As the head trainer of Cactus Jack's Trail Rides, Debbie Zito cares for a fleet of healthy, happy, and well-trained horses, which she also pairs with beginners and experienced riders for leisurely tours. Debbie and her other guides call upon their seasoned riding experiences as they lead visitors throughout the shade-speckled trails of the 110-mile Cross Florida Greenway trail system. While groups ride along, the guides point out historic sites and natural inhabitants, such as great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, cardinals, and armadillos. Debbie and her team also offer lessons to increase riders' confidence and help them communicate with horses effectively rather than sending them commands through email.
The seasoned performers of Piccadilly Circus dazzle audiences of all ages with 90 minutes of acrobatics, comedic high jinks, and trained animals beneath the big top. Audiences gasp at high-flying trapeze artists swooping through the air with the confidence of a kite in a wind tunnel, as well as contortionists able to bend themselves into human bonsai trees. Death-defying motorcyclists roar into a caged globe to perform a 360-degree display of vehicular mastery. Gaggles of clowns coax out chuckles, and a trained elephant parades around the ring, occasionally stopping to memorize an audience member's phone number. General-admission seating surrounds the ring, allowing ample viewpoints from which to observe the boisterous spectacle.
In the wide pastures of The Gypsy Gold Farm, sunlight dances playfully upon the long, flowing manes of Gypsy Vanner mares and stallions. The rare horses, which were first bred in the Gypsy camps of Great Britain nearly 70 years ago, made their North American debut at The Gypsy Gold Farm after a chance discovery by owner Dennis Thompson and his late wife Cindy.
The couple had been driving through the countryside of England when the oddly compelling sight of a far-off stallion prompted them to pull over. Soon after, the two tracked down the owner and found themselves immersed in a culture rich with vibrant caravans and music.
The selectively bred horses currently roam the Ocala farm where Dennis educates visitors on their smart, affectionate nature and origin. The farm is home to America's first Gypsy Vanner horses and has been lauded by TripAdvisor as the number one activity in Ocala and has been praised by Martha Stewart as an "amazing tour".
Brianna M. Seltser began her equestrian journey at the age of 6, when she first felt the freedom and exhilaration only found on the back of a galloping steed. That first taste inspired her to pursue the sport throughout her childhood; she?d go on to become a young member of the United States Pony Club and compete on show circuits throughout Florida, Massachusetts, and Georgia.
Today she passes on her lifetime of equestrian experience to new riders at the 20-acre Silverstride Equestrian Center. Her aim is to foster a bond between horse and human through lessons for riders of all ages seeking to learn for pleasure, competition, or to finally have an excuse to wear their ten-gallon hat. Lessons take place on the center's impressive jump field or in a secluded schooling area. Since no two riders are alike, she customizes a detailed lesson plan for each student with the end goals of developing riding skills, building confidence, and learning the value of proper horsemanship. Seltser's equestrian center also offers boarding and training services, as well as summer camps designed to create inseparable bonds between human and horse.
Just beyond the wrought iron gates and cobbled stone walls that stand at the entrance to Young’s Paso Fino Ranch, Paso Fino horses from some of the breed’s most esteemed bloodlines gallop across green fields and rustic meadows. Renowned for their naturally smooth gait and personable dispositions, the steeds whinny their greetings to visitors who arrive at the ranch for farm tours, riding lessons, and leisurely trail rides. To further endear themselves to the horses before saddling up alongside the ranch’s experienced guides and instructors, new riders are encouraged to bring along carrots and wear their finest hay-scented perfumes. When the afternoon sun beats down on the farm’s open pastures, riders can seek shade in the on-site tack and gift shop, where saddles, reins, and souvenirs swing from wooden walls. Aside from daily rides and lessons, the ranch offers full-service boarding in a barn with clay flooring and a covered viewing pavilion.
When maestro Phillip Daniel Vincent strikes with his sword, you'll be lucky if you even see him move. Vincent has been fencing his entire life, first learning foil skills before moving on to the saber and epee, and training with world-renowned coaches and champions. After raking in his own awards?including two Ivy League championships?he became a fencing coach and now heads up En Garde Fencing Club of Ocala.
His students learn fencing and footwork in both private and group sessions, and then practice their techniques in sparring matches that help them prepare to walk the mean streets of the local Renaissance faire. Lessons take place at The Training Center of Ocala, which also hosts stress-busting Raja yoga and tai chi classes. One of the tai chi instructors, Harry Smith, is another distinguished champion who has won bronze and gold medals in national and international competitions.