I have returned from a short vacation. This time, I headed to Ocala, Florida to visit with long time family friends at their farm. Unofficially, Ocala is known as the “Horse Capital of the World”.
Arriving in Ocala late Wednesday night, I did not see much, except a huge star filled sky! No flashing neon signs, no car lights, nor street lamps. Just billions of stars. Waiting at the front door for their evening treat were Stalker Kitty, Leo and Orange Kitty, just a few of the varied life forms I was soon to meet.
Morning greeted me with a most interesting sound! At first, I could not identify it, but thought it was some squeaky hinge. I knew it wasn’t a rooster! Getting dressed, I headed outside with my camera to investigate the sights and sounds. It was a glorious sunny, spring-like Florida day and I ventured forth from the front patio to take a look around. There in the field in front of me were two horses grazing. In an adjacent field, separated from the horses by a fence were lots of cattle and…two donkeys! The braying of the male was the “squeaky hinge” I had heard! Leroy, as he is called, was trying to chat up the two horses, but they had other things on their mind. Leroy and Jenny (the female donkey) are kept with the cattle, and used as a coyote deterrent. Both fail miserably at the task!
After Kelly did her morning chores of cleaning stalls, freshening water, feeding horses, cattle, cats and dog, (and feeding me!) she gave me my first riding lesson. This started with me getting Snip from the field. I had put his halter on, then lead him into the barn and attach him to the cross ties in preparation for saddling him up. First up is grooming. NY horses in Florida for the winter have longish hair that sheds and needs to be removed. That requires a brush down with a wiry oval shaped brush. After which, I used a softer bristled brush to remove all the loose longer hair and the shorter hair, as well as any dirt on the coat. I added a detangle liquid to his tail and mane and let it soak in, while I brushed his face with yet another brush, rubbed his legs, and cleaned his hooves with a pick.
Kelly took over and added a blanket, a gel cushion and the saddle. I am glad she did that part, because I needed a step stool to get the saddle up and over onto the horse’s back. He might be one of the best-trained horses around, but he still does not know how to kneel for short people!
Located in the front field is a pond, with water lilies and reed grasses. I am sure Kelly and Brad would be able to keep their koi alive, except for the alligator and water moccasins that frequent the pond. While I only witnessed the snakes, I will take their word that their menagerie includes an over grown lizard.
Winding our way from the front field to the lanes between neighboring properties, at one point Kelly yipped and stopped her horse, as a black snake was crossing the lane. I’m not sure if horses are afraid of all snakes, or just those that hiss and rattle, I distracted Snip with inane conversation, waiting until the snake was clear.
With my first hour in the saddle nearly complete, and my butt and legs none the worse for wear, I looked forward to more!
(All pictures from my Ocala sojourn can be viewed at my flickr account. Click “View as Slideshow” to see full size pictures.)