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Marion County Equine Industry Timeline


The first Seminole feed retail store opened its doors in Ocala


Rosemere Farm becomes the first Thoroughbred farm in Ocala. Rosemere Rose is the first thoroughbred born in Marion County in 1939


An Ocala landmark, the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion is opened and its reputation as Marion County's premier agricultural showplace makes it popular for one of the largest youth fairs promoting agriculture and for top equine shows including the Orange Blossom Miniature Horse Show, Southern Regional Paso Fino Horse Show, Florida Morgan Horse Show and PacWest Barrel Racing.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (FTBA) is established. The Florida Thoroughbred Museum and Gallery, Florida Thoroughbred Charities and Florida Equine Communications are housed in the offices. Later Owner’s is added to the name making it FTBOA.


Ocala Stud is founded. It is currently the oldest active Thoroughbred farm in the state of Florida. In 2016, the farm was honored with a proclamation from the city.

Champion Thoroughbred racehorse Needles wins the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes putting Ocala on the map for racing and breeding. His win increases the number of farms from a few to hundreds in less than a decade. A statue representing all Thoroughbreds and honoring the champion is placed at Heathbrook Mall.


The Florida Horse magazine is launched in Ocala to promote the thoroughbred industry, the magazine becomes nationally distributed in 2012.


The Marion County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit, an all-volunteer program, is created with seven charter members.


Local horse Carry Back wins the Kentucky Derby and is the first Florida-bred to win the Preakness Stakes. The horse is greeted by a rousing crowd in the rain as he retires to Ocala Stud. He is inducted into the Marion County Chamber of Commerce and receives a horse-sized membership card for the honor. Five horses in the county receive that honor over the decades – Needles, Carry Back, Dr. Fager, Foolish Pleasure and Affirmed.


Ocala Breeder Sales annual sale grows, so auctions are scheduled twice a year in Ocala. The breeders’ sales were a brainchild of Joe O’Farrell, owner of historic Ocala Stud, and other horsemen to promote the area.

The Florida Thoro-bred Fillies is chartered with the goal of fostering a closer rapport with women of the growing thoroughbred industry.

Local artist Angie Draper illustrates the book Man’ O War by Walter Farley of The Black Stallion book fame. For the next five decades she illustrated more Farley books and paints Florida thoroughbreds.


Champion Thoroughbred racehorse Dr. Fager breaks the world record for the fastest mile on a dirt track. A record that still stands today.

Live Oak Stud is founded. The 5,000-acre property is home to cattle, as well as Live Oak Plantation which becomes an award-winning Thoroughbred breeding, training and racing operation winning the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Eclipse awards, FTBOA awards, and top stakes.

Seminole builds a feed mill and begins specifically manufacturing horse feed to meet the growing need


Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. acquires Tartan Farms (of Scotch tape fame), later it is renamed Mockingbird Farms then Winding Oaks. The Thoroughbred farm on Hwy 200 has the largest Thoroughbred cemetery in the state serving as the final resting ground for many of Florida’s top thoroughbred champion racehorses.


The Cross Florida Barge Canal project is shut down and the land, part of which passes through the south part of the county, is converted into the Cross Florida Greenway, a series of recreational trails including popular equine trails, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River.


Racehorse Foolish Pleasure becomes champion 2-year-old colt. Downtown Williston, his birthplace, bears a sign in his honor. He wins the Kentucky Derby in 1975.

Mid 1970s

Arthur Appleton and his wife, the former Martha O’Driscoll, establishes Bridlewood Farm, a Thoroughbred breeding and training facility, now owned by the largest private landowners in the U.S, John and Leslie Malone.

Appleton founded the Appleton Museum in 1982 and gifted it to the Ocala community and it opened in 1987. The Appleton is one of the South’s premier art museums and a leading cultural institution.


Champion Florida-bred Affirmed wins the American Triple Crown. The horse held the crown the longest – 37 years. The next horse to win it was American Pharoah (yes, it is spelled that way) in 2015.


Treble's Morgan Manor is opens and becomes a powerhouse for more than 40 years producing World Champion Morgan horses.


Legendary Quarter Horse Rugged Lark is born. He becomes a two-time American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Show Superhorse as well as being a three-time AQHA World Champion. His breathtaking bridleless performances and his human-like personality catapult him to the hearts of generations of horse fans and bring his trainer/rider Lynn Palm and his owner Carol Harris to international fame. His grandsire, Rough’n Tumble is one of the original sires at Ocala Stud connecting the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse worlds forever. One of the first euestrian academies in the state is founded by Palm in 1970.


Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS), the largest hunter/jumper horse show production company in the United States, produces its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, and within a few short years moves operations to Post-Time Farm in Ocala continuing to grow ever since. In 2010, founder Tom Struzzieri introduces the richest purse in show jumping with the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix followed by a $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala in 2012. HITS contributes over 100 million dollars each year to the Ocala Metro.


Shareholders of co-op owned Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company launch Ocala Breeders’ Feed and Supply, constructing a dedicated horse feed production plant and retail store.

La Marquesa de Besilu becomes the highest pointed Paso Fino horse in the country in Bella Forma and Classic Fino and is crowned Grand National Champion just one year after the Besilu Collection farm is founded in Micanopy. Besilu wins countless more championships with their prized collection.


Famed thoroughbred champion Needles passes away at 31. He was so beloved that his ashes are interred at FTBOA.

Florida-bred Eillo becomes the first Breeders’ Cup winner for Florida


A new discipline of social polo is started at Millwood Polo Club


Florida identifies the Thoroughbred industry as an agriculture industry providing a GreenBelt Exemption. More incentives for all horses are created to attract investment to Florida.


Due to the concentration of the thoroughbred industry in the county, Wire to Wire Racing Digest, is launched and becomes the only publication produced several times weekly in any horse breeding region in the world


Live Oak International is created and is now largest international-level combined driving and show jumping tournament in the country featuring leading drivers, riders, trainers, coaches and owners from Europe and North America.


One of the best equitation horses of his generation, Ocala’s Pik Trump II, a bay Hanoverian gelding, is ridden by equitation trailblazer Hillary Schlusemeyer to win the Rolex Young Riders National Championship


In Marion County, the Arabian breed has flourished since the 1970s. In 1995, the Ocala Arabian Horse Association is formed and a number of top Arabian farms open and others move th2 Marion County including Rohara, one of the biggest Arabian operations on the East Coast. Top Arabian horse breeding farms in the Southeast Region residing here include Hennessey Arabians, Fox View Farm among others. Bloodlines of Polish, Brazilian, Ecuadorian and Spanish Arabians make their home here.

The Grand Oaks Museum opens as one of the world’s largest private collections of carriages and equine artifacts in Weirsdale. Purchased by Tom Golisano, the largest covered equestrian arena in Central Florida is added in 2011. A carriage driving destination, the venue now hosts a variety of disciplines.

Florida Thoroughbred Farm Managers is founded in to promote cooperation and understanding among farm managers and to promote educational awareness and keep current on technological advances in the industry.


Ocala residents Dennis Thompson and his late wife Cindy bring the first Gypsy Vanner horses and stallion Gypsy King to the United States creating the American registry. They also begin to offer a Gypsy Vanner tour experience on their farm and are repeatedly one of the top equine attractions on Trip Advisors.


Carole Fletcher, one of the most prolific trick horse trainers and teachers in the world with more than 5,000 shows and 3 books to her credit, moves to Ocala. Three of her horses Mr. Ed-iquette, Mr. Playboy (aka Mr. Ed-ucation), and Magnifico become Peter Stone and Breyer horse models.


Standardbred Red Bow Tie wins the Breeders Crown


Bo-Bett Farm’s Look Whos Larkin wins AQHA Super Horse and Nel’s Golden Girl wins the Josey Jr. World Championship for barrel racing


One of the most successful public art projects in the country, Horse Fever is launched. The project was reproduced again in 2005 and 2011 bringing the equine, business and greater community together and funding an endowment for the arts via the Marion Cultural Alliance.

Early 2000s

Buddy, the Clydesdale, becomes a resident on six acres at the Hilton of Ocala giving free carriage rides to guests on weekend evenings and for Sunday brunch by his picturesque backyard barn.


Second Chance Farm was established at Lowell Correctional Institution for women inmates to work with retired Thoroughbred racehorses via Florida Thoroughbred Charities, the FTBOA, the national Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the Florida Department of Corrections.


Ocala/Marion County is coined the Horse Capital of the World® by the FTBOA after a national horse council survey revealed that there were more horses and ponies in the county than any other in the U.S. The registered trademarked moniker is recognized nationally and internationally as the global brand identity for agriculture in the county promoting local commerce, jobs and tourism.

Horse Capital Digest, the official publication of Horse Capital of the World®, is launched as an all-breed publication.


The Florida Horse Park becomes a reality after being established by state statute in 1996. In 2005, Olympian David O’Connor is hired to design first cross-country courses at thh2 Park.

Marion County Agricultural Hall of Fame is established to recognize individuals who make tremendous achievements and contributions to the furtherance of agriculture in the community. Equine inductees include Mike O’ Farrell, Elmer Heubeck, Carol Harris, Joseph O’ Farrell, Jackson Dudley, Carl G. Rose, Bonnie Heath, Sr. and Harry T. Mangurian, Jr.

Ocala native Chester Weber wins his first USEF Four-in-Hand National Championship. He goes on to win 16 of them.


The first Florida Horse Park polo club forms

Haylo Farm is named the AQHA Breeder of the Year, with the most wins and winners of any Quarter Horse breeder

The Florida Horse Park hosts the largest Horse Trials ever in the Southeast Region. The same year the park is awarded a CCI**/* International Event to be held in conjunction with the Ocala Fall Horse Trials.


Horse Capital Digest, the official publication of Horse Capital of the World®, becomes the official publication of HITS Ocala.


The Florida Horse Park applies for a specialty license plate featuring a horse on a beach to raise funds through the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The State of Florida Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development awards the park a grant of up to $1 million dollars to fund basic infrastructure.


The Kiss the Horse fundraiser for the Marion County Literacy Council is created in which participants pay to vote on who should “kiss the spokes horse of the year”. As much as $35,000 is raised annually.


Local Percherons Duke and Doc upgrade from carriage horse duty from Horse Country Carriage tours to debut in the opening scene of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides“ filmed in Puerto Rico


Live Oak International adds an international show jumping competition, a qualifier for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League.

The equine discipline of Cowboy Dressage comes to Ocala after being founded in the Southwest in 1993.     


The Florida Horse Park receives $2 million in the state budget for development of the park including one of the largest covered arenas in the Southeastern United States to promote equine events and other tourism events.   

FTBOA launches Thoroughbred Week, a horse racing TV show, in Marion County in January. The show is so well received it goes nationwide in May.

The Horse Talk radio show with Louisa Barton is launched highlighting the world’s top equestrians and behind the scenes coverage at equine events locally, nationally and internationally.


The first county high school equestrian team starts at Trinity Catholic.


The Ocala/Marion County economic impact study commissioned by the Ocala/Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) shows that equines contribute $2.6 billion a year to the local economy and make up about 18% of the county’s total GDP.

With historical Florida bloodlines and receiving early schooling at McKathan Brothers in Citra, American Pharoah wins the American Triple Crown after almost four decades.

Claudia and Carlos Bellandi moved to Ocala from brazil and began importing the National Horse of Brazil, the Mangalrag Marchador.


The Chamber & Economic Partnership launches the Equine Engagement Initiative, to unite the horse world, encourage participation in horse events and activities by the non-horse world and to promote and sustain the equine industry. This initiative was supported and sponsored by New Millennium Realty and becomes a reality, due to the results of the Equine Economic Impact Study.


The first CEP/Main Street Parade of Breeds in downtown Ocala is held.

The Ocala Jockey Club produces a top-notch International 3-Day Event in 2016 and in its second year is honored with the “Small Market Event of the Year” from the Florida Sports Foundation, the state's leading sports promotion and development organization.

Local stallion manager Gus Gray wins the national Godolphin Dedication to Breeding Award for his horsemanship and longevity in the Thoroughbred industry. Gray was previously featured in a book, “They Call Me Gus” featuring tales of his 340 years as a porch sitting tour guide every Friday at historic Fred Hooper’s farm.


The second Parade of Nations Horse Celebration featuring a parade of breeds and international equestrians competing at Live Oak International is held to a record downtown crowd.

The American Horse Council Foundation releases an economic impact study solidifying Florida as the third most populous horse state behind only Texas and California and once again Marion County has more horses and ponies than any other county with approx. 80,000 equines. Thoroughbreds make up half.

Win Approval is named national broodmare of the year, the first time a Thoroughbred broodmare based outside of Kentucky wins the top award.

Horse Capital Television, the official video network of Horse Capital of the World® is launched.

Horse Farms Forever is founded with a mission to inspire the conservation of horse farms.

Chester Weber wins FEI World Equestrian Games Team Gold in Tryon.


Marion County unveils ‘Marion’, a Horse Fever statue placed in the commission courtyard celebrating the 175th anniversary of the county. Later in the year, the horse ‘Slainte’ is placed near the firehouse in honor of Ocala’s sister city Newbridge, Ireland.

The Equine Envoy program is launched by the Equine Engagement Initiative of CEP where visitors to the Ocala Downtown Market can meet a real, live horse each Saturday mid-day.

The Horse Capital Tours, a concierge service to book horse experiences, is launched.

Grandview Invitational, an event for Draft horse breeds and carriages, debuts at the Florida Horse Park.


The first harness party where the public can see horses readying for The Horse Capital Parade presented by Live Oak International is held.


The largest equestrian complex in the United States, World Equestrian Center, opens. It is nestled on 4,000 acres next to Golden Ocala Country Club also another project of Larry and Mary Roberts of Roberts Quarter Horses.

Timeline compiled by Tammy A. Gantt. To add your equine achievement to this timeline,

 e-mail tgantt@ftboa.com or visit her on Facebook.