Article by: Tiffany Evers // Photos by: Kelsey Walters
Florida is most commonly known for its epic sunrises, warm sunny beach days (for the most part), and breathtaking springs to explore. Whether you have lived here your entire life, have relocated to call it home, or keep it as your go-to place for vacation, you can enjoy endless amounts of activities while also experiencing mother nature at its finest.
Then there is a part of Florida that so many tend to forget about; the acres of farmland that lie between the coasts and the springs. One of our most important resources and home to hard-working and dedicated men and women who embrace a different type of Florida life. One filled with farm animals who are treated like family, majestic oaks that not even a hurricane can shake and a real sense of purpose from living off the land.
Canter Down Farms in New Smyrna Beach
I recently got a dose of this Florida farm life and had the opportunity to explore Canter Down Farms (CDF), located off Turnbull Bay Road in New Smyrna Beach. Although it’s only 6 miles west of Flagler Avenue, it felt like I stepped into a completely different world. I met with the owner/operator, Karen Knies, who lives, plays and works on this beautiful 15-acre farm.
Karen has been riding horses since she was 4 years old and, before long, knew she could turn her passion into her livelihood. She spent years working at show barns and racing stables and when given the opportunity would shadow vets and trainers, giving her great appreciation, respect and, most importantly, hands-on experience of what it took to work with horses.
Karen’s hard-work and dedication paid off and in 1995 she opened Canter Down Farms, which offers horseback riding lessons and clinics for all ages. Karen is trained in multiple riding disciplines and has what she calls her “CDF Crew” which is made up of Davin, Libby, Ella, Houston No Problem and Quick Draw McGraw, five resident horses ranging in size and riding styles. Each one even has their own bios online if you want to know more!
Horse Shows and Competitions for Young Riders in Central Florida
On Saturday, January 30, Karen hosted her first horse show of the year and had 75 riders who competed in over 320 rounds. This was my first time experiencing a horse show and I have to say it was a lot different than I expected. You tend to forget how large and incredibly strong horses are until one is towering over you.
One rider in particular captured my attention. If I had to guess, she was no more than 10 years old, and exuded a calm confidence that you couldn’t help but notice. She was in complete control and was enjoying every minute of it. Riding takes time, patience and passion and it shows. It was wonderful watching the bond these riders have and the support they get from their friends and family.
The event was very laid back and offered plenty of space for each family to set up for the day. Some viewers brought 10×10 tents and chairs, while others sat on blankets under the surrounding oaks. Local vendors were set up selling artwork and custom T-shirts and hamburgers and hot dogs were available for purchase. The Ice Queen Truck was there serving up frozen classics and even wine pops, which happens to be a personal fav!
These shows are a fun way to experience the Florida farm life while supporting a local entrepreneur who offers so much to the youth in our community.
Upcoming Horse Shows at CDF from 8 AM – Dark:
March 13 • May 15 • July 17 • September 18
Year End Awards Ceremony • December 12
For more information about lessons, shows and summer camps, visit them online at CanterDownFarms.com.