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Farmer's Market

Still in the saddle

A Riverview couple could have called it quits when the city grew up around them or headed for retirement, but they still the love horse and cattle trade.

By JANET ZINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2003


RIVERVIEW -- Zipping down U.S. 301, it's easy to miss Angelina's Horse and Cattle Co.

The 10-acre farm has been there since 1968, when Pat and Ron Sanders purchased the plot of land and began buying and selling horses and beef feeder calves.

"Riverview was so small that you only had to dial four numbers for anyone in town, and your mail would come if just addressed to Ron Sanders, Riverview, Fla.," recalls Mrs. Sanders. "Highway 301 was just a two-lane road with only one stop light."

Times have changed, but the Sanderses remain committed to buying and selling the highest quality horses and cattle they can find. The couple travel all over the Southeast and to Texas about five times a year to buy horses.

"We can sit through a sale with over 600 head of horses and feel lucky to hand-pick five or six head to bring back for sale," Mrs. Sanders says.

They choose horses based on their looks, breeding and training.

"We can forego the looks if he's got a lot of training," Sanders says.

Horses remain in stock at Angelina from a week to a month and sell for between $2,000 and $6,000 each. They sell about 2,000 a year.

The 20 horses in their stable right now include registered American quarterhorses and paint horses. Quarterhorses are bred to run with great bursts of speed and are used to round up cows; paint horses are animals whose coats are white and one other color.

The cattle, which will arrive next month, are selected based on their breeding.

Exports comprise about half of the Sanders' business. Through the years, Angelina -- which is named for a county in Texas simply because Sanders liked the sound of it -- has shipped horses to Canada, Germany, Panama, Venezuela and Honduras. The couple sold more than 250 horses to French Guinea in the mid-1980s after a sleeping sickness epidemic forced the destruction of the country's herds, Pat Sanders says.

Pat and Ron, native Texans, met in 1960 on a ranch in Grapevine, Texas, where Ron worked and Pat rode. The first time Mrs. Sanders saw her future husband, he was being thrown by a horse.

"You can't say he impressed me with his talent," she says with a laugh.

They married six months later.

The couple launched their business as horse trainers in Texas before entering the world of buying and selling. They moved to Riverview in 1965 because many of their buyers were from the area.

Clint Sanders, one of the couple's four children, lives on the Angelina ranch with his wife, Carmen, who is expecting twin girls in April, and their 5-year-old son, Cody.

He runs a horse-training business that encompasses everything from breaking-in to finishing the training of ranch, pleasure or show horses. The cost is $500 per month, which includes boarding, feeding and grooming.

"The key to training horses is time and patience," Clint says. "You just have to have more time and patience than the horse."

In 1976, the Sanderses established Florida Horse Sales, an all-breed registered horse auction in Ocala that takes place five times a year. The next is scheduled for March 8.

Late last year, the Sanders put their 10 acres up for sale.

"It's all commercial around us now," Mrs. Sanders says.

They plan to buy a beach house and move their business to the San Antonio in Pasco County with the proceeds.

The Sanderses are old enough to get senior citizens discounts. He is 64 and she's 61, but they have no intention of retiring.

"You don't ever quit," Sanders says of being a cowboy. "You just work till you die."

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