Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stately horse driving event replaces the Steeplechase at Little Everglades Ranch


About 40 spectators sat rapt Thursday morning as four horses pulled a carriage across the ridiculously green course at Little Everglades Ranch.

All was quiet except for the sounds of recorded violin music and the occasional click of a camera.

The carriage's driver, a woman in a large brown hat, steered as two grooms sat ramrod straight in the back.

"She did a real nice job," said Joanne Rittenhouse, who had driven with her husband, Joe, from Mt. Dora for the opening day of the Little Everglades Combined Driving Event.

"It's hard for a woman to handle that many horses," Rittenhouse said. "She's got to have some gracefully big hands to hold all those reins."

The driving event is the first horse competition at the ranch north of Dade City since owners Sharon and Bob Blanchard pulled the plug on the Steeplechase in September. Organizers canceled that event for 2010, and possibly beyond, after determining they could not line up sufficient sponsorship money.

The Combined Driving Event, a four-day competition that includes dressage, obstacles and a marathon course, costs around $50,000 to host, compared to Steeplechase's $1 million bill. The Blanchards started planning this competition about three years ago.

"There's no purse money, trophies are minimal — it's just a lot easier to do," said Sharon Blanchard.

In the audience Thursday morning, friends and retired fox hunters Mary Ann Skinner and Candy Linville watched as another carriage trotted into view.

Both were regulars at Steeplechase and were eager to see the horses at the new event.

"I think the beauty of this is you can observe them for a long time," Skinner said.

She and her friend noted that the crowd Thursday was much more reserved than those who came to Steeplechase.

"It was just a party group," Linville said. "These people are horse people."

Across the field at the stables, drivers, grooms and their crews washed and brushed their horses.

"It's a beautiful facility," said Misdee Wrigley-Miller, a driver from Lexington, Ky., as she pulled in from the dressage event.

Some drivers had tables and chairs set outside their stables. Many were staying in RVs parked atop a hill at the ranch.

"Driving people are usually quite social," said Derek Beckhoven, a groom from Akron, S.C.

The group hangs out at night, he said. During the day, competitors are friendly, even helpful.

A lack of prize money helps with the sportsmanship.

The event is a qualifier for the World Equestrian Games this fall in Kentucky. But the only real prizes offered this weekend were ribbons, said competitor Jennifer Matheson.

"If it's a good ribbon, it's a $3 ribbon," she said. "We're all doing this, trying to get better."

She took a bite out of a carrot and offered the rest to her stallion Deniloo.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at or (813) 435-7312.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Misdee Wrigley-Miller is one of the participants at this week's Little Everglades International Combined Driving Event. Her name was misspelled in the original version of this article.

Fast facts

Drive on out

The inaugural Little Everglades International Combined Driving Event continues 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday. The ranch is located east of U.S. 301, 3 miles north of Dade City. General admission is $10.

Stately horse driving event replaces the Steeplechase at Little Everglades Ranch 01/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 12:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Observations from a liberal, gay, Latino, feminist Florida House freshman


    State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando,  rocked the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner at Tallahassee's Hotel Duval Satursday night with his unabashedly liberal and passionate take on the myriad issues he said are key to LGBTQ Floridians. Among them: Access to guns, Reproductive rights, home …

    Carlos G. Smith
  2. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  3. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  4. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  5. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.