National Day of the Horse
December 13th is National Day of the Horse — one of more than 1,500 national days and an important time for Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club and Marion County as a whole. It is during this annual celebration that we are reminded of how all things equestrian have shaped our economy, history and character — not just in North Central Florida, but throughout the U.S. And in the Horse Capital of the World alone, that is a lot to consider.
The equine industry has had a major impact on Ocala — estimated to be worth over $2 billion. According to the American Horse Council, we can attribute this to about 80, 260 horses, with about 37,290 thoroughbreds in the Ocala/Marion County area, and 195,000 equine-centric acres of land (including the 3,000-plus acre equestrian facility coming to World Equestrian Center Ocala, adjacent to Golden Ocala). Approximately 21,691 people also have the Marion County horse industry to thank for their current employment.
What do these numbers mean to the State of Florida? Well, the annual equine economic impact is up about 33%, and about 15,000 thoroughbreds train in Florida each year, with Ocala serving as the main thoroughbred breeding and training ground — ever since one lucky horse’s success in the 1956 Kentucky Derby. With the support of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, this industry is both alive and well.
The history of the horse industry in Ocala dates back to 1943 when the Rose family moved to Marion County to develop roads only to find out that there was a plethora of limestone that could be used to make asphalt, as well as breed and raise horses. So, the family purchased farmland, and the rest as they say is history.
By the time the Roberts family came along, the equine industry was booming. This, coupled with a vision of modeling an Ocala community after their very own estate, inspired Golden Ocala. Now, to make way for multiple disciplines of equestrian competition right in the heart of Horse Country, the Roberts are developing the World Equestrian Center Ocala, with climate-controlled stalls, arenas and barns, an outdoor stadium, indoor arenas, school areas and riding trails, and a full-service hospitality experience — bringing horse enthusiasts throughout the world to one spot to celebrate these fine creatures.
And remember the lucky horse that we mentioned in the previous section? Needles returned to Ocala following the Kentucky Derby, transforming Marion County into a thoroughbred breeding region.
Since an equestrian agenda is often the first idea that comes to mind when people think about Marion County, Golden Ocala and the city of Ocala oblige with plenty of equine events for horse lovers. For example, the Parade of Nations Horse Celebration honors international riders participating in the Nations Cup. It includes a parade of Marion County-based equine breeds, as well as pony petting, vendors and a HITS National Cup formal welcome ceremony from ten Nations Cup teams. The event concludes with Budweiser Clydesdales trotting through Downtown Ocala.
Ocala is also host to several accomplished international dressage professionals, as well as a large contingent of amateur riders. Not to mention, Golden Ocala previously hosted the FEI Nations Cup, a 100-plus-year-old show-jumping series for national teams around the world that allows the region to live up to its reputation.
It is evident that every day is National Day of the Horse in Marion County. So, as December 13th drifts by and winter sets in, who better to inform you of how to celebrate your horse by properly caring for him or her than Golden Ocala? A few tips ahead of potential cold fronts:
- Find a good shelter — While many horses can live outside during the winter months, they need access to shelter – like a barn or trees — from the wind and rain and sometimes need blanketing. These blankets should be breathable and waterproof.
- Prevent water freeze — Limited access to water can cause impaction colic in horses. Heated water tubs and non-freezing automatic water systems can do the trick. Fresh water should be between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Field electricity is also an option to ensure constant fresh water to horses living outside all winter.
- Be mindful of hoofs — If your horse is not already barefoot, pull his or her shoes off in the winter to create better traction in the ice and snow. And be very careful around ice by keeping large amounts of snow and ice melt around — in addition to granting your horse easy access to his or her farrier and veterinarian.
From all of us at Golden Ocala, Happy National Day of the Horse! We love these majestic ones and look forward to seeing them — and of course, you — continue to add more history and character to our treasure of a community and region.