When I was a kid, I distinctly remember every summer when it was corn season. At almost every meal, we would have fresh corn on the cob loaded with lots of salt and butter. Did any one else have a dedicated stick of butter with a huge indent in it? We called it the “rolling butter” and the process somehow made the corn more delicious! After dinner, my mom would collect the corn cobs and jam them in a bag that was eventually destined for my cousin’s house. On occasion, I would be lucky enough to bring the big bag of corn cobs up the road to her house and feed them to her horse Boss. I couldn’t tell you much about Boss, only that he was friendly and to this day whenever I eat corn on the cob, I think of my childhood. This weekend we brought the boys to Mill Creek Farm a Retirement Home For Horses, in Alachua County. Hopefully at least my oldest will have similar memories!
So a retirement home for horses? It’s great really, it’s a spot where they keep all the aging horses, set them up with wheelchairs, hearing aids, and they get to play canasta all day in between episodes of Perry Mason and Matlock. No, it’s not really like that, but instead if you ever had a parent tell you that your beloved pet “went to the farm”, Mill Creek Farm is exactly that picturesque farm complete with rolling hills with lush grass that you imagined your best friend went to. It’s so nice in fact, I think I want to retire there!
All kidding aside, Mill Creek Farm was the dream of Peter and Mary Gregory. Previously living in London, they had memories of a farm in the U.K. that they would visit where the horses that pulled the drawn carriages would literally get two-week vacations. Peter and Mary would swing by the farm and feed the horses carrots. They decided if they were ever able to, they would open up a farm of their own to allow horses to retire in practically the lap of horse style luxury. In 1983, they opened Mill Creek Farm and did just that: opened a retirement home for horses. Although Peter passed away last year, his son Paul has taken on his father’s legacy and works tediously to provide for these often abused and unwanted horses. In addition to working with the SPCA to provide a lifetime home for these neglected animals, they also take in former police and government service horses as well. It’s very tiring work, but it is a labor of love for the entire family.
So how in the world did I ever discover an actual retirement home for horses and why am I writing about it? Well I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually discover this one. We decided to take a day trip to Gainesville to visit some old friends and they knew we love inexpensive entertainment for the kids. They have three kids of their own and now that we are catching up with our latest addition, we figured it would be great to get the families together for some Frugal Florida Fun! After yet another incredible lunch at Satchel’s Pizza, we made a quick stop to buy some carrots. Much to my surprise our friends came out of Publix with a 25 pound bag of organic juicing carrots! (Don’t worry no need to juice them!)
Next we were on our way to Mill Creek Farm! This retirement home for horses is open to the public every Saturday from 11am to 3pm and is absolutely free! That’s right, no parking charge, no admission charge, but they do have a two carrot minimum! They do sell them at Mill Creek Farm but they often run out due to demand. You’re better off bringing your own. Remember that 25 pounds of carrots? For only $15 we were able to entertain five children and four adults for quite some time!
Once we arrived at Mill Creek Farm, we were surprised to see just how many people were visiting! We arrived at around 1:30 or so, but there were still plenty hungry horses to feed! We headed out on the main path and it was great to stop and see these animals being so friendly and interested in all the people coming and going. A few of the horse retirement home residents were very sick and emaciated, but we still stopped to give them some love and carrots too. It was sad to see, but it was very comforting to know that no matter what they had been through they were finally free of pain, suffering, and would be truly loved. A handful of them were very skiddish, so we just left a few tasty morsels on the fence post, and as we would walk away they would come gobble up their treats.
It seems like lately we are a severe weather magnet when we go out on adventures, and you would think I would prepare accordingly with ponchos, but no such luck this time. We got caught in a torrential down pour! About half way through the farm there were some large oak trees that we took shelter under and we remained relatively dry for quite some time. When the leaves soaked through though, we were fortunate enough to be near a fenced off shelter. We’re not sure if we should have or not, but the gate was unlocked and it wasn’t actually in a horse area so we made a run for it. (Yes we were careful to not only close the gate behind us, but to make sure we didn’t get in the way of any of the horses.) Since this was Florida, the typhoon style weather that day at Mill Creek Farm lasted only 10 minutes or so and we were able to casually walk back to the car without getting drenched. Although we carried our little ones, it was cute to watch our friend’s kids splash and play in the puddles. After all, they weren’t riding in our car so it was OK!
This adventure really seemed to hit home for me. In the car on the way out, I mentioned to my wife what a great day we had so far, and wished we lived closer to Mill Creek Farm. We would certainly come back time and time again! There are a few considerations when you visit to make family memories. This is not a picnic area, park, or birthday party spot. There are no pony rides, clowns, or facilities of any sort. This is a privately owned farm and qualifies as such. That means that under Florida law, Mill Creek Farm is “agri-tainment”. Essentially if junior gets his fingers nibbled by the horses, you can’t blame the establishment and you cannot hold them responsible for any damages or injuries sustained. Don’t misunderstand me or anything here, they don’t have rabid horses or anything, but our two-year old came pretty close to a few of the horses chompers a time or two. Just a fair warning here. Since there are no facilities, playgrounds, or anything of the sort, the only activity you will find at Mill Creek Farm is feeding the horses. Don’t expect much else other than friendly volunteers along the way!
Remember Mill Creek Farm is FREE to enter, and enjoy for you and your family, but the farm does cost real money to operate. Please consider making a donation. If you don’t have any cash at the time of your visit, they do accept credit card donations via paypal on their site. Retirement Home For Horses is actually a non-profit organization, and would technically be tax deductible, so if you’re in need of a few more tax deductions at the end of the year, please consider them. We can’t wait to go back again when both of our boys are old enough to really appreciate getting up close and personal with the majestic animals. Who knows, maybe they will get all nostalgic next time they eat carrots!
Mill Creek Farm Retirement Home For Horses Details:
|Date(s):||Saturdays Only||Time(s):||11am to 3pm|
|Address:||20307 NW C.R. 235A, Alachua, FL 32615-4228|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$15 For A 25 LB Bag of Carrots @ Publix|