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.
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.
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.