Horsin Around

For Seven years, Tina and Corey Rhoads have owned and operated Makin’ Tracks,   

a Self-funded Equestrian Rescue Ranch.

Their mantra —  Helping Horses Help Themselves — keeps their family busy 7 days a week, offering one and two hour rides, all day trail rides, moonlight rides, rides that include swimming with horses in the Oklawaha River, camping on horseback, weddings, pony parties, and lessons.  Except for a handful of major holiday days, Makin’ Tracks is open year round to share their passion for horses with individuals and groups, on horseback rides through the Florida Greenways, Gores landing Unit and Ocala National Forest.

Some of their horses are retired racers, others have simply come from an environment of neglect.  They have received in horses that were 300 – 400 pounds underweight and nursed them back to health.  Animal Control surrenders horses voluntarily – they often step in to take them and care for them.

I had the pleasure of enjoying a trail ride with Corey, saddling up “Bones”, one of his 14 “trail ready” horses.   They work with new additions to the ranch for weeks, months, and even years to bring them up to optimum quality of life, physically and psychologically.   Corey, riding Shadow, his young assistant Jessica, riding Honey, and I rode off into the Ocala Forest for a two hour nature ride of unbelievable beauty and solitude.

Of course Corey was determined to demonstrate his agility on Shadow, turning around riding backwards to carry on a conversation with me.

He advised me we were entering the Cross Florida Greenways, and headed into Gores Landing Unit, backed up to the Ocala National Forest.  Touring the forest with a “horse eyes view” is an exhilarating experience. The foliage is thick and stretching out as far as the eye can see, yet the heavy forest does not dissuade these sturdy horses.  Bones was sure footed, and would break trail through untouched ground, press on over downed trees, through the churned up mud pits, and do so with the utmost consideration of his rider.  The river was too low to take the horses swimming, but our ride was outstanding just the same.

At one point we entered a swampy bog-like section with heavily canopied Spanish Moss dangling from the trees, like a fringy blanket.  The humidity clung to my skin, the air held strong dirt-burned smell. Meandering through that space was like entering Yoda’s den from Star Wars.

Twenty minutes further down the trail, we came to a huge clearing of dried up mud and small palm trees knocked down that looked like a backhoe churned it all up.

“You can see, pigs were here rutting up the forest a few weeks ago”  he commented.  “There are bear, deer, pigs, and panthers in these woods.  Being able to see them is another thing.”

Corey told me about his wife Tina, who despite being an excellent horseman, was thrown from her good horse and broke her back, in September of 2011.  She is still confined to a wheelchair. They are hoping for an eventual full recovery. 

Never take your horse for granted. 

He told me stories of how he moved from upstate New York to build a business in Florida based on caring for horses.  He shared several stories of how he came to discover the degree of neglect bestowed on some of these gentle creatures, and how his family is committed to do everything they can to rescue horses and improve their quality of life. His story made me think back to the days I was caring for Precious, an amazing Peruvian Paso Fino I was blessed with owning for a few years.   Riding now, is reminding me how much I miss having that sweet natured horse.  She and her barn mate Sassy, the Tennessee Walker, were quite the unique combination to see.

Our ride came to its close, just as the sun was starting to set.  We returned to the ranch, I gave Bones a well-deserved apple treat, and I was introduced to the entire herd. Each horse has its own amazing story, and it was clear that every one of them had complete gratitude, love and trust of Corey and the family.

Makin’ Tracks operates without being provided official funding dollars. It is not easy. They mostly rely on their own resourcefulness and the business they generate from trail riding to care for the horses they keep.  They welcome any assistance the public can provide, from cash contributions, to volunteering opportunities at the ranch.  No donation is too small for the horses. 

If you are looking for an authentic trail riding experience, I highly recommend connecting with Makin Tracks.  Check out their website,

www.ocalatrailrides.com

or contact them directly:

Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides

15901 NE 137th Court

Fort McCoy, FL 32134

352-236-3929

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