Florida Horse Park Debuts First Event this Weekend

Friday, November 4, 2005


DressageDaily.com and PhelpsPhotos.com will be covering two Dressage competitions scheduled for the 2006 season at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, January 14-15, and March 11-12. Providing a premier location for equestrian events in the "Horse Capital" of the state the Florida Horse Park kicks into high gear this weekend debuting their first event, and we will be on the scene for this historic event.

“To say the momentum at ‘The Park’ is increasing would be an understatement,” said Tom Warriner, chairman of the Florida Agricultural Center and Horse Park Authority. This point was made apparent at the park’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 3, which had about 150 attendees — including Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Service Charles H. Bronson and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — despite the blankets of rain that intermittently passed through, causing everyone to run for cover.

As the mayor of Ocala, Gerald Ergle, said at the groundbreaking, “It appears it is on its way. It is going to be a great asset to Marion County” and the surrounding communities.

And, it is the community that will help decide the park’s future. Community support and the “energy of the community” are two of the attributes that will boost the park and help it achieve its potential, said Warriner, along with a strong Team Ocala.

“The park will open up a whole new opportunity. This will be something people can participate in,” added Jo Salyres, chairperson of the Tourism Development Council.

Many involved in the Team Ocala effort showed up at the ceremony, including Jo Ann Doke Smith, former assistant secretary for Marketing and Inspection Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Equestrian Federation President and Olympian David O’Connor, Olympian Darren Chiacchia, internationally renowned driver Chester Weber, Ocala Mayor Gerald Ergle; and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Executive Vice President Richard Hancock.

The park’s debut events are taking place Nov. 5-6. Called the Ocala Horse Trials and the Sunshine State Driving Event, presented by Seminole Feed, these events will encompass the sports of eventing and combined driving. All three phases of eventing will take place, with dressage and show jumping on Nov. 5 and cross country on Nov. 6. Two phases of combined driving will be showcased. On Nov. 6, the dressage and cones portions of combined driving will take place in the ring while the eventers compete cross country.

Warriner expects between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators at the first events, which will be customized to cater to the competitors as well as the spectators. For example:

  • Competitors will have designated “lanes” and parking spots for them to traverse the showgrounds in their golf carts and mopeds, said event organizer Shelley Lambert.
  • To make it more spectator-friendly, course designer David O’Connor has situated all the major cross-country complexes to be visible from two locations in the center of the course.
  • If interested in walking the course or getting a lesson on how events are scored, both options will be available during the Breakfast with Champions. Darren Chiacchia and Chester Weber will be cooking breakfast and explaining scoring systems and course walking on Nov. 5.
  • During the day’s events, spectators can watch plein air (outdoor) artists painting their entries for the Plein Air Ocala Trials Invitational, Nov. 5. These paintings will be available through a silent auction to be held in conjunction with the activities going on adjacent to the horse park that night: the Champions Party and “The Art of Riding” Horse Fever gala. The evening events will take place at Richard Simon’s Ocala Foxtrotter Ranch.
  • Tailgaiting spots will be available ringside and in other locations, making it easy for spectators to “set-up” for a couple of days of fun, camaraderie and competition.

“We will deliver on our pledge to increase tourism and create a positive economic impact for the state of Florida,” said Warriner about the horse park authority’s goals. “We cannot do it alone, so please accept my invitation to get involved in any way that you can,” whether as a sponsor, spectator or competitor. “Horse parks are going to be the wave of the future,” added Ocala Horse Trials course designer and U.S. Equestrian Federation President David O’Connor.

To purchase “The Art of Riding” tickets, contact MCA at (352) 369-1500 or info@mcaocala.com.

For details on the debut events, visit www.flhorsepark.com