Riding and Relaxing at Lady Hawk Farm in Inverness, Florida
By Emily Nipps
Riding a horse through a thick, green-laced maze of towering pine flatwoods, along a barely worn trail, it’s easy to forget you’re in a state known for beaches and palms.
“Who would have thought in Florida we would have these types of forests?” said Susanne Casesa, owner of Lady Hawk Farm in Inverness and native of Germany.
At Lady Hawk Farm, the Withlacoochee State Forest is your surrounding yard — literally — along with a stable of gorgeous, immaculately groomed horses, some guinea hens, a few cats and a large, friendly potbellied pig that wandered onto the property one day and understandably decided to stay.
Susanne and her husband, Jim, live across the hilly, rural street, leaving guests with their own private property, including a two-bedroom cabin-style home with a pool, hot tub, porch and fire pit.
It’s the perfect stay for a family or a couple, because guests can wake up, make coffee or tea and pancakes with fresh eggs from the farm, then wander out to the well-kept Lady Hawk Farm acreage to pet the animals or take a dip in the pool.
The property is just far enough away from the city to feel like you’re nestled in the wilderness, but should you need a bottle of wine or some sunscreen, a suburban shopping plaza with a grocery store, bank, drugstore and other forms of civilization are within a 20-minute drive.
The real reason people come to Lady Hawk, however, is the horses. Whether you’re a timid beginner or an experienced rider, Susanne and Jim make it fun and easy to explore the 150 miles of trails and 4,200 acres of Withlacoochee, much of which is designed specifically for horses.
The couple, who call Lady Hawk Farm their “retirement” (Jim is a former attorney), clearly work hard to keep the dozen or so horses pampered and in top riding shape, and they’ve taken great measures to desensitize the large, beautiful animals to fluttering birds, barking dogs and other obstacles that may startle along the trails.
After quickly sizing up a guest’s comfort level with riding, Susanne will pick out the horse with the most suitable personality — perhaps a slow and gentle Arabian for a child or a more spirited trotter for a more adventurous rider.
Susanne, fluent in both English and German, is a certified instructor who grew up around horses and it’s interesting to watch the way she reads the animals’ body language, seems to know their thoughts and senses their feelings. She’s the perfect teacher for those unfamiliar with the nuances of riding, and even experienced riders will walk away feeling as if they learned something.
At the end of a long day cavorting around Withlacoochee and fraternizing with the critters around Lady Hawk Farm, guests can wind down properly with a soak in the cabin’s 128-jet Jacuzzi, which Susanne will gladly show you how to operate. She and Jim will also start a help bonfire in the yard, perfect for roasting the marshmallows found in the cabin’s kitchen cupboard, alongside a box of graham crackers and some chocolate bars.
Inverness is located in Florida’s Nature Coast, an area known for great hiking, kayaking and snorkeling, should you want to get out and explore. But chances are, you’ll find plenty of things to at Lady Hawk Farm, even if it’s just sitting in a rocking chair, listening to the soothing sounds of the backyard forest.
If you go…
Lady Hawk Farm
10542 S Forestline Ave
Inverness, FL 34452