Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Horses in Florida

While working on my St. Augustine Series (The first in the series Winning the Captain's Heart releases in July) I found this little tidbit about horses, that might be helpful to some of you as well.

Horses, when kept properly stabled out of the sun and dews, and fed and groomed as any good horse should be, thrive as well in Florida as in any other portion of the South. The principal drawback in keeping a horse in good condition, especially in the towns and cities of Middle and South Florida, is the sandy roads. Out in the little-traveled country and in the woods, the roads are well enough, and a horse can trot along as well as anywhere; but in the towns, where the roads are deeply cut up, it is very hard upon all draught-animals, and great care should be taken not to overload or overwork them. In particular, a good horse should not be intrusted to the care of a colored hostler or driver, if you care much for the horse. A mule is best adapted to a negro teamster; it being among the predestinate things of nature that negroes and mules should come together.
Sandy roads are the worst feature of life in Florida, and will be for many years, for there is no method of effectually improving them except at great expense. The roads in Northern Florida are free of sand, except in a very few localities, and are as good as any country roads in the whole country, and in some localities in the southern counties there are also good stretches of roads; but in the latter section generally they are sandy to a degree that it is more easy to resent than to describe. This prevents much carriage-riding or walking on the roads, and is the principal cause of the very little visiting among neighbors in the scattered settlements, where it is quite noticeable that the women seldom exchange visits, or indulge in " calls," as is the very popular custom among their Northern sisters.
But in those counties where the roads are sandiest are found the most numerous lakes; indeed, the whole region is a network of lakes, and the settlers' homes are generally bordering on or adjacent to a lake. These lake-side dwellers are sure to have a row-boat, and in such cases visits are more frequently interchanged among the accessible neighbors. Saddles, row-boats, steamers, and railroads will always be the principal methods of travel and intercommunication. Carriages for pleasure, or wagons for labor, will never be so common, or so necessary, as elsewhere.
In the case of horses, as in that of cows, the Northernraised animals, especially the fancy breeds, do not do well in Florida, particularly if any work is required of them. The Western horses would probably be found better adapted to the climate and other conditions, but they have not yet been introduced in any considerable numbers. The native horse is a small, bony, pot-bellied animal, very shabby-looking and destitute of "style," but capable of more work on a scantier supply of provender than any other creature with which I am acquainted, except a mule. The demand for horses in Florida at present much exceeds the supply, and the prices are consequently disproportionately high, and this is another department of stock-raising to which farmers should give more attention. Specimens that I have seen show that under proper care and treatment the native variety is capable of being made a very presentable as well as serviceable animal.
Source: Florida for Tourists, Invalids, and Settlers ©1884

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