Despite the drama, it was a great Florida winter

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By TERRY MORT

Sorry it has taken me so long to finish our year of events in Florida this year, but when you are gone from home so long, it takes you a while to catch up with everything.

We had a great winter down there, but eventually everything must end. There’s nothing like some excitement to start out a morning in Florida. Kathy Hulburt went out to feed the horses and heard a crash at the end of our driveway.

Accident

A young girl had missed the curve in the road and went through our neighbor’s fence and continued through to ours.

Fortunately for her, she missed a telephone pole and a pump building. The driver was shaken, but OK when Kathy went running up to see what had happened.

The girl claimed it was foggy and she couldn’t see, but it was a perfectly clear morning. The police were called, an ambulance came and our day continued. We were getting ready to trailer out for a ride that morning.

The ride went well and we had a good time. When we were almost back home on the four-lane highway, a fire truck and some other emergency vehicles passed us. We saw them turning into our road. Now everyone knows when something like that happens close to your home, the first thing you do is think of the worst and panic.

Fire

Ours is a long, straight street and we could see the emergency lights and hear the sirens right in front of our driveway, again! Before we got to our driveway, we saw a lot of smoke. The forest was on fire!

The firemen had caught it early, and even though it was very windy, they quickly had it under control. We and the neighbors were all questioned if we had seen anything, but no one did. The firemen came to the conclusion that the early-morning crash had started the fire when someone at the accident scene parked on the side of the road in the grass.

Somehow, the heat from a catalytic converter must have started the dry grass smoldering and it caught fire and spread.

Before we got to our driveway, we saw a lot of smoke. The forest was on fire!

Again the next morning, we awoke to the flashing lights of a wrecker. This time, it was nothing more serious than the neighbor’s car which had quit at the exact same spot and had to be towed.

Turtles

In Florida, they have these turtles that are called gopher turtles. They should be named groundhog turtles because they live underground and make big holes like a groundhog in the field.

We try and find them and remove them to other quarters because the holes can spell big trouble for the horses. I was looking out the camper window and saw movement on the ground in the field. I went to investigate and it was one of the turtles on its back.

I turned it over and there was a definite horse print on its back, and it was bleeding. Our landlord told us to call a lady who takes in injured turtles. We called her and she said to put cold compresses on its back and bring it to her.

She said she would give it antibiotics to keep it from getting infected. Its back legs were paralyzed from the injury, so she would keep it for her menagerie that she took around to area schools for display.

On another day, I saw another one of the turtles digging in the field, so I went out to catch it. It saw me coming and tried to dart down the hole. I caught it before it could disappear and tried to pull it back out of the hole.

Those turtles are about the size of an 8-inch plate and are they ever strong. I could not pull it out of the hole; I had to get a shovel and dig it out. I then relocated it to a nonhorse area.

Other stops

One of the stops on our way home was the Sweetwater Equestrian Center in Tennessee. We stopped again at one of our favorite places to ride in the East: East Fork Stables. Even with the way our economy is going, this riding place continues to thrive.

The riding there has a little something for everyone, from easy to more difficult. The camping facilities are first rate and continually being improved.

Before we left Florida, we made plans to meet our daughter Tammy, son-in-law and some friends at Shawnee National Forest in southern Ohio, for a week of their vacation. Bruce and I were only able to stay three days because of a horse emergency at home.

Tammy had someone coming in to feed the two horses left at home, but they were not equipped to handle any special care. Tammy’s 25-year-old mare got down in the field and they could not get her up.

When the vet came, she got the mare up, but she would need medication and special care. Bruce and I volunteered to come home and take over the duty so the others could enjoy their rare vacation time.

Hard times

We didn’t get to do much riding at Shawnee and hadn’t been there in 30 years. From talking to a few of the locals, I guess a lot of the riding that used to be there has been shut off, but there are still quite a few miles of marked horse trails.

The locals also told us that times are really getting rough not only for people, but their animals. Some horses are being left to starve, just turned loose to fend for themselves, or have even been left tied to someone’s trailer. A few of the horses we saw were not in good shape, their bones prominently protruding from their skin.

My first trip to Beaver Creek with a girlfriend turned out to be an exciting day, too. We were riding the yellow trail, having a nice relaxing, beautiful warm day. The forested, yellow trail goes through a remote valley crossing several little creeks.

And they’re off

My friend was behind me on a 4-year-old that had been doing a good job. Suddenly, something spooked her horse, and she took off around me on a dead run. I was riding Rounder and he must have thought we were in the Kentucky Derby because he started to run, too.

Fortunately for me, Rounder is pretty easy to control and I got him stopped in time to see my friend hit the dirt as her horse bounded down over a slight hill.

Her horse kept right on running, and Rounder didn’t want to stand still so I could get off and help my friend. He finally settled down so I could get off, and while I was trying to assess the damage, her horse came running back.

I got both horses tied up and tried both our cell phones, and neither would get out of the valley to get some help. After determining that hopefully nothing was broken, between the two of us we managed to get her back on her horse and make it back to camp.

Exciting things

Exciting things just keep on happening. One night last week as Pogo and I were walking down to the barn to let the horses out for the night, she took off across the yard into the woods, barking furiously.

I could see the white of a deer tail crashing through the heavy brush. The next thing I saw was Pogo running for her life, coming back across the yard with a doe in hot pursuit. It was such a funny sight, this big doe chasing 12-pound Pogo, who is the same color as a deer.

The doe finally saw me and stopped about 20 feet away. She stood and looked at me for quite a while, trying to decide if she should keep up her chase, and finally went running back into the woods.

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