Jill D Winters
Wagon Wheeled Wild Life
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
We are in the middle of a pandemic. I'm certain you and the rest of the world have noticed. We may actually be at the top of it descending to the other side. According to the news, things will never be the same and the behavior of the media during this time is completely unacceptable. It's hard not to talk about it with everyone you know and even those you don't know. It's the hot topic and it's just about the only thing going on right now. Stuck at home, unemployment, no socializing and those are just brushing the surface. These are tough times for everyone. I will not go into constitutional rights at this time, but I do feel we should be allowed to make our own choices. Period.
Last week, I was perusing the "Flipboard" app on my iPhone like I do every morning with my favorite Nepresso coffee in hand. I have so many interests and love to stay current on every one of them and with this app you are able to customize your profile to show you the articles that you are actually interested in.
I click on a little post about nature in South Florida. With our current situation in mind, I seem to be finding myself just wanting to get out and walk, ride, run, rowboat, whatever fits my mood. I skip through the information, it isn't thrilling at all. I'm about to flip back to the list and continue, when at the bottom on the page I see a little box with a nature preserve and a picture of horses. Horses will always stop me in my tracks. I click it. Wagon Wheel Farm, Okeechobee, Florida.
A few days later, I leave my little lair and I drive about two hours north to meet a trailer carrying horses for my latest adventure in what is actually Port St. Lucie, Florida. I get a little nervous every time my phone service disappears. I still wonder how we can have 5G and no service in the middle of Florida. I am also amazed we actually were able to live without GPS on our phones at one time. The good news is, I have a long text message with the step by step directions, so I am able to navigate through the uncertainty with only a few u-turns. I pull down the long road and I am swarming with delight when I notice the dusty, blue horse trailer in the middle of a Nature Preserve.
Three horses were standing under the trees with their red rope halters and lead lines tied up to the above branches. There is a dark haired, young girl grooming them. I roll down my window and ask where to park. She smiles, opens her arms and gestures to look around, take your pick. It's an empty field so I did feel a bit silly after asking but I've been trained these days by our government not to break the rules. Kidding, kind of. How am I supposed to behave with every citizen policing me at all times?
My party of four is early so we are just hanging around on some old, damp picnic tables waiting for the remaining two horses to be delivered. We all decide to split up to go do some "nature" business in the bushes. There was not a sign of anything resembling a bathroom and nature was calling. We listened.
After this first magical experience, we walk over to the horses, introduce ourselves and grab the one brush to help out. I immediately see a bay mare with the sweetest eye and she is my first love match. Her forelock is covering her right eye, it's so long and beautiful. I take my hand and move it away to pet her long face. Her mane is perfectly brown, long and flowing and her demeanor is lovely. I'm hoping she will be mine for the day.
The remaining two horses are dropped off, brushed down and tacked up like the rest and soon after are ready to join me with my new, favorite mare. Two of our party get on first. They are little less experienced and the horses were a little smaller. I am asked, which of the two horses do I want to ride? This did not include my mare. I quickly figured out this was the lead pony and she was not going be my partner for the day. I look back and forth at both horses, both were truly appealing but I have a thing for a blue roan, you don't see these horses often. A blue roan colored horse just means they have a dark underlying coat with white hairs on top and this makes them have a slightly bluish cast. They are unique and very beautiful. I was told this blue roan was a Blue Valentine baby. I believe there is a legendary quarterhorse named Blue Valentine and this is a part of Poncho's breeding. I do not know how much of this infamous horse he has in him but you can read about Blue Valentine here: http://www.cnrquarterhorses.com/blue-valentine.htm . I pick this gorgeous gelding with hopes he is all I want him to be, I've heard the blue roan stories, either your best or your worst horse. I give the handsome man a big pat, get my leg up and over from the ground (so proud) and away the five of us go heading up into the 3000 plus acres of Bluefield Natural Preserve.
As always, the horses were excited as we move forward in a group but immediately have to get into single file to step over a large, wooden, foot tall board with a weathered arch above as our trail header. The sun is a bit overbearing and it is extremely hot and humid. We are all in blue jeans, boots and cowboy hats because this is what you do when you trial ride. Ok, fine, this is what WE do. It did not take long to realize our charming, young guide was extremely knowledgeable about horses, but she would also know every little thing about this natural area as well.
We immediately walk to some wide open trails, large enough to fit a ATV. We are able to ride next to one another and chat, we trot a bit and we leave the groomed trail to explore some uncharted territory. I watch out for the girls as they don't ride as much as I do, but soon realize they are absolutely well paired up with these magnificent animals and smiling from ear to ear.
We spotted a lot of wildlife on the trails, beautiful low nesting birds and even a tortoise just hanging in the middle of the trail. There were plants I have never seen or heard of but are proof to why the deer are so much bigger up here than down in Wellington. The terrain changed a few times and I particularly enjoyed the swamps. We got out of the direct sunlight for a bit and my horse absolutely loved this challenge. He took the lead, assessed the situation and glided through this murky, deep swamp so unexpectedly. He enjoyed jumping over some well placed logs and I was so happy to let him do his thing and hang on for the ride. We rode down to what looked like an overlook. There were well kept, wooden stairs that lead up to a platform where you can watch the wild life over the water. Most likely an amazing spot for a few photographs. Definitely an alligator or two in there...
About 30 minutes before we got back to home base, the trail turned into sugar sand and we were able to let them run a bit. I could not have asked for a better ending to this fabulous two hour ride and a few of us opened them up for a quick stretch of land. They were excited on the way home and Poncho was pushing the ladies around. Literally. The mares just weren't moving fast enough for his liking. He is a smart horse and I was lucky enough to able to borrow him for the afternoon. He may have gone missing if I had my own trailer... He also knew how to rid himself of the flies as he put his face into the tall green, soft bushes and swiped them away.
These are sweet, well trained and noticeably well taken care of horses. We were led by a strong willed, experienced and true horsewoman. The trails are safe, scenic and green and I loved that we were a party of only five. I highly recommend the Wagon Wheel Horse Farm if you want to see some nature in Florida on top of the world's most perfect creature, the horse. I hear some rides even include a great little cattle dog for company.
Wagon Wheel Horse Farm