News Blog

Beautyberry bushes – repel mosquitoes AND make jam!

Beautyberry, or Callicarpa Americana, is native to Florida.

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It is drought-resistant and easy to grow. In the fall and the spring it has gorgeous purple berries clustered around the stem.

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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.

A HUGE thank you to all of our volunteers!

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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!

aa-nelson-6 heavin-and-frieda img_3105

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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Lacey Taylor at Sun City Stables.

Lacey Taylor is a therapy dog. She visits people in hospitals and nursing homes.

She has a special I.D. tag with her picture on it that tells people what she does.

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She is composed, well mannered and attractive: a very together dog.

For appropriate occasions, she will even wear a hat.

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Here she is with Clyde and her mom, Brittany.

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Lacey knows Sun City Stables well.

She has been going down the trails with Clyde and the other horses for years.

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Sometimes she leads, sometimes she follows and sometimes she goes off on her own.

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She likes swimming with the horses too.

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She always has fun.

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Especially when it’s extra muddy!

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Someone’s going to need a bath before her next hospital visit.

 

 

 

 

Sun Rae, our little Palomino Tennessee Walker, is doing just fine…..

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….

 

 

 

Ain’t she pur-dy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Manatee County Equestrian Trails: Go Bit-less!

July is National Park and Recreation Month. We took another road trip  to one of the Bay Area’s many beautiful parks.

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As we were tacking up the horses, we decided to leave the bridles in the trailer…and go bit-less.

6X0A1390   We clipped their reins to their halters, and away we went!

20150720_135910    ‘Pache, our Clydesdale Paint, and Clyde and Valentino,  our Paso Finos, liked it.

6X0A1414   When we took a break, they got to graze….

6X0A1477   ….and they got their favorite Spanish moss treats right off the trees…

6X0A1433   Brittany even went rein-less, on Palomino mare Diamond, for a little bit!

6X0A1504  To me, the nicest way to see Florida is still from the back of a horse.

6X0A1441   It never grows old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horses at the Beach – Beach Buddies

Pache and Montana have a great relationship.

The big Clydesdale Paint has a soft spot for the young teenage girl, and she can do practically anything she wants with him.

6X0A1188  Monday was ‘Pache‘s first time at the beach.

6X0A1191   He discovered that salt water is not good to drink…..

 

6X0A1213   ….but he enjoyed splashing around in it….

6X0A1271  …and he didn’t mind being Montana’s lounge chair…..

6X0A1286   …or her diving board…..

 

Copy 2 of 6X0A1291   …..but he thought people coming up at him out of the water was a little freaky!

6X0A1328  Seagulls and riding buddies were fun…..

6X0A1358   ….and the salty sea grass tasted pretty yummy.

 

6X0A1362   Eventually, it was time to go home.

6X0A1368  …yup….

6X0A1351   …but we’ll do it again soon!

A Beautiful Day For A Beach Ride

When you’re too busy to do the things you love, you’re too busy…..so…after we finished pressure washing our horse trailer, we decided it was so nice and clean we’d take it for a drive to the beach.

The beach is only about 15 minutes away from the stables, and you’d think we’d go there ALL the time with the horses, but, really, we’re usually so busy being, well, busy, that we just don’t.

We loaded up ‘Tino and Clyde, who are both pretty much always game for a road trip,  and headed out to find white sand and salt water.

IMG_8285     We found both…

IMG_8324   …just like lots of other beachgoers did today….

IMG_8320    ….gorgeous views!

IMG_8475   …nice people with Kayaks…….

IMG_8390   ….pretty birds…..

IMG_8489   …and nice, cool water.

IMG_8491   Valentino and Mark liked it….

IMG_8508   …and so did Brittany and Clyde.

We’ll have to do it again, soon!

IMG_8513   …beach grass…..Yum!…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bath Day…..

The rain we’ve been having lately is very, very needed.

All the moisture, however, may cause horses to get skin conditions in the hot Florida weather, if you’re not vigilant.

Our personal solution is inexpensive and it works as well as any of the other remedies we’ve tried over the decade and a half we’ve had horses here in Florida:

Wash the horses with regular Palmolive green soap (or regular Dawn blue)

and then, when they are dry, spray them with a mixture of Listerine and Baby Oil.

In a nutshell, during the summer rains… in Florida…wash your horses often, and rinse them well.

IMG_3483 All of our horses love their baths….like Jazz….. And they enjoy being combed and brushed..

IMG_3477 And sometimes, as a bonus…they get braids.

IMG_3481 Not all of us know how to fish tail braid, but Destiny does it well.

IMG_3482 Valor thinks so too.

IMG_3490 The horses weren’t the only ones getting baths…

The flock of little sparrows that live by the horse pens decided it was bath time too!

Butterflies on our trails…

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…

key west nov 2013 159…Monarch Butterfly…..

.Ebay Nokv 2011 046….Giant Swallowtail….k

Key West Nov 2011 010s…..Gulf Frittilary….

Key West June 2013 022….Zebra Longwing, our Florida State Butterfly…Key West June 2013 027

Key West Nov 2011 013s….Common Buckeye…

 

Key West 2012 059 …Duskywing….      Key West Nov 2011 017w

Key West Nov 2011 020s…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!

Pickles gets mistaken for a horse…

When its time for Rita to give the horses their second feeding, Pickles the pig is always right there waiting for her share.

All the horses are eating….no horses available….and Nicole wants to ride.

IMG_3079  Wait…there’s Pickles….

IMG_3081   Pickles has finished her food. Pickles?

IMG_3082 Yes, Pickles!

IMG_3083 …not super comfortable…..

IMG_3084…..very fussy and noisy….

IMG_3085 ….and after only about a minute she just sits down…

IMG_3086…a very offended little pig….

IMG_3088…but a peace offering of some more sweet feed makes everything better!

 

 

Barns? No way! We like the modular system:”Tent City!”

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!

IMG_3116 Phantom, Dillenger, Jazz and Blaze like to share…..

IMG_3119Our mares, Diamond and Eden  need their personal space…..

IMG_3118 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.

We like tent city. It works for us.

Carrots, apples and…sugar cubes???

Occasionally our visitors, and especially our regular riders, will bring treats for the horses and other animals.

Usually the treats are apples or carrots, which the horses love.

Today our visitors from Serbia brought sugar cubes! IMG_3091

I was fun to see the horses carefully taste them…. IMG_3102

…and discover that they liked them…a lot!IMG_3103

 

Blaze, our Arabian, is now a big fan of sugar cubes!   IMG_3105

 

 

Paso Fino Valentino don’t rear no mo’…..

When we first got Valentino, he was still a stallion, and one of the fun things about him was ability to stand on his hind legs in an beautiful controlled fashion.

…Perfectly balanced, like a pro…..Valentino rears….Paso Fino horses are just the coolest…!

……..it was a really fun thing to do with him………Tino and Me

But now that he is no longer a stallion, he’s very lackadaisical, and  can’t be bothered to do it any more…..

Clyde may occasionally be prompted get up on his hind legs for you….clyde and olivia…he’s a Paso too….

….and here he is with Olivia….

The rest of the horses only do it when they’re playing.

Here’s horseplay between Casanova and George….Ebay October 2012 018 while Valentino and Clyde stand

in the background, looking bored….. Ebay October 2012 022….note George does it all with his tongue hanging out!

Dairy Queen Commercial…

Relish, our little pet sow,  likes Dairy Queen Malts.ebay Jan 2012 061 If she happens to catch you drinking one…

 

…….She will make sure you share…ebay Jan 2012 063……….ALL of it!……

……….every last drop……………ebay Jan 2012 067…..all gone……

 

…………YUM!….. ebay Jan 2012 074…..How can you resist that face?……

I bet all pigs like Dairy Queen Malts….

Green Anoles – Florida’s little chameleons

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……………:beasties at the stables 035

…….and the same little guy, on a fence post, now looking brown.beasties at the stables 044

Anoles generally have a territory, so chances are you’ll see one in the same place, day after day…..adorable, right?

Goin’ on an Adventure Ride….

Even though our trails are lovely, sometimes we just take a few horses and go check out other parts of Florida.

We have a number of horses that think loading up and heading out is…well…. fun!

For us and our horses, the grass IS definitely greener on the other side of the fence…we have very little grass, so our horses mainly eat hay.

The horses we normally take are happy to go….because we make sure they enjoy themselves too.

I think they also understand that going off somewhere else means that they’ll get plenty of time to snack on that nice green grass….

I’m proud of the way that they load!

IMG_2809  Here are Clyde and ‘Tino waiting to get saddled….

IMAG0765 (1) …Oceans of nice green grass!

IMAG0753…..and pretty trails…. IMAG0771….a cool breeze…

It’s really fun! If you’d like to come along some time, you have to book the ride in advance.

Call and ask about our Adventure Rides, and come see Florida like you’ve never seen it before!

…..selfie…..   IMAG0770

 

 

It’s hard work having a harem….

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.

Copy of IMG_2796…. They must be discussing their respective harems… 🙂

Puddle pics…

It has not rained all that much this summer, and compared with last year the trails are really dry.

Hurricane season is far from being over, though….it lasts through the end of November, and anything could happen here in Florida.

That being said, never miss an opportunity…..

…. after the rain is over and the sun is out…..

…..for a good ol’ Puddle Pic…

Ebay June 2013 064….with Willow and Cornelia….

ebay Jan 2012 113…with Delight and Mark…..

 

Trail rides go better with Spanish Moss……just ask Montana and Willow….

All of our horses like Spanish Moss.

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….

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So, if you want to reach up and get them a piece….IMG_2631

They won’t mind a bit, and they’ll keep right on trucking…IMG_2632

………..Yum!……..

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The Willow – Montana toss…..

This is Montana… using Willow‘s head as a pillow…IMG_2489

Awww…….so sweet…..IMG_2478

This is Willow getting tired of it…..IMG_2481

and tossing Montana….IMG_2482 LOL…We love Willow!

She’s the best, sweet Belgian mare! IMG_2533 Here she is chowing down at the hay ring with her peeps:

(Shelby, her bestie, and Gypsy & ‘Pache)

 

Special effects photography…Danielle and Diamond….

It’s so much fun to play with a picture that’s already very pretty….

Like this picture of Danielle and Diamond……2

Here it is in sepia….4

Grainy…..DSCN0698

With accented edges…..3

Watercolor…..5

And Embossed….6

But maybe the original is still the prettiest of all….Copy of 6…….right?

 

 

Dillenger, our Missouri Foxtrotter, and Mark….

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….IMAG0926_1_1

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….

He loved it…..Copy of DSCN0699

Resurrection fern….

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…IMG_2293

Typical Central Florida Foliage with Resurrection Fern…IMG_2294…at Sun City Stables…..

IMG_2296    IMG_2297

Nelson loves Gatorade

Nelson, our palomino paint pony, loves Gatorade. He’s a treat hound anyway….

….. and will wander around begging for snacks when he’s loose…IMG_2179 ….but Gatorade is particularly yummy! Especially when some nice person…

….. like Montana…..

……. pours it into her hand and lets him drink it! IMG_2184

And how can you refuse him? He’s SOOOOO cute! Just look at that face…IMG_2225

Winter had twin baby boys…

Winter, who was our tree-climbing goat when she was younger, just had twin bucklings yesterday, on Friday 25th.

They are beautiful and healthy….I wonder if the kids will take after their mom!

Rita with Winter and her babies…IMG_2124

Mani Pedi Day 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….IMG_2104    …and Casanova….     IMG_2112 The hooves are clipped with a nipper….IMG_2114 IMG_2115 …and then filed with a file…. IMG_2118 ….a rather big file…  IMG_2117 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 ClydeIMG_2108 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….:) IMG_3264 Hi, Willow…… 🙂

What’s better than riding bareback….?

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 WalkerIMG_1797with 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….).

What Jeremy and Gypsy do on their days off…..

This is Relish enjoying a cool bath in a nice big puddle with her baby….

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This is Jeremy going for a trail ride with Gypsy……..

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They spot Relish lounging in her puddle……..

IMG_2086………and give her a heart attack!

They scare her away……….IMG_2087……..and when she goes running off…….

……they take over her puddle!!           IMG_2093

Unfair!!!………..IMG_8051

Orange is the new black…..

We’re now easier to spot when we’re on duty……IMG_2099

 

When you come to Sun City Stables, just look for the person wearing orange!

Our guides, workers and volunteers now all wear orange shirts.

So…if you’re new in town, or coming to Sun City Stables for the very first time…look for the person in the orange shirt.

We can help!IMG_1766

Aaaand…..there in the background are Jeremy and Linda……wearing orange….. 🙂                      

Buddy Stirrups – a great invention !

Horseback riding can be a bouncy business…especially when the horse breaks into a trot and you are so little that your feet can’t reach the stirrups…

Hence the invention of buddy stirrups: a set of small, kid-size stirrups that hooks right over the saddle horn….and voila…a small person’s ride on a big horse is suddenly a lot more comfortable!

IMG_1841    ….Works great…..IMG_1844

 

….just look at Lucas and Apache !…   IMG_1863

What we do when we’re not busy….

We lie on a picnic table and stare off into the distance…IMG_1770..like Mae…

 

We sit on Willow as she meanders to the hay ring … IMG_1768…like Mark and Montana….

IMG_1774 IMG_1777 IMG_1779

 

 

We kick off our boots and practice being stunt riders in socks…. IMG_0248…like Josh and Olivia….

on Casanova and Valentino, our Paso Fino horses….IMG_0250…..oops…..

 

……barefoot is less slippery…..   IMG_0262  … You can see that Casanova….

….is not paying much attention…..IMG_0259….he’s used to Josh’s antics….!

 

 

….AAAAND…. some of us just take a bath….IMG_1598….like Sunshine !!!

 

 

 

A pot belly pig named “You-glee”

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….

You-glee    IMG_1809                            You-glee with Clyde  IMG_1815

 

You-glee with Apache IMG_1832

 

 

 

Carrie Ann our Belgian Draft mare….

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!

Carrie-Ann with Linda and Montana.IMG_9893

Trail Riding in Florida – Fun to do!

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

.IMG_1856 Paso Finos Clyde, Frieda and Valentino…doing their thing…

 

Sun City Stables – see the beauty of central Florida

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).