Tall in the Saddle in Kissimmee

By: Herb Hiller

The rural areas around Kissimmee reveal its cattle ranching history. Riders, take note - there are some good horseback riding trails here too.

It's so quiet along two-lane Highway 441 through the Kissimmee-St. Cloud area that the rare glimpse of a human might be of an arm reaching out a pick-up window into a rural mailbox.

Odds are it's an arm tanned from working cattle. These are Florida ranchlands. You're between Yeehaw Junction and Holopaw. For 33 miles, the signs remind locals of what they already know: "Beef, it's what's for dinner."

Near St. Cloud, one spread combines ranching with good times and learning about Florida. The Crescent J raises cattle using the best environmental practices. Guests can tour the ranch and the adjacent Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area through a number of different guided adventures offered by Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida.

The 1,500-acre Crescent J stocks mainly Cracker cattle and Charolais; the Cracker breed hardy and heat tolerant, while the Charolais are most efficient for converting feed to meat. These animals are huge and in the distance look like rail cars.

Across 3,200 acres, the land at Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area is more like it was in 1521 when Ponce de Leon introduced the first Spanish herd to Florida.

Those blue jeans you own? Here's where to wear them. They're for the Horseback Safaris and more.

You can experience the Zipline Safari, the first and only of its kind in Florida; the Coach Safari for a wild Florida adventure or the Cypress Canopy Cycle for an amazing experience pedaling through the treetops over forested wetlands. Stay the night at Forever Florida with primitive and limited camping facilities.

Rural ways hang on, too, at Horse World Riding Stables. On 200 acres, good- time activities range from horseshoe tossing to basketball to fishing off the private dock (bring your own fishing gear). But back in the saddle is where you need to be here.

The Nature Trail Ride is the best choice for beginner riders, and children as young as four can ride at an easy-going pace. Children as young as three can ride double with a small-sized adult.

Those already comfortable on the back of a horse may want to opt for the Intermediate Trail Ride (for ages ten and older) and pick up the pace a bit with trotting, while the more seasoned rider can break into a canter on the Advanced Trail Ride.

A day or more spent at places like Horse World or Forever Florida settles folks in a mid-state ranching world where Florida cow-wrangling culture is a way of life rather than a lost tradition.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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