Riding Star Ranch, a nonprofit organization, aims to heal people and horses with the physical and emotional benefits afforded by trail rides and riding lessons. The ranch’s team takes in unwanted, neglected, or abused animals and rehabilitates them, transforming them into confident, happy horses that students can ride.
During lessons, riders earn ribbons through the American Association of Riding Schools program, collecting them for learning how to properly groom and ride in disciplines such as hunter/jumper, English pleasure, and Western pleasure. And although taking a trail ride to the Carlton Reserve and the Myakka River will not win riders any ribbons, they are welcome to pin themselves with their own awards and medals before climbing aboard trusty steeds.
Pine flatwoods, 17 miles of trails, and a long stretch of shoreline characterize the 14,000-acre Rock Springs Run State Reserve, certified as a sand pine scrub ecoregion by the World Wildlife Fund. This diverse terrain awaits horseback riders as they push off from the trailhead alongside guides from Rock Springs Run Trail Rides. As guides lead the way, horseback riders can enjoy the sights and sounds of Florida's wilderness or their horse's passive-aggressive GPS directions. Newcomers and seasoned riders alike can also improve their saddle skills through lessons with the outfit's Lorrie Clark, who instructs riders on how to improve their horsemanship, English and Western riding technique, or basic horse care.
An FAA-certified commercial pilot, Eric is well-versed in the operation of tandem hangliders, helicopters, firefighting aircraft, and light-sport weight-shift-control aircraft. As the head instructor at FlyPhibee, he demonstrates a different skill: piloting the amphibious Cygnet 3. Designed and approved by the FAA, this open-air machine features wheels and pontoons for a water or shore landing. Its paraglider-style wings help it climb approximately 1,000 feet per minute. On teaching flights, Eric charts a leisurely course along the coast?giving students a chance to soak up the scenery or helm the amphibian's controls.
The mad scientists behind The Challenge Mud Run spend their days playing with mud and surfing the Web for the ideal throwing axe. All that hard work will pay off when they host an intense 5-mile race that challenges the mind and body. During the race, entrants crawl through a dark, semisubmerged and smoke-filled tunnel, swing on monkey bars over a quicksand pit, answer a series of brain teasers, and of course crawl through mud while pretending to be the primordial life form that preceded the crocodile.
Run From Hell is like any other 5k. Obstacles. Trails through the woods. Hungry zombies chasing after you. As contestants dash toward the finish line, a legion of undead crawl, limp, and shuffle in pursuit, even running after their prey for up to 50 feet. Those who don't want to flee for their lives can give them up ahead of time and participate as one of the cannibalistic hordes, receiving a pallid, rotting makeover from a professional makeup artist.
Sweetwater Golf & Country Club's 18-hole Highlands Course weaves over 6,771 yards of fairways and greens stitched by mature oaks. The player-friendly, par 72 course puts clubbers face to face with the Loch Ness Monster—which is the name bestowed upon the course's signature hole, a 625-yard par five that double-doglegs around a lake. Golfers can prepare for their round with a stint at the club's driving range, where practice balls await to be launched in the stratosphere while commenting on the tense relationship between golf balls and sheets of glass. The club fosters more competitive fun at its tennis complex, which boasts eight lighted, outdoor Har-Tru—green clay—tennis courts.
After a day spent reading putts or thrashing forehands, guests can unwind at one of the club's three dining facilities. The relaxed vibes of the Fife & Drum Pub and the Carnoustie Café welcome casually-clad guests fresh off the course, and the more formal, chandelier-lit confines of the Highlands Dining Room provides an apropos backdrop for dinner parties or a romantic setting for date night for golfers and their caddy.