Just over a year ago (January 1, 2014), Kissimmee’s famed dinner show, Arabian Nights, closed it’s doors after 25 years. Owner Mark Miller felt that the consumer market demanded a shift in focus that would ultimately detract from the established quality of his renowned product. Rather than compromise the show, Miller opted to end the run on a high-note. This speaks volumes for the pride and integrity of the brand, which has been growing with his family for over 70 years.
By no means have Miller and his accomplished horses retired from the public eye, however. They’ve simply found a new pasture to grace with their award-winning talent. These days, Miller and his horses are promoting their passions on a much more personal level – at the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Farm in Clermont.
Situated between Lake Nellie and Little Lake Nellie, Al-Marah Arabian Horse Farm is 80 acres of equestrian wonderland. The oldest privately-owned, continuously-bred band of horses in the world now call this sprawling, majestic land home, and they have a whole new expanse to run, play, and amuse the masses with their second-to-none talents and charmingly lovable personalities. This band of award-winning horses continue to show and perform on a national level, but their home base serves as an inviting location for visitors wishing to experience one-on-one interactive opportunities with some of the finest horses in the world.
Clermont is a convenient drive from the tourist zone in Orlando/Kissimmee. To put it in perspective, Al-Marah Arabians is located approximately 35 miles from Sea World. The pathway to the farm transforms from traffic and tourist traps to rolling hills, lush land, and lakes of varied sizes. It’s not the “Orlando” that people expect as the fly in from points across the globe. It’s the original Florida.
Daily from 9am – 4pm, Al-Marah is now offering a new Interactive Horse Experience. Guests in small, personal groups are led on a tour of the farm property by a knowledgeable member of the Al-Marah staff. The tour begins by exploring the perimeter of the land – starting with a separate area reserved for pregnant mares, new mothers, and foals. Here, we encountered the most jubilant, curious horses! They were anxious to approach us and introduce themselves… with great enthusiasm!
One of the horses we met had a tendency to be supremely annoyed by the presence of flies – hence the fly mask.
While we were rounding the back forty, I caught a glimpse of some remnants from the Arabian Nights decor…
The property features diverse training grounds with specialized shapes, sizes, fencing, and ground cover.
The farm welcomes guests of all interest and experience levels. While beginners will appreciate the option for more basic instruction and activities, Al-Marah is a perfect location for seasoned pro riders as well. The staff is well trained to assess your skill level, and provide an appropriate course of activity and guidance. If your timing is right, you’ll appreciate the chance to observe training sessions with the farm’s experienced riders.
Once you’ve taken in the sights of this quiet country plantation, it’s time to get starstruck! The barn houses over 20 stalls teeming with some serious star power. You’ll meet the award-winning Al-Marah Arabians, and learn the illustrious background and accomplishments of each.
Every one of these esteemed horses has a very distinct personality, and every one is equally lovable. The bond between the horses and the staff is undeniable. One by one, as we were introduced to these magnificent creatures, we found enthusiastic, happy greetings. As they rotated from baths, to rides, to stables, we came face to face with a bevy of beauties that had an immeasurable list of career highlights and remarkable bloodlines.
Following your extensive meet and greet, it’s time to get hands-on with these champions! The trainers and staff have been chock full of equine facts and history – now they want to share their daily experience of caring for the horses by making you a part of the routine. You’ll learn about the intricate process of grooming to meet the high standards of this unique breed of entertainers and show-stoppers. I’m not sure who enjoyed this more – my kids, or the horse! My daughter was very proud of her mane-braiding skills.
Following our grooming session, we prepared to saddle up and ride. We learned about different types of saddles, as well as horse-riding safety before heading out.
My son and I both took a turn at riding. This was the first time he had been on a horse in an unrestrained environment. Though there were walls blocking a completely free roam, it was left to the rider to steer their horse. We were given instruction on posture, steering, and control for our ride while being led by a member of the staff. Once we felt comfortable with what we had learned, we were able to experience a little “trot” through strategically places mini-obstacles.
The highlight of the day was the completely unique “paint a pony” opportunity. Yes, this is meant to be taken in the most literal sense… you will be painting a pony! Choose your colors, and make that gorgeous superstar a brilliantly vibrant canvas of imagination! When your masterpiece is complete, your colorful host will be happy to pose for one-of-a-kind photos to show off your hard work.
As a final display of the extraordinary creatures you’ve spent your day with, you’ll end your visit with a very rare treat, in the form of an Arabian Nights tribute – the “Liberty Act”. The illustrious black stallion will proudly demonstrate some of his most breathtaking skills as instructed by his trainer. There is no forced performance or pressured commands, so we watched in amusement as the star of the show enjoyed a spirited game of catch-me-if-you-can with his trainer. These two have been developing their relationship for years, dating back to the Arabian Nights performances, and there was a very obvious comfort level, mutual respect, and loyalty in their interaction. Al-Marah is not an environment were intimidation tactics or baited rewards are incorporated. It’s a family of people and horses sharing a mutual love and desire to dazzle – which they do so very well, and naturally.
During your visit to the farm, take note of the genuine love that the people display to their animal companions. There are resident dogs, visiting birds, and even a cow – who came with the purchase of the farm. “Tofu” was an integral part of the land’s purchase, in fact! You see, Tofu’s original name was “Dinner”. When Mark Miller purchased the farm, he included a mandatory clause to save Dinner from a sad fate by offering a permanent home, along with a name change. The animals genuinely come first on the farm, and they are are treated like true royalty.
As we left the Al-Marah Arabians, it was feeding time. We said a reluctant good-bye to our new friends, both human and horse, and thanked them for such an original, friendly experience. I’ve learned that Orlando has much more to offer than the high-speed, crowded thrills of the action-packed theme parks. Sometimes it’s so refreshing to take a step back to appreciate the more personal, unique encounters that hide off the beaten path. The Interactive Horse Experience at Al-Marah Arabian Horse Farm is the perfect opportunity to soak up valuable knowledge while making unrivaled memories.
The Al-Marah Interactive Horse Experience costs $195 for the first participant in your party. Each additional guest will pay $95, with a maximum of six people per reserved experience. Observers are free, so bring the whole family! The knowledge and demonstrations are priceless, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy during your visit. VIP barn tours are offered as an alternative for a scaled-back experience. This one hour tour costs $20 per person, and you will meet the famed Arabians while learning about the history of the horses, the family, and the farm. Individual riding lessons are available for children and adults, from beginners to experienced, starting at $65.