Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
There’s nothing quite like the bond between a horse and its owner and Kym and John Holzwart understand that more than anyone. The couple breed Spotted Saddle Horses and own the Spotted Dance Ranch in Brooksville.
Located near the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, close to exit 301 of I75 and Brooksville, the couple’s ranch is also the perfect getaway to stay with your horse and ride Croom’s more than 50 miles of horse trails.
“I previously owned a farm in Tampa and was looking to move further north,” said Kym. “So, when John and I viewed this 10-acre property, we thought it perfect to relocate and start our breeding program.”
The couple bought the property in 2014 and started their breeding program three years ago.
“It took us a while to get the property in shape,” she said. “The fencing alone took a couple of years to complete and then we renovated all the other buildings, stalls and barns and also built a brand new home.”
While it’s an established breeding ranch, five years on, the Spotted Dance Ranch welcomes visitors nationwide to come stay with their own horses and ride the many local forest trails.
It’s also an opportunity for visitors to get a glimpse into the history of Spotted Saddle Horses and see them up close and personal.
The Spotted Saddle Horse is an American horse breed developed by crossing a Spanish-American gaited pinto ponies with other gaited breeds, like the Tennessee Walking Horse.
“We are currently breeding our high-quality Spotted Saddle Horse mares to the multi-world champion, speed racking stallion, “The Gravedigger,” said Kym. “The offspring of Gravedigger are in great demand, so they sell fast, sometimes even before they are born,” she added.
The couple explained that only one foal is born at their ranch each year.
“That enables us to give the foal our total attention, so by the time it’s able to leave us as a weanling, it’s calm and friendly and trained to lead, tie, load, trim, pony on the trails,” said John, locally known as RidinJohn.
“Our latest foal, born in May 2018, is out of the well-bred Spotted Saddle Horse mare, “Pusher’s Hoodoo,” said Kym. “We named her Spirit of Gravedigger, but we’re not yet decided if we want to put her on the market,” she said.
Since John, formerly an electrician, retired to Florida from Wisconsin, he has been leading trail rides throughout North and Central Florida for years with his Spotted Saddle Horses, so much so that he is known as ‘Ridin’ John’ throughout the trail riding community.
Kym, an experienced outdoors woman and naturalist was formally trained as an ecologist, and is a multi-generational native Floridian who has been riding horses for more than 50 years. She spent her childhood riding hunter-jumper in Miami during the school year and trail riding on and around the family farm in North Carolina during the summers.
After graduating from college, Kym bought and trained an Appaloosa and became an avid trail rider. She also discovered the sport of endurance and competitive trail riding and competed with her Appaloosa and Spotted Saddle Horse for many years.
In addition to using her horse to train for endurance and competitive trail rides, Kym regularly rides the Croom horse trails with her Spotted Saddle Horses, sometimes riding along with the many visitors that stay at the ranch, when she has time, that is.
Kym also has a full-time job with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and rises every day at 4 a.m. to fulfill all the tasks needed at the ranch.
The couple also volunteers many hours maintaining the Croom trails and works with the Nature Coast Back Country Horsemen and the Florida Forest Service.
The Spotted Dance Ranch is located at 29384 Wildlife Lane, Brooksville, FL 34602. Call 813.482.4028 or email [email protected] Visit www.spotteddanceranch.com, or search for Spotted Dance Ranch on Facebook for more information.
TS Mules Mulemanship/Horsemanship Clinic
Feb. 14-16, 2019
Horses, mules and donkeys welcome.
For clinic and registration, visit TSMules.com
For camping, stall/paddock reservations, email [email protected] or call 813.482.4028.
Spotted Dance Ranch accommodations are relaxed and casual.
Their cute Cowboy Cottage sleeps four and has a fully-equipped, eat-in kitchen; a queen-size Murphy bed; double futon; and a private bathroom. WiFi is available, along with DVDs of horse-related movies to watch on the flat-screen TV.
The back porch has a covered area for four with a gas grill, and a picnic table under a beautiful live oak.
Accommodations with full hookups are available for your living quarters horse trailer or RV and picnic tables and group fire rings are available. There’s also a primitive camping area for large groups, clubs, and special events.
Prices start at $25 for trailer/RV sites and from $75 per night at the Cowboy Cottage depending on number of occupants.
Various size stalls and paddocks or combinations are available. Day-use parking is $5 per day per rig (up to 2 horses; $2 for each additional horse). Paddocks: $15 per night per horse; other stalls range from $15 to $30 per night.
Current Coggins papers, as well as a current health certificate if you are coming from out of state, are required and must be presented for each horse.