Beautyberry, or Callicarpa Americana, is native to Florida.
It is drought-resistant and easy to grow. In the fall and the spring it has gorgeous purple berries clustered around the stem.
Everyone should have at least one of these in their yard. The leaves have mosquito repellent properties. You can crush a few leaves and rub them on your skin to keep the bugs at bay, or you could make the decoction that Green Deane describes in his EAT THE WEEDS BLOG.The berries make good jam or syrup – the blog has the recipe.
As we pass into the Fall season, grateful that the Florida summer heat is giving way to cooler evenings and mornings, we want to say a few words of appreciation to those dedicated people that have helped our horses and other animals through the summer. The horses have appreciated their cool baths, being brushed down and having the burrs removed from their manes and tails.
Summer is hard on our horses, even though our trails are shaded and each of the horses spends most of their day under his or her own individual reflective tarp canopy, with a bucket of water by their side. When we let them out in the evening in the summer, the horses will usually mosey on over to the closest hay bale and start munching down. In the fall, when it’s cooler, they kick up their heels and run a few laps before deciding that it’s time to eat hay. It’s such a pleasure to watch them do that!
A HUGE thank you to volunteers who comes out now, and volunteers who have come out over the course of the 16 years that we’ve had horses at Sun City Stables. Thank you for your kindness and generosity. And on behalf of all of our horses: thank you for giving of your time and talents!
Before coming to us, Sun Rae was used to living in a stall in a barn, and working in an arena or a round pen.
She competed, and did barrels and poles. Then she came to us and was suddenly expected to mingle with other horses and walk down trails in the woods. It scared her.
She didn’t make friends easily, like the other horses did. Willow, our Belgian mare, terrified her initially, and she would want to keep her eye on Willow at all times. She would become agitated if Willow was out on a trail ride. When she couldn’t see Willow, Sun Rae would weave back and forth in her stall and call out until Willow came back.
We normally try to pair a new horse with a buddy, so they adjust more quickly to their new home, but Sun Rae wouldn’t buddy up to anyone. She hated the trail. We were at a loss what to do with her, so we put her up for sale, thinking that maybe if we rehomed her, someone would give her her old job back, and she’d be happy.
But slowly, over the course of more than a year, things are beginning to change. She’s warming up to one or two of our other horses…..Starbuck seems to be accepting her as a friend. Willow no longer terrifies her. She does not break into a nervous sweat on the trails any more. She’s much calmer under saddle, now that she understands that she does not have to run full blast when someone gets on her…..
These are some pictures taken today of Brittany working with her. It’s a gloomy, rainy day, but her pretty palomino coloring pops against the clouds….
I love our trails. They are different from week to week…month to month…season to season…..And they never get boring.
One of the things that has always surprised me here in Florida is that you almost always see butterflies while riding the trails.
Here are some of the ones I seen, whose picture I have taken…
….Zebra Longwing, our Florida State Butterfly…
…and a Great Southern White….
Of course I wasn’t on horseback when I took these pictures…photographing a butterfly is surprisingly difficult because they never seem to sit still. But, once you are aware of them, they are easy to spot as you’re riding along on your horse. Enjoy!
Our horses roam around free on our property much of the time, but during business hours, when we could have customers coming for trail rides, they stay in tents! We’re pretty proud of our modular housing for horses. It fits the Florida climate perfectly.
The horses’ pens are made of horse fencing panels. They are expensive, but sturdy and moveable. Most importantly, though, they’re not stuffy like a traditional wood barn would be. There is good airflow and ventilation….no danger of mold or fungus like with a regular wood barn. We picked an extra sandy spot for our horse pens…the horses stand in clean sand, not straw, stall mats or on concrete. The pens are open so they get a nice breeze and can also see their friends! The tarps that we use on the tents are silver colored and reflect the heat. With the breeze flowing through the panels and the tarps reflecting ability, it is actually nice and cool in the horses’ pens, even in the Florida summer heat. Most of the pens are 10×24. Some of our pens are back to back, but other horses have a pen all to themselves. Horses are extremely social animals, so we pay close attention to who hangs out with whom in their free time. Friends get put close to each other, so that they can enjoy each other’s company even when they are in their pens. When you see horses in back to back pens, it’s because they’re good buddies and like hanging out with each other. Normally, the geldings (boys) will want a stall buddy while the mares (ladies) want a pen to themselves!
Phantom, Dillenger, Jazz and Blaze like to share…..
Our mares, Diamond and Eden need their personal space…..
Apache has a pen by himself because he’s half Clydesdale and he’s BIG!
Round pens, arenas and quarantine areas are also quickly and easily constructed as needed. Whenever we get creative and want to reconfigure our setup, it can be done in a day. And last but not least….when there’s a hurricane or a tropical storm headed our way, we take down the tarps, so there will be no flying debris. In these situations, the horses have a natural instinct to wait out the storm in our woods… the safest possible situation during difficult times.
I know that they are not true chameleons, but the green anole is the only native lizard in the southeastern United States that changes color. It is only from bright green to brown or gray, but it’s still really cool. The native green anole is slowly being displaced by its more aggressive cousin from Cuba, but there are still plenty of them around Sun City Stables.
……………………….Here’s one on one of our horse panels……………:
…….and the same little guy, on a fence post, now looking brown.
Anoles generally have a territory, so chances are you’ll see one in the same place, day after day…..adorable, right?
We have Nigerian Dwarf goats and Barbados black belly sheep.
After trying our numerous varieties for our Petting Zoo, we settled on these two breeds. Barbados Black Belly sheep are perfect for warm climates like ours here in Florida, because they have no wool. We do have to shear some of our animals sometimes, but I personally don’t enjoy that chore.
Nigerian dwarf goats are small and colorful and friendly, and we really enjoy this breed!
The sheep and the goats have their own separate pens, but they also have a common area where they can mingle with the other small animals and eat hay. Our Billy and our Ram seem to enjoy each other’s company, and we often see them hanging out in the shade together, away from their girls.
…. They must be discussing their respective harems… 🙂
Normally when you are trail riding, don’t let your horse stop and eat. It is the horse’s way of gaining control over the ride….and they will want to do lots of stopping and grazing and very little walking…..if you start out letting them do this….rewarding them with a treat after the ride is a better way to go! But then there’s Spanish moss…
Horses love it….
So, if you want to reach up and get them a piece….
They won’t mind a bit, and they’ll keep right on trucking…
Dillenger, our Missouri Foxtrotter, really took to off-site trail riding. He loaded easily and was relaxed and happy to be in a new environment. He even went saddle free. Bringing him along was a lot of fun.
Here he is with Mark, taking a break….
On the way back, Mark just rode him with a halter and a lead rope. It gave him a chance to snack here and there….
Resurrection Fern, or Pleopeltis polypodioides, is one of the pretty sights you might see on a trail ride now at Sun City Stables. You only get to see it when it has rained and there is moisture in the air. It is an epiphyte, which means it lives on top of other plants (think trees!) and gets its nutrients from the air and the bark of its host plant.
The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up its fronds and appearing desiccated, grey-brown and dead. However, when just a little water is present, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to “resurrect” and restoring itself to a vivid green color within about 24 hours.It has been estimated that these plants could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure.
I love the fern…it makes our trails look like a fairy tale forest…
Typical Central Florida Foliage with Resurrection Fern……at Sun City Stables…..
Friday was farrier day at Sun City Stables. All the horses, including the miniature horses, get their feet trimmed…. …this is Drummer…. …and Casanova…. The hooves are clipped with a nipper…. …and then filed with a file…. ….a rather big file… Our horses generally are good about getting their feet done. They will often just stand quietly by themselves while Chris works on their feet. Like Clyde… Out of the 29 horses that live here, only 2 or 3 are problem children about getting their hooves trimmed….. This time around only one of them was difficult….I won’t tell on her, but she’s big and blonde and beautiful….:) Hi, Willow…… 🙂
Riding bareback is great. It’s nice not to have to bother with a saddle and just hop on a horse….. What’s better than riding bareback? Riding double bareback…. ….on a goofy Tennessee Walkerwith REALLY dirty feet and a soda in your hand…. ….like Montana and Mark…. (and, yes, Delight, our Walker, is goofy…ask anyone who knows him…but that’s a story for another day….).
He joined the Sun City Stables Family about a month ago….He was found wandering around a neighborhood, and some people took pity on the little pot belly pig and brought him to our stables. Initially he was terrified and we kept him in a pen for a while until he settled down…. He comes and goes as he pleases right now, and is great friends with Apache, our Clydesdale cross. In the daytime, you’ll often find him sleeping in Apache’s pen. Just like all our other pigs, he’ll eat whatever leftovers we bring him, but more than anything he likes bread. And no, his name’s not Ugly…it’s You-glee…..not even spelled the same….
Carrie Ann is one of the sweetest horses we have. She is a Belgian and a retired Amish carriage horse. Even though she’s been a draft horse pulling carriages all her life, she’s fine with people riding her too….even two or three people at a time! She’s very sane and safe, and trail riding with children is a breeze with her….but we only use her rarely because she is, after all, a senior citizen… Her main activity at Sun City Stables is to stand around and eat hay…and we make sure she can do that all day. She loves to be bathed, and when her pen is opened up she makes a bee-line for the water hose….and stands there until some nice person comes along and sprays her down!
Many tourists who visit Florida either plan to head to the beaches, go sight seeing, or choose to enjoy the nature and wildlife. A preferred activity for those who choose to enjoy the nature and wildlife is horseback riding. In Florida, there are a variety of trails designed for horseback riding. Stables such as Sun City Stables give you an opportunity to rent a horse and ride on these trails either with a guide or without. The special thing about stables such as Sun City Stables is that they do not force you to be accompanied on a ride with a guide. Sun City Stables is also known to allow customers to ride by themselves without a guide, or to hire a guide, whichever they choose.
Trail riding in Florida is a wonderful experience for those who have never gone horseback riding. Florida viewed from the back of a horse is just a little different from a nature walk or a bike ride…..
The experience is well worth your while
. Paso Finos Clyde, Frieda and Valentino…doing their thing…
Sun City, Florida gets very warm and humid in the summer at times. Thunderstorms rapidly move through the area during some summers. Keep in mind that the summer is still a great time to ride. The horses don’t mind the rain, and Sun City Stables operate rain or shine. We have a saying ” we’re not made out of sugar and we won’t melt, and neither will our horses”… We use only Abetta synthetic saddles. They are very light weight, about 16 lbs each, and will dry easily after getting wet…..unlike the leather saddles of yesteryear which were hard and heavy to put on the horses dry…and much less wet….
Sun City Stables is the only horse stable in the area that allows you, as a customer, to take a horse and ride the trails as you wish. Some of the other stables in the area will not allow you to take their horses, to simply ride around, but Sun City Stables does. They do not force a guide upon you…you can ride by yourself if you wish to do so.
Sun City Stables are known to allow customers who rent their horses to take them around the area, guided or unguided. This is something many visitors enjoy, but most other stables do not allow this.
Offsite trail rides can be organized, for up to 5 riders at a time (plus the guide makes 6), but a little advance notice is required. You can ride with the cows in old time Florida. (Florida cowboys were known as “crackers” because of the long whips they carried to shoo their cows out of the palmetto scrub during roundups).