Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Horse riders want to better identify their last frontier — trails in the Withlacoochee State Forest

RIDGE MANOR — Ten years ago, Kathy Thompson and her husband, Truman Prevatt, moved to rural Hernando County with their recreational horses and enjoyed 6 to 8 miles of riding along "dirt roads right out of our house," she said.

But things have changed, Thompson said.

"There are a lot more houses, a lot more dogs," she said, "so it's not as easy, not as safe as it used to be."

Yet, the couple, ages 61 and 62, respectively, live near the Withlacoochee State Forest, one of the public places where horse riders are increasingly finding, as a last resort, space to pursue their leisure sport. Thompson and Prevatt, from Indiana, frequently take advantage of the opportunity.

The forest's Croom Tract offers about 50 miles of horse trails, but those trails are mostly identified only by blue plastic ribbons tied around trees. The Florida Forever Back Country Horsemen, an organization representing about 400 horse owners with Prevatt as its president, wants to change that.

The organization is launching a project to place more-visible signs along the trails.

"The association started working with the Withlacoochee State Forest on trying to upgrade the horse riding system," Prevatt said. "When people go ride, they want to ride loops and they want to make sure they don't get lost. Signage is to identify loops ... (and to make sure riders can) find their way back to their (horse) trailers."

To raise $1,500 for trail signs, the horsemen will stage what they've labeled a Trail Pace Benefit Ride on Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing for two hours or more for various divisions: medium pace, cavalry, endurance, cart and carriage ponies, and cart and carriage horses. Trails measure 8 to 10 miles in length along various routes designated for each pursuit.

The cost to take part is $25 per adult and $15 for juniors age 16 and under, and includes a trail snack, a clinic on horse care and opportunities to win prizes.

Staging for the event will be at the Smith Prairie Trailhead in the Withlacoochee State Forest, east of Brooksville.

Space is limited to 50 participants and can be reserved by calling (352) 796-9272 or at the organization's Web site:

Prevatt said the forest is becoming more of a destination for recreational trail riders.

"As we've developed, a lot of private property is no longer available. Dairy farms and cattle ranches are disappearing," he said. "The state has bought a lot of public land. If you're basically going to recreate with your horse, it's going to be on public land."

The local horsemen's organization, affiliated with a group launched out West in 1972 to preserve horse and rider access to public lands, is focused on volunteerism to help maintain equine-friendly trails in wilderness areas, Prevatt said. Its role is particularly needed in the time of government budget cuts, he noted.

Why own a horse if you don't have riding access close by your stable door?

"There are lots of reasons for owning a horse," Thompson said. "They are good companions, not just pasture ornaments. I know lots of people who don't ride anymore. They're friendly animals. They are intelligent."

Thompson and Prevatt own eight horses — Arabians and Tennessee walkers.

Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]

If you go

Time to pony up

The cost to participate in the Trail Pace Benefit Ride on Saturday is $25 per adult and $15 for juniors age 16 and under. Staging will be at the Smith Prairie Trailhead (off Croom Road in the Withlacoochee State Forest, east of Brooksville). Space is limited to 50 participants and can be reserved by calling (352) 796-9272 or on the organization's Web site:

Horse riders want to better identify their last frontier — trails in the Withlacoochee State Forest 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 12:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102