Horse Country – Ocala
There are only four places on earth that are designated “Horse Capital of the World“. Ocala-Marion County is one and the other three are Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France.
Even to the uninitiated, it is quite obvious why the U.S. Department of Agriculture branded Ocala the title of Horse Capital of the World back in 1999. With over 600 horse farms scattered all throughout the county, it is almost impossible not to see one when driving around town.
The beginning of Ocala’s horse industry can be traced back to one man named Carl G. Rose who in 1916 came to Florida from Indiana to supervise the construction of the state’s first asphalt road. After experimenting with limestone as an asphalt additive, he theorized that the abundance of the mineral in Ocala’s soil meant that it was an ideal location for breeding and raising strong horses. In 1943, Rose bought acreage along State Road 200 and the Rosemere Farm was born. The farm would later become the site of Paddock Mall and Central Florida College. By the time he died in 1963, Rose was said to be responsible for establishing at least 30 thoroughbred farms in Marion County.
Home of the Champions
Champions of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes have been bred, raised or trained in Ocala, Florida. Most famous of all is “Affirmed” who is also the most recent winner of the Triple Crown (winning all three above races) – considered to be the greatest accomplishment in thoroughbred racing. In all, Ocala’s horse farms have produced 45 national champions, 6 Kentucky Derby winners, 20 Breeder’s Cup champions and 6 Horses of the Year.
Horse Events in Ocala, Florida
Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) – For five weeks each winter, HITS hosts one of the largest hunter/jumper shows in the United States. Held at the Post Time Farms, the annual event draws thousands of competitors and horse enthusiasts all around the world. HITS brings the area an estimated $30 million, to Marion County hotels, motels, restaurants, tack and feed stores.
Live Oak International – Since its inception in 1993, the Live Oak Combined Driving Event has become one of the premier Combined Driving Events in North America. Since 1995, the Event has hosted Selection Trials for both the United States and Canadian Equestrian Teams and in 1998, was granted international sanctioning by the Federal Equestre Internationale.
Ocala Breeder Sales Auctions – The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company sells over $100 million worth of thoroughbreds a year in its seven auctions. OBS also features an Inter-Track Wagering Teletheater where fans can watch and wager on horse racing simulcasts from around the country.
Florida Horse Park Events – An official training site for the US Equestrian Team, the park now hosts World- and Olympic-level equine sports competitions. All-year events in the Florida Horse Park ranges from combine driving, dressage, eventing, foxhunting, hunter/jumper, polo and trail-riding.
Horse Drawn Carriage Rides – Ocala has a wonderful horse culture which includes competitions, breeder sales, invitationals, horse farm tours, and also the wildly popular horse drawn carriage rides. A unique attraction in Downtown Ocala in the Christmas season are carriage rides on the square provided by Horse County Carriage Company. This festive tradition does not have to stop after the holidays are over, however, as Horse Country Carriage Rides is open all year at Kimberden Farms. Group tours and family tours are ideal. You can find out more by clicking the link above.Tags: belleview, equestrian, equiventures, Florida, florida horse park, HITS, horse fever auction, horseback riding, horses, horses in the sun, live oak invitational, ocala, Ocala Breeder sales, post time farms