TALES FROM THE TRAILS
After what seemed like several weeks of solid rain, the skies cleared on Saturday, Dec. 12, and the weather was perfect for whatever you felt like doing. That worked out just fine for members of the Florida Whips, who held a holiday fun show and parade that morning at Mida Farm in Wellington. Eleven beautifully decorated carts and carriages showed up for the event.
The Florida Whips is a not-for-profit statewide equine driving association offering education, clinics, pleasure drives, competitions, picnics, social gatherings and other activities. “Whip” is the term used to describe the driver of the carriage. There are no requirements to become a member other than agreeing to safety rules and paying nominal annual dues. Club members welcome the opportunity to introduce driving to novices and help them safely introduce the art of driving to their equines.
Victoria McCullough, owner of Mida Farm and a member of the Florida Whips, was the hostess and sponsor. The cone course was set up on her large grass side lawn, along with an elegant table offering fresh fruit, muffins and juice. A basket of carrots sat nearby, and a row of comfy wicker chairs had been set up for spectators.
“I own two Clydesdales, Luke and Master,” Victoria said. “I love driving them. I also think that holding an event like this here in the village adds a lot of diversity. So many people ride and have horses here, but not that many drive. One of the nice things about driving is that you can do it with friends, whether they ride or not.”
She was honored to host the event.
“I’m very glad to host this event. I hosted the one last year. I love sharing this field with them. I won’t be doing the cones course, as it’s a bit too small for my Clydesdales, but I’ll have Luke hitched up and ready to go in the parade,” Victoria said. “I ride and show jumpers, but driving is entirely different. You have a 2,800-pound horse, and you can’t use your legs or seat. Your only connection is holding the rein, a thin piece of leather running from your hand to his mouth. That’s the biggest challenge of all, that he goes on trust, listening to that rein and your voice. It’s amazing. I love it.”
Driving is a great sport, and a generational one, she said. “Parents teach their kids, and then the grandkids. And when you’re into the draft breeds, like I am, you have a band of friends all around the world who also believe in the drafts and want to see this sport and these horses continue,” Victoria said.
Bettina Scherer, Florida Whips member and event organizer, was on hand driving Banjo, her Dutch Warmblood cross. “Being here is so lovely,” she said. “We’re very grateful to Victoria. We’d like to grow this event and open it up to riders as well, next year, and combine the parade with a trail ride.”
Deb Bennett also attended with Sonny, her Shetland pony. “I used to ride, but I have bad knees,” she said. “I started driving five or six years ago. It’s a lot of fun. I love the camaraderie of events like this.”
Max Ziaman came all the way from Scottsmoor in Brevard County with her pair of minis, Sassy and Chip. “We left at 5:45 this morning to get here,” she said. “Driving is more fun than anything. We like being out and enjoying a fun day like this, getting to meet other people and learning new things. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the day.”
Veronica Close and Barbara Young were some of the volunteers who helped with whatever needed doing. They were timing the drivers as they ran the cones course. The traffic cones, set up in pairs just wide enough for the carts and carriages to pass through, were numbered 1 through 20 and had plastic balls set on their tops. They had to be navigated inorder and in the correct direction. Going the wrong way, missing a pair or knocking down a ball resulted in time faults. The fastest overall score won.
“This venue is absolutely glorious,” Barbara said. “I love being here with these people. It’s so much fun. You won’t find a better group. Everyone helps everyone else, hitching up, decorating the rigs, whatever needs doing. What could be better?”
The winners of the cone course were Anna Carruthers, Deb Sparks and Deb Bennett. Also on hand were four members of the Citizen Observer Patrol (COP) mounted volunteers. “We enjoy attending events like this,” Capt. Alan Weisberg said. “This is a beautiful facility, and everyone’s very nice. We’re looking forward to the parade.”
By 11 a.m., the cones course was done, and everyone headed out, 11 carts heading down South Shore Blvd. Last came Victoria driving Luke. Friends, including Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis and Santa and Mrs. Claus, joined her in her carriage.
“It was a wonderful way to share our sport and spread holiday spirit,” Bettina said. “Everyone slowed for us on the road. There were a lot of smiles and waves. It’s not something you see every day.”
For more information about the Florida Whips, visit www.flawhips.org, e-mail Southeastern Regional Director Eloise Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Bettina Scherer at (561) 308-2746.