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.
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 half-mile track, on an 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 hosts birthday parties and summer camps designed to inspire budding equine aficionados.
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.
A famous tautologist once said that nothing pairs better with a crawfish festival than crawfish. This thought-provoking maxim is an apt summation of the Ocala Crawfish Fest, an annual celebration of Louisiana-style cooking and live music. In an interview with Ocala.com, festival organizer Deb Cone described the event as an opportunity to combine kids-education fundraising efforts with casual, laid-back fun. As she put it, “We wanted to do something for the entire community where you don't have to dress up.” Attendees can throw down blankets or lawn chairs and kick back to musical stylings that are as Cajun as the cuisine that is being served up, all while reveling in the knowledge that their merriment is helping the independent education facility Hale Academy.
The Ocala Pumpkin Run, an annual car show held on the scenic grounds of 400-acre Castro Farms, draws automobiles of all makes, models, and eras. Guests can wander through displays of collector cars and antique tractors, watch hands-on demonstrations of car repairs, or bring children to participate in more than 35 free activities such as pony rides and pumpkin decorating. Local bands play throughout the event, and local food vendors sate revved-up appetites.
Southeastern Paranormal Investigations leads groups of intrepid explorers on paranormal tours. During each tour, guides weave tales of hauntings and paranormal investigations. Ghost-tour-goers are welcome to bring cameras in an attempt to snap any spooky appearances as they walk along on downtown ghost and history tours.