While Cale and Terri Chamberlin had no experience owning horses, their daughters — Madi, 13, and Lindsay, 11 — had plenty of experience riding them at nearby stables.
It's the main reason they moved to Panther Ridge, a 4,500-acre equestrian community of almost 1,000 homes on 1- to 16-acre sites — east of and contiguous to Lakewood Ranch — which is where the Chamberlins lived before moving here in 2010.
Later that year, Madi and Lindsay got a horse and a pony for Christmas. "We dreamed of having our own horses at home. We still love it a year later," Cale said.
The only one in the family not caught up in the horse hoopla is the youngest, 9-year-old Caden. What did he think when he saw his sisters' horses in the newly completed barn? "I was happy for them; not happy for me," he said with a grin.
While Caden may not ride horses, the wide open spaces give him plenty of room for his favorite pastime: hitting baseballs with his dad. "When we lived in Lakewood Ranch, he dented siding and broke windows, one with a golf ball," Cale said.
Real estate agent Ronnie DeWitt, a horse owner and resident of Panther Ridge herself, said the emphasis of Panther Ridge is about being outdoors, not about being at a country club. There are several parks with tennis courts. One even has a fitness trail. About half the parcels are suitable for horses, she said.
But the upscale community realizes that some of its residents are interested in joining a country club, so homeowner association fees are kept low — $500 to $1,200 a year — so that residents looking for a golf course or a community swimming pool can join one of the nearby clubs.
There aren't many homes for sale but buyers who can find one can get it at a bargain price, DeWitt said. She said she recently sold a 13-acre parcel of land for $90,000; a house with a pool on 5 acres sold for $300,000; and that a house that sold for more than $1 million a couple of years ago was recently purchased for $500,000.
Patti Ewald is a freelance writer living in Gulfport. You can reach her at email@example.com.