaf pines (which are deciduous and are the tall trees you see in the photos), and a red-berried shrub (non-native) which is called "Florida holly." The park is completely fenced in (and closed on Wednesdays for cattle operations - the sign states that it is a cattle lease, though we saw no evidence of cattle - no tracks and no cowpies) and as most of south Florida, there are "canals" or water courses with raised ground all around (after all this whole part of the state was originally swamp). The canals are vibrant habitat for the thousands (millions?) of water birds everywhere. The horses weren't fazed at all by the enormous white egrets and wood storks, small white ibis, great blue herons, and prehistoric-appearing anhingas, but I got a start a few times when one took flight right next to us.
We finished up our ride and headed back to DeAnne's for some wonderful steaks on the grill, a few adult beverages, a shower, and bed! Friday it was threatening rain, and we stopped at the feed store to pick up some hay for Streak. Hay here is $13.50 per bale (average size bale) for timothy/alfalfa mix!!! Now that's a shock to my system - and made me want to sweep up every tiny piece that fell off the bale onto the ground as we were loading it up. The weather looked like it might hold, so we saddled up again for a shorter ride, as we were due back in town by 2 pm. This time Gracie was a little less enthused about the whole outing (I am not sure how much time she spends on trails), and gave me a nice little jog trot when I didn't let her break into her wonderful lope. We ran into a small group of other riders on beautiful, sleek horses (no winter fuzzies around here!) and made it home before the skies opened and dumped a short but intense rain storm on us.
|$13.50 per bale hay!|
We didn't see any scary critters (gators, wild pigs were topping my list of things I did NOT want to see while riding!), my bum was only mildly uncomfortable from the western saddle (yeah for DeAnne's sheepskin seat saver on Day #2), and I was really pleased with Gracie's gracious behavior.
|Gracie, with Streak & DeAnne in the background|
Many, many thanks to DeAnne for a wonderful horsey interlude, and to Gracie for a couple of great rides. Oh, and Gracie's for sale! She runs 1D times (which is fast, I guess).
|Streak munching feed with the little open-air barn in the background|
|Gracie chowing down near the "run-in shed" which is just a roof! It goes without saying that the climate is much, much different here.|