Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SADDLE UP AT THE BEACH; Kelly's Sea Horse Ranch Offers Riding Tours on Amelia Island

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SADDLE UP AT THE BEACH; Kelly's Sea Horse Ranch Offers Riding Tours on Amelia Island

Article excerpt

Byline: Chloe Emory & Jake Stofan

The horses wait patiently in line as their riders for the day begin to mount. The first few steps build the excitement as the horses trot to the awaiting trail. The ranch melts away as the horses glide through the forest's trees, and thus begins the serenity of your ride.

The horses make their way by memory through the pre-cut trail, across a gentle stream, up hills and around the bends. The wind barely blows through the trees and the sounds of critters harmonize with the gentle sway of the horse's back. At last, the horses ascend a sandy hill and the cool breeze of the beach wind and the sound of the waves crashing breaks through the stillness.

The horses at Kelly's Sea Horse Ranch are just as beautiful as the ride itself. The ranch is a small family-run establishment on Amelia Island that offers one-hour tours.

The ranch has been run by lifelong cowboy Jim Kelly and his wife, Kelly Robinson, since 1999. They have a contract with the state to operate on Amelia Island State Park lands.

Kelly and Robinson have dedicated their lives to the 24-hour requirements of caring for their 20 horses and leading as many as 5,000 tours annually.

"It's a lifestyle," Robinson said. "You have to love the work."

The ranch has an excellent track record: In its 16-year existence not a single patron has been bucked off a horse, Robinson said.

While the three-person crew works year round, they rotate their horses daily, taking no more than 10 horses on each tour. That way, for every day a horse works, it has a day of rest and relaxation.

Kelly and Robinson train each horse personally, leading it through the long process of "desensitizing," which teaches the horse to be comfortable in high-stimulus environments.

Patrons are given a quick one-on-one lesson on how to mount and control their horses. With the extensive training the horses are given, it's easier than one might expect. …

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