The scenery in the heart of Odessa is one of countless acres of farm land that is connected by long narrow roads that twist and turn through the landscape. Off one of the back roads is a driveway that leads to the 15-acre Catalina Farms, home of show horse CF Prowler's Personal Best and trainer Gerald Moores.
Prowler, as the horse is referred to, is a 2-year-old American saddle-bred horse that was born in South Carolina and recently finished third in the world championship for show horses at Louisville, Ky.
Moores purchased the horse from Caughman Farms in Columbia, S.C., and moved him down to Florida.
"The world championship (Aug. 19-25) was the first time Prowler had ever been at a horse show," said Moores. "It was the first time I had taken a horse to a world championship and the first time I was comfortable in taking one to a world championship."
Prowler's bloodlines should make any trainer confident.
"I trained his mom and dad, which were also show horses," said Moores. "His father, Night Prowler, is a 10-time world champion of the saddle-bred industry, and the mother also went to a few shows."
Prowler appeared in his second show in Indiana on Sept. 1 and beat the horse that finished as runner-up at the championships in Louisville. The recent success can only enhance the popularity of such a show horse.
"We went to Indiana and beat the second-place horse," said Moores, a Kentucky native. "We want to put Tampa on the map because the saddle-breds aren't as familiar down here as in the north. But the quality of horse in Florida has really improved the past few years."
The American saddle-bred is considered by some to be the world's most beautiful horse. It is also quite versatile in that the breed was developed by early-American pioneers who wanted a horse big and tough enough to plow the fields and pretty enough to pull a carriage through town with style.
A horse like Prowler adds to the enjoyment of visiting a horse farm such as Catalina Farms.
Moores has worked on farms in Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida for most of his 38 years and he is eager to share his knowledge of show horses.
"What I am trying to accomplish here is to train horses for their owners," he said. "We have riders from 6 up to 70."
Moores not only trains horses, but offers private lessons for individuals who are interested in learning how to ride a horse.
"I teach my students from the ground up," said Moores. "That is, I teach them how to clean as well as ride the horse. It is important for kids to be able to work around their horse and have confidence in handling the animal."
The American saddle-bred horse weighs between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. The horse matures in growth at age 4.
The size of the horse is one reason why Moores prefers to hold private instructions.
"Because of its size, the animal can be intimidating," he said. "Working with the horse on a one-to-one basis as opposed to group instruction helps take the fear of the animal out of the way."