JACKSON — Gloria Austin has scratched off an item from her bucket list.
It was an opportunity for the horseman to drive her four-in-hand on Friday morning in the Coach and Carriage Drive at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
The horseman’s eye-catching turnout blended in perfectly with the idyllic setting of the Audubon Center. Austin’s carriage and harness were trimmed in gold, and the majestic presence of her team of four Pura Raza Espanola horses gave her turnout a regal appearance.
“This is a fairly new carriage that was made in Germany by Gustav Kuhnle,” Austin said.
However, it was the gray PRE horses and that had a mesmerizing effect. The horses were purchased last spring by Austin from an area near Seville, Spain.
“They were shipped to the United States in September, and we’ve been training them in Florida since then,” Austin said.
The horse in the left lead position was cited by Austin for his steady demeanor, and at 9 years old, was the senior member of the team. The horse in the right wheel position was the youngest member at age 5.
But, Friday’s coach and carriage drive was a dream realized for Austin.
“This is the first time I’ve actually attended this,” said Austin, a founding member of the Four-in-Hand Club. “Jack Wetzel is our local representative in Aiken, and as I’m getting older there are things that are on my bucket list, and one of the things I had always wanted to do was attend and drive at Jack’s drive. I just hadn’t been able to do it over the years, and with the new horses I made the decision to participate.”
The allure of the Audubon Center’s beauty was another reason Austin participated in Friday’s drive.
“I grew up in a rural area, so communing with nature in a horse and carriage, or just coming here is a great treat for me,” said Austin. “The Audubon Center is fabulous.”
The resident of Weirsdale, Fla., drives on a routine basis in the Ocala National Forest, but embraced the opportunity to drive in the Audubon Center.
“The pine forest is so peaceful and tranquil,” said Austin. “You just hear the clip-clopping of the horses as you travel along.”