Horseback riding camp for kids ending after 25 years

- After more than 20 years of teaching children how to ride horses, a non-profit farm is shutting down its horse trail  due to a lack of space to ride.

Armondo Gort, the founder of HorsePower for Kids, 8005 Race Track Road South, said it is getting harder to find public horse trails as the city of Oldsmar continues to develop.

Gort has offered free riding camps to inner city kids and children with disabilities in the past, in addition to a summer camp attended by kids from all across the country.

A lure of the program has always been its riding trail that runs on the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve.

"When I first moved here in 1994, for five years we had back there, about 300 acres, we could ride. It was privately owned," said Gort.

Pinellas County eventually took ownership of the land in the 1990s, allowing the city of Oldsmar to manage it.

According to Gort, for the past several months city officials advised him he can not lead horseback rides through the preserve, out of concern the horses will damage the wetlands.

"Oldsmar has always been known for horses, and they're eliminating them all," said Gort.

In 2004, Oldsmar prohibited horses on city streets and parks. Some local riders have complained about the lack of public riding spaces available.

Gort, whose facility sits on the border between Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, was not able to move his riding trail behind his farm to Hillsborough County side.

Developers bought the land and currently constructing a new subdivision.

Gort said the lack of riding space has forced him to shorten the trail and decrease the price of the rides as a result.

"We used to be able to do an hour trail, but now, we only can probably do 30 minutes, so we had to lower our prices," explained Gort.

Gort said he is no longer making enough money to support the riding program and caring for the many horses.

He gave several of the horses away.

HorsePower for Kids is not closing down its entire farm. The petting zoo, train ride and other features will remain open.

Gort is hoping to end the long-standing riding program on a high note. He is hosting a sleepover for campers, and present, on Saturday, August 6, where campers will be able to ride together for one last time.

For more information or to register for the event, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/309261996084552/ or contact HorsePower for Kids at http://horsepowerforkids.com/contact-us/

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