North Florida Equestrian Community Setting New Standards
By Rhonda Gailey
The common, ongoing debate in land use is urban sprawl vs. new urbanism. However, while that debate rages, people are discovering an alternative that combines the best of traditional, country living with conveniences of a modern, suburban lifestyle – new ruralism.
New ruralism offers residents the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds in a managed country setting. And in the heart of Florida, one new community epitomizes the new ruralism concept – The Oaks of Lake City. The Oaks of Lake City embraces all the best qualities of America’s classic lifestyle and places them only minutes from three major cities and top quality beaches.
You can move around The Oaks comfortably and confidently, walking everywhere along tree-lined oaks on the 15 miles of trails and over 348 acres of common space. There is something for every member of your family, even your four-legged friends. The professionally designed equestrian amenities are complete and further non-equestrian parks are under development. With over 1,222 acres and three types of home sites to choose from, it’s no wonder that The Oaks has been referred to as “The best new planned community in North Florida.”
The equestrian facility spares no expense and has been duly noted as the world’s first five star Audubon certified equestrian center and site accredited by the Certified Horsemanship Association. You can have it all and still live in exactly the home you have in mind. The Oaks is all about choice. We have many builders and price ranges to choose from.
From the minute you drive past the guard-house and into The Oaks, you will know that you are in a special place, someplace genuine and warm. The Oaks is unlike anything else in the southeast. The fields of black board fencing, majestic live oak trees, rolling hills and abundance of parks and green spaces provide the perfect setting for friendly neighbors to stop and chat, and the kids to ride by on their bicycles or ponies.
The Oaks of Lake City also comes complete with a custom 33-stall barn on 76 acres, which includes more than 40 acres of fenced pasture, covered arena, looped riding trails, a cross-country course custom designed by Olympian David O’Connor and a competition quality outdoor arena, all designed by Equestrian Services, LLC. Instructors at The Oaks are CHA certified and the site is CHA accredited. Surrounded by large open spaces and mature oak trees, residents can enjoy the park-like settings while gazing out their window or while enjoying a leisurely outing
on foot or horseback.
Strategically located within the community, residents who keep horses on their own property can also enjoy five equestrian parks which dot the landscape and include open fields for training, a professionally engineered outdoor riding arena, and jumping efforts – all linked by the trail system. A dog park will provide the perfect spot for residents to exercise their pets and socialize. And the streets in the community were named for horses the O’Connors rode to championships during international competitions. Lots range in size from one-to-five acres, at amazing prices from $59,900 to $174,900. When completed, half the home sites will be considered equestrian estates, on which property owners will be allowed to build their own stables. The remaining sites are designated for homeowners who plan to board their animals at the main barn, take lessons on community horses or simply enjoy all the other benefits the community has to offer.
While the idea of having Olympic equestrians lending their name to a community is new, the idea of having a sports figure involved like this is not. Professional golfers have long allowed their names to be used to brand golf communities. Two big differentiators between the O’Connor Signature Equestrian Brand and the golf professional brand is that the namesakes stay involved for the duration conducting annual clinics and participate in on-going facility management. The O’Connors and Jennifer and Michael Donovan, the co-founders and principals of Equestrian Services, believe that the same type of branding concept will work to draw homeowners to an equestrian community, especially in the Lake City area.
“First of all, the site is phenomenal,” says Jennifer Donovan. “It really lends itself to an equestrian venue. The land is beautiful, with majestic oak trees and rolling topography that is very rare for Florida, which is usually more sandy and flat. Also, it is in close proximity to what is happening in Jacksonville and Ocala, where equestrian interest continues to grow.”
“Many people are looking for more land at a better value,” says Donovan. “People are afraid of hurricanes. They are moving a little further north and central, to what they perceive as a safer location. Also in the northern part of the state, people can experience the changes of the season, but in a more mild way.”
Another key factor to the location, according to Donovan, is Brad Dicks of Dicks Realty in Lake City. “Brad has a vision and a commitment to this project,” she says. “He is a great person to work with, and is determined to make this the best equestrian community in the world. So far, that is just what we are doing.” Donovan says that being able to work with the rest of the team – the O’Connors – has just been a blessing. “I am a lifelong equestrian, and my mother has been riding her whole life, so I know a little about this,” she said. “The O’Connors have a tremendous reputation. David is currently the president of the United States Equestrian Federation, and Karen is still competing. She has a shot at the Olympics this summer. Between them, they have five Olympic medals, but more important than any of that is the fact that they are incredible to work with.”
People are attracted to communities like The Oaks of Lake City because of what they offer – a highly sophisticated personal living environment (elaborate master bedroom suites, gourmet kitchens, smart, wireless networked homes) in a pastoral setting with easy access to services traditionally found in a neighborhood. These specially designed communities provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy horses (theirs or their neighbor’s) on their own terms and with the level of interaction they want.
That interaction can include anything from simply viewing horses at liberty in a pasture or being ridden in one of the community’s riding venues, to boarding their horse at the community facility, to providing all of their horse’s care at the private barn on their property. Further, the minimally disturbed or manipulated nature of these communities strongly appeals to many people’s desire to live in a less contrived, natural setting. Effectively designed trails will preserve and highlight the areas of exceptional natural beauty on the property. This feature and the ability for pedestrians and riders to generally co-exist on the community’s trails are in stark contrast to most golf communities where walkers and joggers are welcome only during nongolf seasons. The Donovans and the O’Connors believe they have a winning concept.
To find out more about The Oaks Equestrian Center the site of the 2010 CHA International Conference visit www.oconnoroec.com and www.theoakslakecity.com
A Horseback Riding Program for the Heroes in our Community!
By Sydney Sullivan Knott
Horses4Heroes is proud to be a member of CHA and looks forward to meeting and working with the members. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Las Vegas, NV, Horses4Heroes is building a nationwide network of family-friendly, kid-friendly horseback riding facilities and equine-related service providers that support our mission to make horseback riding affordable for, and accessible to, the families of the heroes in our communities including, but not limited to: military personnel (active duty and veterans) police and correction officers, fire fighters/EMTs, critical care and hospice nurses, special needs school teachers and families who are struggling with serious, chronic illnesses and/or disabilities.
We are bringing into the horse community a brand new group of people who, until now, thought horseback riding was too expensive. These are the people who, because of our program, will attend summer horse camps, go trail riding on vacations, attend equestrian events in their communities, buy jeans and boots from local western stores and, one day, own or lease a horse. Simply stated, our program is developing a lifelong love of horses! Opening your barn doors to these families is smart, good business and the right thing to do!
Our facilities offer able-bodied horseback riding programs that emphasize fun and safe activities with horses, mounted and un-mounted for all ages. Facilities and instructors in our network focus on all aspects of horse care and horsemanship, including ground fundamentals, as well as riding. Typically, both English and Western riding disciplines are offered, and some include beginning rodeo and gymkhana (barrel racing, pole bending, etc.). Members learn valuable leadership and teamwork skills, and make new friends. If you are a riding instructor or the owner of a horseback riding facility and you are willing to offer your services at a discount to our members, please contact us. As a member of CHA, you will be able to join our network free of charge until the end of this year. In return for your willingness to help heroes in your community, we will provide promotional materials to you and coordinate all local PR, advertising and marketing efforts. For information or to join, call us at (888) 9US-HERO (987-4376) or visit our web site at www.horses4heroes.org.
By Val Ewan
Rawhide Ranch, a Southern California camp tradition since 1963, is known far and wide for providing campers (ages 7-15) from all over the world with a taste of ranch life in a very unique old west setting. The ranch is located on 38 acres in the beautiful avocado and citrus grove area of North San Diego County near the village of Bonsall. We welcome approximately 5,000 “ranch hands” each year as they become members of the ever-
expanding Rawhide Ranch family.
As we all know, a summer horse camp experience will provide a lifetime of memories along with a new sense of independence, accomplishment, and pride as new skills are learned, new friendships are made and a chance to enjoy a slower pace of life. Our summer camp motto is “Character Creates Heroes” and we see “heroes” every single day here at Rawhide Ranch.
When campers, many of whom are just beginning their first real experience with horses, arrive to begin their summer camp adventure, families are greeted by a host of new sights and sounds to welcome them to Rawhide Ranch. As they help their camper get settled in there is plenty of time to meet their child’s counselor and explore the ranch together before saying goodbye. The days of the week will fly by and before they know it the Grand Entry show music will be playing to welcome the families back to the ranch for the closing day’s camper show festivities.
Our summer schedule features daily Western riding & vaulting instruction. The riding program structure also gives our campers an opportunity to progress through advancing levels (or “ranks” as we call them) based on CHA levels 1-4. The average size of our herd of horses is 75, giving us a wide range of skills and temperaments to choose from when matching horses and riders.
We are proud to have all aspects of our riding program under the direction of CHA-certified staff instructors. Gretchen Carson Conwell, Animal Program Director, is CHA-certified level 3 Western/2 English w/ jumping and is supported by 3 additional CHA-certified staff members here at the ranch.
In addition to riding and vaulting lessons there is plenty of time to stay involved with ranch life through animal care, animal & horse science classes, horse psychology plus a variety of “just for fun” electives such as basic roping, driving pony carts, introduction to rodeo, country line dancing, swimming, campfires and so much more.
Our partnership with CHA officially began in 2002 through the efforts of former Rawhide Ranch Equine Director, Maureen “Mo” Tate who was instrumental in seeing the ranch become an accredited site and active member of CHA. We are happy to be able to host CHA clinics here at the ranch when we have a break in our camp schedule and have been honored to have had an illustrious group of CHA instructors and riders here over the years. Rawhide Ranch Assistant Camp Director, Raina Baker, is an active member of CHA with a certification as a Master Instructor as well as Clinic Instructor and Raina will be leading the upcoming standard CHA clinic held here at the ranch in November.
Beyond the summer camp season, Rawhide Ranch changes gears just a little and area schools and youth groups head to the ranch for a three-day ranch experience. It’s an exciting time for all of us as the majority of those attending are first-time riders and ranchers. We get to be a part
of experiential learning at its finest each and every day as those riders and ranchers expand their view of the world.
We’d love for every child who wanted to have a horse camp experience to be able to do so. So, to that end we have set up the Rawhide Ranch Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing summer camperships and educational scholarships to campers with financial need. Through the generosity of donors we have been able to provide summer horse camp opportunities to many, many children over the years that would not otherwise have been able to experience the joys of horsemanship. If you’d like more information on how you can help provide a summer camp opportunity or other educational scholarships, contact Tom Ewan, Co-director at email@example.com.
While we are steeped in tradition and the old west setting here at Rawhide Ranch we also enjoy the pleasure of modern life as well so if you are a Facebook or Twitter fan we’d love to have you join us and say hello. Visit us at our website at www.RawhideRanch.com. Happy Trails!