Monday came and we decided to head to Silver Springs. Before heading out, though, there were a few chores to do. Besides feeding the horses, cats and dog, the cattle needed to be feed, as well as adding salt to the saltboxes, which the cattle need for a balanced diet. Taking the John Deere Gator and two 40 lb bags of salt, I headed to the saltbox.
Getting from field to field requires the opening and shutting of gates. Cattle, and donkeys, are kept separate from the horses, and all are kept separate from the weaned calves. The cattle are docile, but they are still wild, and still outweigh me (barely!) They do have big horns, and you never know how a momma is going to act with a new calf beside her. Knowing Kelly was feeding the cattle in the other field, I was unconcerned about driving through the fields.
I got to the saltbox and emptied the first back into the container. I turned around…and there were Jack and Jenny, sniffing around. Now, I’m not too afraid of many animals, and managed to remain calm, but donkeys are as fearless as they are intelligent. Hence their use as a coyote/cougar deterrent. Fortunately for me, they recognized I was neither. Saltbox filled, I headed into the house to get ready.
We arrived at Silver Springs early afternoon, and were no sooner across the entrance when we spotted our first alligator. We strolled around the 350 acre park looking at the bears and panthers, and a took a jeep ride to see the emu, lama and the tree that Johnny Weissmuller swung from in his 12 Tarzan movies. We took a break and watched the Birds of Prey wildlife show where the birds flew inches above the audiences’ heads!
We took 3 different glass bottom boat rides to look at the fish, turtles, birds and alligators. Oh, and the underground springs. They say the water is 99.8% per. I am sure the other .2% is the poop from the fish, turtles, birds and alligators! The springs were in evidence by the swirling of the calcium at the mouth of underwater caves. They say the deepest spring was well over 80 feet. Seems a scuba diver attempted to find out how far the cavern went, but was unable to squeeze through at the 80-foot mark.
Returning home, we found Brad back from his week in West Palm Beach where his services as farrier were in high demand. We (and I use that term loosely) saddled up three horses and took a stroll around the acres of land, Kelly showing him new calves and swollen ponds, me just happy not to fall off Snip.
It was iffy there for a moment, when Kelly decided that NOW would be a good time to teach me to trot. Well, not teach me to trot, instead, how to ride while the horse trotted. Which I decided, requires pants with gel pads and a sports bra tight enough to constrict your breathing. Afraid I was going to bounce right off the horse, I squeezed harder with my legs.
Which, I am sure all you horse people know, to a well trained horse means faster. So now, my trot lesson turned into a lope lesson. This was much more comfortable on my body, and would have been my preferred gait, all except for the faster part. Afraid that the horse would run faster yet, I eventually reined him in, letting him and my heart return to a normal pace.
With Brad starving, Kelly and I far from it, we headed back in for the night.
The next day Brad, Kelly and I meet up with Brad’s mother, sister and nephews for breakfast. Having skipped dinner the night before, I was relatively hungry for breakfast. Eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, and grits! YUMMY! Afterwards, all returned back to the farm to await the arrival of two more guests, Betty and Jay. Snowbirds spending the winter in the warmer states, they drove in from one of the Carolinas to visit with MaryAnne and family.
While Kelly took Betty, MaryAnne, Robin and Jay out in the gator to look see the new calves, Brad, Jeremy, Justin and I went out on horseback. Brad decided that his nephews needed the accelerated riding course and condensed 4 weeks of lessons into 45 minutes. Glad for the extra time I already had in the saddle and knowing it was my last time to ride, I managed to keep up, stay on and enjoy every moment.