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.
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.
During a round of golf in this region, it’s not uncommon for players to see the occasional alligator sunning itself on the banks of a fairway pond. The same, however, cannot be said for miniature-golf courses, unless you’re playing at Congo River Golf, where the civilized sinking of putts coexists with the visceral carnage of live-alligator feedings. More than 25 alligators wait for patrons to feed them morsels of gator food in an exhibit beside the course. Though the course offers no chance for an encounter with the ancient, scaly species, it enchants players with waterfalls, safari-themed artifacts, and towering rock faces. In addition, Congo River Golf encompasses an indoor arcade and a gemstone-mining station, where guests dig through dirt for fossils, arrowheads, and Neanderthal’s kindergarten time capsules.
At Dance Centers of Orlando, instructors work to foster an atmosphere of inclusion and support, helping kids to develop a strong sense of self-confidence to complement their fancy footwork. In each of the three studios, instructors fuse choreographed routines, dance combinations, and technical exercises into curricula focused on styles ranging from ballet and tap to hip-hop and martial arts. The studio's Marley sprung floors support little twinkle toes, helping to prevent injury. As the youths hone their skills, their parents can observe their progress on closed-circuit TVs or search the web via free WiFi to find the best ways to make nutcrackers come to life.