The Cross Florida Greenway offers miles of horseback riding trails from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year.
A major reason why Ocala/Marion County is known as the Horse Capital of the World is the more than 65 miles of horseback riding trails in the Cross Florida Greenway. The trails meander through a 30-mile forested corridor from the Santos Trailhead just south of Ocala to the Pruitt Trailhead in Dunnellon.
“A great way to enjoy the Greenway is by horseback,” says Bre Ximenes, the Cross Florida Greenway Trails and Volunteer Coordinator. “The trails, which vary from single track to more challenging, are for the most part shaded. Depending on the time of the day and the season, you may see deer, bobcats, gopher turtles, coyotes, fox squirrels, even black bears. No motorized vehicles or hunting are allowed. It’s a safe place to ride.”
Another safety feature is that no major highways have to be crossed by horseback while riding through all but one of the Greenway sections. There are underpasses at 475 and 475A, the Land Bridge over I-75 and underpasses at 49th Avenue and County Road 484.
So now you’re ready to saddle up, but you don’t have a horse. No problem.
Located at the Land Bridge Trailhead is Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides, which is the Cross Florida Greenway’s designated horseback riding provider.
“We have horses to suit every rider from beginner to experienced. They are gentle, people friendly and enjoy their jobs,” says Jamie Zito, who with his wife, Deb, owns and operates Cactus Jack’s. “We have 60 horses, so we can rotate horses out on a regular basis to give them some time off. Horses, just like people, need time off from their jobs.”
With so many horseback riding trails in the Greenway, a knowledgeable guide is a must.
“Our trail guides are lifelong horse people who know the Greenway trails inside and out,” says Zito. “And they enjoy sharing the trails with our guests.”
Zito also points out that “good saddles are just as important as good horses and good guides. Many times, a ride is ruined by an uncomfortable saddle.” He notes that “we use Australian saddles that provide comfort and support.”
Riders have to be 6 or older to take the guided trail rides that can vary from one hour ($50) to six hours ($120). Cactus Jack’s also offers riding lessons.
“Our most popular ride is to and from the Land Bridge over I-75,” says Zito. “A lot of people have that on their bucket list.”
Want to ride? › Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides › Land Bridge Trailhead, 1110 SW 16th Avenue/CR 475A › (352) 266-9326 › cactusjackstrailrides.com › Reservations required