But for a few hours, at least, Horse Nation contributor Jennifer Ferrell got to see how the other, more suntanned half lives.
I am quite certain that the woman seated beside me on this plane bound for Reagan National in Washington is wondering why the fates are punishing her to have me as her seat mate. It feels like minutes before, I had been in the saddle in glorious Florida sunshine riding a pony named Bailey and I know I still smell like it. Yet I digress…
This time of year, it seems everyone and their mother is headed to the Carolinas or Florida to beat the cold and ride. Countless threads on horse related bulletin boards or horse themed websites host stories of various riders trumpeting their countdown, “10 HOURS UNTIL I LEAVE FOR AIKEN!” or “I’M SPENDING SIX WEEKS IN OCALA!”
On behalf of the poor working stiffs who cannot and will not be making the trek south, I say, “Harumph!”
Things began to look up in that a scheduled business trip to Florida was going to at least get me in the state for a week. While we haven’t had much of a winter where I live in Northern Virginia, it still is no Florida and I was looking forward to the trip to the great Sunshine state to get at least get a quick dose of Vitamin D. My travels took me from Tampa down the Gulf Coast and back up the East coast. On my last day, I drove through Ocala to get to Gainesville and smack-dab into Florida horse country. All those horses. All that sunshine. I was more than ready to go for a ride.
Too bad my riding boots and horse were 800 miles away.
Friday, the day of my departure, my appointments for the morning both cancelled. As it were, I was staying with an old friend who by mere coincidence is also an instructor and boarder at Happy Talk Farm outside of Tampa in Lutz. She threw me a pair of her riding pants and we headed to the barn.
Before I knew it, I was riding a chestnut gelding named Promise and had joined in on a lesson as my pal gave a lesson to a student on a paint gelding named Joe. It was 80 degrees. The sky was blue. The clouds were bright and white and fluffy. I was in pain from not having ridden consistently since November due to first, a horse injury and secondly, general winter riding malaise. It was wonderful.
And suddenly it hit me. This was what it was like to abandon the winter coat, the desk job, the uncomfortable shoes and the commute via public transportation. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, my nose was getting sunburned and I was dying of thirst. Ah! Florida! As we worked in a few jumps, I could envision myself in one of the high performance sessions with Captain Mark Phillips–Promise and I were surely destined for London with just a quick tune-up and a jump over the huge two foot cross rail on the outside line and the enormous two foot hot pink pig standing so innocently next to one of the jumps on the inside line. Okay. London may not be calling us but at least it was fun to dream.
I got roped into helping to tack up a couple of ponies for the next lesson and then wound up riding one of them for a few minutes to get her warmed up. My head was spinning; I was a groom! I was a working student! I was really really tired.
I realized this Florida equestrian lifestyle was serious work. But it could only last so long before reality beckoned and I was catapulted back to reality since it was time to head to the airport. I was only able to experience how the other half lives for a short time but it was worth every second. My entire flight back, I worked on formulating a plan to make sure that this time next year, I’ll be able to stay there considerably longer. And I’ll make sure I’ll be able to take a shower before I fly home.