Dressage and Driving Come Together in Ocala

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
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The Larsson Family, Photo Credit Dox Photography

The Larsson Family (Photo: Dox Photography)

Husband and wife duo, Olof Larsson and Stacy Parvey-Larsson, met early in life during their summer internships training at Hilltop Farm in Colora, Md before parting ways to continue their equestrian educations abroad. They would soon reunite, choosing to settle together in Ocala, Florida where they would cultivate their separate careers while forming a life together at Hidden Acres Dressage in the “Horse Capital of the World.”

Olof, an influential player in the world of driving, was the Swedish National Champion in 1994 and 1995 with a pony that he converted from riding to driving. He is also well-known for having worked for and trained with Chester Weber out of his legendary Live Oak Farm in Ocala. Olof first met his future dressage-star wife, Stacy Parvey, while they were both training at Hilltop Farm. Stacy had been training there since she was 13, spending her summers working hard under the tutelage of Jill Hassler, Scott’s mother, who organized a junior summer riding program each year. For those students who excelled, they were given the opportunity to ride with Scott Hassler, and Stacy was one of the chosen few.

Olof’s background at the University of Equine Studies at Flyinge (the National Stud of Sweden) had led him to be invited to come work in the US, handling stallions for Hilltop at Dressage at Devon. This was the precursor to his job offer at Hilltop, which came in 1998, the same year that Stacy moved to Hilltop as a full time working student. This is when the two initially became friends; little did they know it would lead to a lifetime together.

Stacy and Olof, early years

Stacy and Olof, early years

The classical training Stacy received at Hilltop prepared her beautifully for the opportunity (upon Scott & Jill Hassler’s recommendation) to attend the 2001 pilot program at the International Academy for Equestrian Studies in Warendorf, Germany. There, she trained for six weeks, and then progressed to Petra’s Wilm’s in Tasdorf, Germany, for a ten week internship, gathering experience riding young horses and schoolmasters in both dressage and jumpers. She also regularly attended clinics with Stephan Kiesewetter.

After her work in Germany, Stacy took and passed the Trainer “A” exam, returning home to Olof who had been cultivating his own professional pursuits with Chester Weber at his Live Oak Farm. Although Stacy’s career was on track in Germany, “The decision to move to Ocala was to be near Olof. I’m very family oriented and I wanted to be with Olof, and closer to my mother & father in the states. It would have been best to be in Germany, but I wanted to be with my family.”

And so in 2002, with her parent’s backing, Hidden Acres Dressage was born. Stacy’s parents were delighted to make the investment in the 20 acre farm, “My father always said that the one place in Florida he wanted to move to was Ocala, with the changing seasons & the rolling hills.”

Olof, with his specialization with four-in-hand driving, progressed as a trainer both through his work with Chester Weber and as an independent clinician, traveling to teach and train. He was instrumental in the USEF Developing Driver Program and was also been involved in the organization and teaching of USEF Para-Equestrian clinics for the U.S. Driving for the Disabled.

Hidden Acres Dressage

Hidden Acres Dressage

The driving community has traditionally flocked to Ocala during the winter season, as the area is an epicenter for the sport with access to many levels of events; There is the training center at Grand Oaks Resort, local and recognized competition venues such as Black Prong, and Chester Weber’s Live Oak, which hosts FEI level competitions for both combined driving and show jumping with potential future plans to expand into eventing.

In Ocala, Olof’s niche career as a top 4-In-Hand trainer and clinician began to flourish.“Ocala is a great base because it’s a mecca for driving due to the terrain, and it’s fabulous horse country,” says Olof.

The 20 acre farm needed fixing up when it was first purchased by Stacy’s family, but Olof and Stacy were willing to work hard to achieve their goals. Initially, they moved into a 900 square foot cottage on the property, and Stacy spent long hours training, showing and hosting exhibitions. With Olof still working for Chester Weber, Stacy accepted a variety of clients to get the business going. That decision began to pay off.

At Hidden Acres Dressage, Stacy broke the 3 year-old filly “Hallelujah” and qualified her for Dressage at Devon. She rode her to victory in the filly Materiale classes two years in a row at DAD, then being named 2005 USDF Materiale Horse of the Year, and 2005 Oldenburg Horse of the Year. In addition, Hallelujah won the prestigious Donnerhall Trophy at Dressage at Devon two years in a row with Stacy.

After Hallelujah was sold, Stacy turned her attention to the young Hanoverian stallion Benidetto, who she owned in partnership with Linda Woltz. In 2010, Stacy and Benidetto were 2010 Reserve Champion at the Markel Insurance/USEF FEI Young Horse Championships. In 2012, the pair finished 1st in the nation, winning the American Hanoverian Horse of The Year title in the Intermediate I. In 2015, Stacy and Benidetto were Reserve National Champion in Intermediare II and also Reserve Champion at U.S. Dressage Finals.

Olof and Woodstock W at Live Oak International 2007, Photo credit Blue Centaur

Olof and Woodstock W at Live Oak International 2007 (Photo: Blue Centaur)

Olof enjoyed success of his own, showing Chester Weber’s Reno W, a 2004 Dutch Warmblood gelding. Together, Olof and Reno W took 3rd place at 2011 USEF National Single Horse Championships in the Carolina Challenge at Katydid CDI. In 2012, they took 8th place at FEI CAI-B Single Horse Combined Driving with Reno W in Dade City, FL, and then 1st place at Sunshine State FEI Combined Driving Event at the Florida Horse Park in the Advanced Single Horse class.

Shortly thereafter, Olof switched gears in his career, leaving Live Oak and Team Chester Weber to spend more time with his family. By this time, there had been a wonderful addition to their family, their son Ashton. Olof continued to pursue his training & clinician career while balancing time with his family. He began working for Misdee Wrigley Miller, who was well known at the time for working with saddlebreds and two-in-hand. Olof joined Wrigley Miller so she could pursue her interest in competing a team of four-in-hand at her facility based out of the Sarasota Polo Club. Olof continues to balance his time between traveling to work with Wrigley Miller, teaching clinics, and helping his wife run her thriving dressage business out of their farm in Ocala.

Stacy competing aboard Benidetto with husband Olof looking on.

Stacy competing aboard Benidetto with husband Olof looking on. (Photo: Susan J. Stickle)

Stacy is now a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medalist, having competed for multiple years at the Region 3 Championships at Intermediare and Prix St George. She continues to show Benidetto who is qualified for Grand Prix at Regional Championships in October 2016.

Stacy is expecting their second child in May, and has increased her time teaching, while her sales business flourishes. In previous years, before this pregnancy, Stacy has traveled to Wellington for the winter competition season.

“One client in particular, Peggy Funk, is like a second grandmother to my son, and she helps take care of Ashton while we ride and compete in Wellington. We take the camper to Wellington almost every weekend. We bought her horse, Ferris Degen, as a 17 year-old schoolmaster and she has gone Second Level to PSG and earned a silver medal on this horse. At home, Peggy drives 4 hours from Jacksonville to Ocala to come train with me each day!”

Due to her pregnancy, Stacy decided to skip traveling to Wellington for this year, spending more time with her clients in Ocala. Her plans are to return full force to competition soon after the baby arrives. “I love competing in Wellington,” says Stacy, “the competition is bar none and I love being part of that bigger international competition, but I love to come home to this natural beauty and relax on my farm with the rolling hills and open space. This is where a horse can be a horse and we can relax as a family.”

The Larsson’s are such a great example of why people choose to live, work and ride in Ocala. With access to multiple equestrian disciplines, including a variety of local, national and FEI level events, Ocala truly has earned its title as Horse Capital of the World! Moreover, the natural beauty and sense of community make it not just a winter training base, but a perfect location to call home year round.