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Florida Horse Country

Did you know that much of our sunshine state can be explored by horseback? From the gentle slopes of secluded forests, to swampy wetlands, to picturesque river banks teeming with wildlife, plenty of horse trails are waiting for you to take a ride! With over 300,000 horses and more than 12,000 horse farms, Florida is a horse lover’s paradise.

If you love horses but being a spectator is more your thing, stop by a thoroughbred training farm, international polo match, or a championship rodeo. If you’d prefer someone else to take the reins, explore historic Florida through a horse-drawn carriage ride. And if you want a taste of quintessential Florida with an equine flair, saddle up and enjoy one of the lovely beaches with swaying palm trees by horseback. Find horseback riding sites in natural areas through The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (, or check out the trail directory of the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ( Here are some family destination recommendations for horse play:

Northwest Florida 

Tallahassee: If the pageantry and grace of old-world style eventing ─ one of the fastest-growing equestrian pursuits in the U.S. ─ tickles your fancy, check out the Red Hills International Horse Trails. Held every March on the gentle slopes of Tallahassee’s Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, the trials attract 20,000 spectators and some of the world’s most accomplished riders and horses. Bring your blankets and chairs and settle in to view a day of increasingly difficult challenges, including cross-country and stadium jumping, and dressage, a series of precise movements executed by horse and rider.

Pensacola: For some down-home fun, the Escambia County Equestrian Center in the Pensacola Bay area has a lineup of family-friendly events nearly every weekend. The 151-acre site has a covered arena for horse shows and English and Western-riding style events, but this center is no one-trick pony. There are also dog shows, rodeos, music festivals, and cross-country races to add to the fun. Most horse shows are free to see and dog shows are typically just a few bucks per person.

Levy County: Get back to nature and meander unpaved, rustic horseback riding trails through cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks in Levy County’s state and national wildlife areas. Enjoy a tranquil oasis of nature preserves, natural springs, and bountiful wildlife habitats. Explore Inglis Island Trails, Devil’s Hammock Wildlife Management Area, and the Nature Coast State Trail, which retraces the historic route of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and is a National Recreation Trail. Goethe State Forest has three trailheads and is known for its rare bird and animal species. For more horse-friendly sites in Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties, visit the Florida’s Pure Water Wilderness (

Jasper: Harken to the days of Florida’s pioneers, explore an 1870s log cabin and old settlers’ cemetery at family-owned McCully Farms. Wander along 20 miles of secluded trails, and enjoy horse camping in a rustic, fully-equipped cabin. Every March and October, the Withlacoochee Trail Ride offers a weekend of group camping and rides along crystal clear natural springs, cavernous sinkholes, pristine river banks, and 5,000 acres of state and private canopied lanes.

Northeast Florida 

St. Augustine: Clip-clop back in time in a relaxing horse-drawn carriage tour of the nation’s oldest city from Country Carriages. Hear stories about the new world’s 1565 Spanish settlement as you meander through narrow, red brick-lined streets past historic sites. Take a romantic carriage ride for two or gather the whole family for a group ride (up to 12). If you want to take the reins, Country Carriages also offers a one-hour guided horseback ride along the shore of St. Augustine’s Vilano Beach.

Amelia Island: It’s a bucket list item for some… riding horseback on the beach with a gentle tropical breeze amid crashing waves. Guided tours on Amelia Island’s white sand beaches ─ offered by Kelly Seahorse Ranch, Happy Trails Walking Horses, Amelia Horseback Riding, and Stay ‘N Country Ranch ─ can accommodate riders of all skill levels, and some accept children as young as six. If you have a taste for something more historic, enjoy a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride in the Victorian seaport of downtown Fernandina Beach, home to pirates and scallywags in the 1800s. Learn more at Amelia Island Carriages (

Central Florida

Ocala: Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Ocala (Marion County) is rich with international horse shows, championship racehorses, and public riding trails. Home to more than 600 thoroughbred breeding farms covering 70,000 acres, Ocala prides itself on its equine pedigree. Enjoy the thrill of world-class competition (45 national champions, six Kentucky Derby winners, and 20 Breeders’ Cup champions have come out of Ocala), or hit the trails on horseback in the Ocala National Forest, along the Florida Greenway, or in the 500-acre Florida Horse Park. Or, experience the charm of classic Florida countryside with a Horse Country Carriage Co. ride through carefully-tended horse farms and pastures.

Ruskin: Explore the swampy side of Florida along 12 miles of equestrian trails in Little Manatee River State Park, where you can see anglers along the 40 miles of river bank before it empties into Tampa Bay. The river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the interestingly-named Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Stay overnight in one of four equestrian campsites (which feature two stalls each), and stop by Camp Bayou, a 160-acre nature preserve and educational center in the heart of the park.

Bradenton: Adventurous? Throw on your swimsuit and try standing barefoot atop a slippery, wiggly horse as it wanders into the waters of Palma Sola Bay. Called HorseSurfing, it’s offered by Great World Adventures, and is available for kids (ages 3+) and adults (under 150 lb.). If that’s too much excitement, try a horseback ride on the beach. You can stay in the sand or wade in the bay with the horses for a “swim,” while your landlubber friends catch some rays and watch from the public beach.

Westgate Ranch: Giddy ‘up over to Westgate River Ranch, a genuine dude ranch in the heart of Florida’s cattle country. Set on 1,700 lush acres, the ranch is surrounded by some 400,000 acres of protected wetlands. Saddle up for a guided trail ride through unspoiled wilderness or, if you’re experienced, go it alone on an extended ride. For $5 plus tax, little cowpokes can get a pony ride in the ranch’s petting zoo. The ranch offers cowboy-themed and luxury accommodations, from glamping (glamorous camping) to cabins and RV sites. While you’re there, check out the longest-running Saturday night championship rodeo in the U.S.

St. Lucie County: Scenic eco-tours of the beach by horseback are held weekends year-round at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park on South Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce by Tours on Horseback of Fort Pierce. The hour-long, guided tours meander along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where riders can sometimes spot dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and abundant birdlife. Riders of all experience levels are welcome and a short lesson is provided to all. If you’re not into the beach, wooded trail rides are another option at Bluefield, Paleo Hammock, and Teague Reserves.

South Florida 

Palm Beach County: For a glimpse of high fashion, clinking champagne glasses, and a rousing match of high-goal polo, head to the International Polo Club Palm Beach, home to the largest field in the U.S. and some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. The season, which begins in January and extends through spring, brings in enthusiasts who love to see and be seen as much as they adore the sport. Do it high-style with champagne brunch in the pavilion (starting at $100), grab a seat in the grandstands, or come comfy and hang out with the field-side tailgaters with tickets starting at $10. Wellington’s international equestrian community also features 57 miles of horse trails.

Fort Lauderdale/Miami area: Who knew glitzy South Florida had a streak of the old west? Truth is, in these parts, there are plenty of horse farms with riding lessons, trail rides, and summer riding camps for kids. Take a break from the typical scene and saddle up at American Horse Trails, Bar-B-Ranch, White Star Farms, or Ascot Farm for a tranquil trail ride with a tropical flair. If you’re a cowboy or cowgirl at heart, check out the Davie Pro Rodeo in the quaint, western-themed town of Davie.

If you prefer to play the ponies, South Florida horse racing tracks include Calder, Gulfstream, Hialeah Park, Mardi Gras Racetrack, and Pompano Park. And Tampa Bay Downs is in southwest Florida.

Central Florida Horse Trails 

Courtesy of State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services




Lake Emeralda Marsh (386) 329-4404
  General James A. Van Fleet State Trail (352) 516-7384
  Hilochee Wildlife Management Area  
  Lake Apopka Restoration Area (386) 329-4404
  Lake Louisa State Park (352) 394-3969
  Lake Norris (386) 343-3777
  Ocala National Forest (352) 625-2520
  Rock Springs Run State Reserve (407) 884-2008
  Seminole State Forest (352) 360-6675
  Withlacoochee State Trail (352) 726-2251
Orange Hal Scott Regional (386) 329-4404
  Lake Apopka Restoration Area (386) 329-4404
  Rock Springs Run State Reserve (407) 884-2008
  Seminole Ranch Conservation Area (386) 329-4404
  Tosohatchee State Reserve (407) 568-5893
  Wekiwa Springs State Park (407) 884-2009
  West Orange Trail (407) 654-1108
Osceola Bull Creek (386) 329-4404
  Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area (352) 732-1225
Seminole Cross Seminole Trail (407) 869-5966
  Lake Jesup Conservation Area (386) 329-4404
  Little Big Econ State Forest (407) 971-3500