PLANT CITY — Besides working hard, there just wasn't much to do in eastern Hillsborough County in 1964. Few had much disposable income for anything beyond their horses. So they focused their leisure time on riding the backwoods and ranches.
Triple B Riding Club formed that year with 10 or 12 families. Fifty years later, the equestrian club, has about 130 regular members from Brandon, Riverview, Lithia, Seffner and elsewhere, and hosts two events a month — one a day ride and the other a weekend camp out and trail ride.
The group merged from every part of the region and each member has a particular story.
Brenda Kemp's dad was a jockey in his younger days and regaled her with stories about horses, but never would allow her to own one. So when she was 48 she bought herself a steed — a quarter horse named Wildfire.
“She knew I was so stupid about horses, that she wouldn't take me out of the yard,” Kemp said Saturday with a laugh. “So I took lessons...” and eventually hooked up with Triple B, a group of people “who like to ride their horses.”
Penny Pak of Brandon, unloading her medicine hat paint, Muvabo, at a trail off Old Welcome Road south of Plant City, talked about joining the club two years ago. Not only is it a built-in group of riding buddies, she said, but also a giving organization that reaches out to the community.
When she and some of her friends worked as volunteers for Traverse, an organization that conducts horse therapy with troubled young people, Triple B stepped up to provide Christmas for the kids.
Club members pride themselves on giving back to the community — in the form of volunteer hours and monetary donations. Like they did for Traverse, Triple B members do charitable work yearly, including donating money last year to help complete the fencing at RVR Horse Rescue in Riverview. They also conduct food drives with Metropolitan Ministries and do volunteer work on the properties where they ride.
The group travels around Central Florida to ride, mostly to state parks or to property owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“Most of our members are in their 30s or older. Some are families and some are individual riders,” said club Vice President Sue Vaisey. Most find out about the club these days through Horse and Pony magazine, owned by club member Miriam Lauer, or the group's Facebook page.
“Horse people are a breed apart when it comes to life and our horses,” said four-term club President Gene Naasko, of Winter Haven.
Take Claire Boyle, 83, of Plant City. She still rides and has a long history with Triple B. Boyle first joined the club in the 1970s, then left to live in North Carolina. “Last year, I bid farewell to North Carolina, moved back to Florida and bought a quarter horse and a pre-dented pickup truck, then rejoined the club.”
Lynn Goldie never had ridden a horse when she was recruited to volunteer with Traverse. She took riding lessons and worked as a volunteer with that group for 15 years. Then she found Triple B, which she says gave her a new outlet for her horse passion.
And Cathy Tucker of Thonotosassa learned the therapeutic effects of horseback riding after getting out of the Army and buying herself a horse. “I have a very stressful job (as an IT security manager) and horseback riding with the club is a great stress reliever,” she said.
At least a few times a year, the club rides in parades throughout the Central Florida area. Members also go several times a year to Doe Lake Recreational Area in Ocala National Forest for camping and riding, Vaisey said. “We have put in water throughout the camping area so people can water their horses, polished the floors in the dining hall ... and have done other projects there.”
On most days, though, like on Saturday when the group visited Hillsborough County's Alafia River Corridor Nature Preserve, it's all about the love of horses and riding. The group of smiling equestrians mounted and took off on their trail ride under hazy skies and moss-covered oak trees, headed toward the Alafia River.
To learn more, visit Triple B Riding Club or call Naasko at (863) 206-5932.