We booked out of Ohio on Friday, January 18 right before the freeze. After 11 hours of driving we stayed over south of Atlanta. We made it to Longbranch Rest in Ride in Live Oak Florida about noon where we visited with Ohio friends, Linda and Bill, and Donna and Scott. We enjoyed several days of riding the trails and along the Suwannee River.
The following week we headed south to a new place called Spotted Dance Ranch in Brookville Florida. It is located between Tampa and Ocala. It is on the southern tip of the Croom Preserve and has about 50 miles of horseback riding trails. Warning: Do not navigate there using your GPS. The GPS took us on some narrow sand roads with near-impossible 90-degree turns with a trailer. We learned the hard way and had to unload and walk the horse to the barn the last half mile.
Spotted Dance is also across the street from a horse show facility called Fannin Hill Farm. The Fannins have been putting on hunter/dressage schooling shows and events for over 30 years. Their daughter, Jan McCune, is a small r hunter judge and instructor. Robert McCune is a large R judge and regularly judges at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington OH. He grew up in Parma. They have two lovely jump rings and a dressage ring, I got in a couple of lessons with Jan and competed in 2 ft-3 hunters at their February show. I did get 3 firsts and a second, but there were only 2 in the class so really can’t brag.
I reached out to the South Creek Foxhound and found them very welcoming. Long-time member Lisa picked me up for a trail ride and also found us a horse trailer to borrow for a couple of weeks so I could hunt or haul to other trailheads. The problem, she said, is that it is yellow. It was painted to match their hummer. South Creek Foxhounds hunt Wednesdays at 3 pm, and Saturdays at 7 am. One of their fixtures is at the Croom Twin Ponds Hunt Camp, only 20 minutes away by car from our campground. The road to the hunt camp is long, narrow and very irregular but we made it. Sugar sand can be as treacherous as mud. Although there are lovely wide trails, the hunt bushwacks through the forest riddled with down trees and occasional holes. Apparently, they sometimes run quite fast through this stuff. They highly recommend air vests and now I own one. As with our hunt, afterwards there is a potluck or hosted tea.We also made it up to Ocala to have dinner with Ohio friends and we found a lovely golf course in Brookville.
South Creek Foxhounds hosted the All Florida Meet on February 13-16. Blue, my 23-year-old pinto, certainly got a workout that week. We hunted at Croom the first day, Alston Preserve on Friday and Gilley Creek on Sunday. Most of their fixtures are on public lands and jumps are few. Did I mention that their hunt goes out at 7 am? And did I mention that the 7 am southern fixtures were 1 to 1/2 hours drive away? We were up at 4 am to arrive at the fixtures in the dark and the hounds took off right at the crack of dawn. But the scenery at sunrise was stunning and when they run, they run. At Gilley, we rode through a 7,000 acre cattle farm and orange grove. The second field got separated from first (who were chasing bobcat), but we still had an exciting and LONG gallop through the pastures. I also found out that Florida does have standing water and mud, but it was not as slippery as Ohio mud. Note that the photos were taken by Allen Reynolds, and there are many more awesome ones on their Facebook Page.
Since I cannot take Sully out riding with us in Brookville, we have been doing a lot of walking. But it worked out that there is a first-class kennel right next door to Spotted Dance. The owners, Anna Stromberg Ben Franzoso, are professional dog handlers. They had several dogs that they took to the Westminster Dog show. They kept Sully for us on busy days. He also got a badly needed bath, trim pedicure (first grooming ever) and he got to frolic with the purebreds and Champions since he was such good boy. Not bad for a farm mutt
Well, on a last note, we liked it so well in Brooksville that we bought 6 acres. Just land with a servicable fence. It is lightly wooded, on a hard road with high-speed internet available, not in a flood zone, close to I75, a short hack to Croom, and less than an hour from a lot of horse activities and golf courses. It ought to be a fun project for us in the coming years.
Just a pretty view of a Croom wetland area. Croom is a typical Florida forest, with pine and oak hammocks. Controlled burns keep down the underbrush.