Day trip turns into serious horse play
EDITORS NOTE: We pulled this Day trippn' feature out of the Dusty GLOB Archives because it seemed like a great weekend for a horseback trail ride.
By Tonya Upton, GLOB Day Trippn' expert
What is a horse adventure without trying a trail ride? Even if you have never rode a horse you will be fine riding on these trail horses. Horseback riding is the best way to see the beauty of Ocala.
A relaxed Sunday afternoon riding the beautiful Cross Florida Greenway Trail on horseback was well spent. Cactus Jacks Trail Rides, South Ocala on Sate Rd 475 provided the horses and guide for this Day trip.
It's an easy drive from Gainesville to Cactus Jacks Trail Rides. Our tour guide, Caitlyn had the horses ready for us upon arrival at our scheduled time. Good thing because my daughter Kendall, and her friend Vivi were excited and out of the car before I could put the car in park.
I called the girls back to the car to apply bug spray because it looked like we were headed into the woods on this trail ride, and into the woods we went.
Caitlyn was familiar with the trails we rode on and the history of the area as well providing many entertaining stories about the horses and their personalities. Particularly Forest Gump, photo right, a grey horse that had quite the personality and was in love with my horse Annie.
Forest Gump was rescued off of a trailer going to a slaughter house by the owner of Cactus Jack Trail Rides.
When it comes to saving horses from slaughter, Peter and Mary Gregory, the owners of the Retirement Home For Horses at Mill Creek Farm have devoted their lives to doing just that. In 1984 They created the Retirement Home For Horses, Inc., a nonprofit sanctuary for old, abused, and abandoned horses in Alachua, in North Central Florida located just North of Alachua on State Rd. 235A. (GPS Address:20307 NW C.R. 235A Alachua,Fl 32615-4228)
Some animals are lucky enough to escape slaughter and end their days of service spending their golden years at Retirement Home For Horses like Mill Creek Farm.
British born Peter and Mary Gregory have run the RHFH together since 1984. "Our promise is that these horses will never be ridden or worked again," says Peter Gregory.
There are up to 150 horse residents at the farm at any given time. On average one horse dies every month and to honor them there is cemetery on the Mill Creek Farm grounds called Field Of Dreams. This is a resting place where horses can rest in peace. Peter has come up with the idea that for every horse that dies at the farm there is a tree planted in their memory.
Mill Creek Farm provides hundreds of acres of beautiful rolling fields for its residents. Each horse has enough room for a few acres to itself. Even so you will see the horses grazing in the field together demonstrating their social herding instincts.
Not only have Peter and Mary ensured a safe place for horses to retire over the past 28 years the farm has been in existence, they have preserved the future of the Retirement Home For Horses. The Gregory's have donated their home and land to the non–profit agency that runs the farm.
Creating a conservation easement that ensures the land will remain a protected place for horses to retire for years to come.
There is something about the peaceful energy that runs through the farm's landscape seeming to touch everything that is alive on the farm from insects to humans. Mill Farm is a magical place that wraps itself around you upon entering the gate.
Peter met me on his golf cart with two of the fifteen dog companions that reside at the farm. As Peter drives along the trail to the stables the horses see him and head to the fence where he greets them with a carrot for the horses and a story for me. Even the blind horses make their way to the sound of his cart.
Peter told stories about some of the horses, where they came from, how long they have been Mill Farm residents. He knew each of the horses by name and could recite the medical problems they had with upon arrival and their current health status.
I followed Peter making his equine rounds He made his rounds, assessing the horses in one pasture before moving to the next pasture inventorying all the horses as he made his way through the farm.
At 84 years old Mr. Gregory's memory proceeds mine. Perhaps it's the love and compassion he has for these horses that keep him so young.
With selfless dedication he and his wife Mary work love, passion for horses and genuine care into Mill Farms and the equine.
Horses are a huge part of America's heritage and should be treated respectfully according to Peter and Mary.
John Moore said it perfectly, "Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to cultivation, we will find the hoof print of a horse beside it." And this Rascal Flats 'No Reins' video about wild mustangs will end off to the Retirement Home For Horses at Mill Creek Farm.
It is the GLOB's Day Tripper's suggestion you make the time to visit Alachua's Retirement Home For Horses. The trip will warm your heart and perhaps inspire you as a Mill Creek Farms Sponsor into participating in caring for retired service horses.
The Retirement Home For Horses at Mill Creek is open to the public every Saturday from 11:00 – 3:00. Admission is two carrots.
Latest from Mike S. GLOB Master
Farmer Bubba Wednesday, 26 September 2012 20:45 Comment Link
What a great article Tonya. You have a way of making your words compliment the pictures. Horses are special and their hoofs are planted deep in Amercan history. The American farm is slowly going away, but because of your article, it's stays alive.
Georgia Crosby Tuesday, 25 September 2012 05:12 Comment Link
The Retirement Home for Horses is a magical place that is non-profit and depends solely on donations to meet it's financial needs. Please come visit and donate what you can. This article was written very well and captured the essence of Mill Creek Farm. Thank you for getting the word out.