Ocala – 20th century establishment as horse capital
The first thoroughbred horse farm in Florida was developed in 1943 by Carl G. Rose. He had come to Florida in 1916 from Indiana to oversee construction of the first asphalt road in the state. When he ran into problems with the asphalt, he improvised and experimented with limestone, an abundant resource in the state. He also realized that the limestone would support good pasture for raising strong horses. For instance, limestone nurtures the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, long a center of thoroughbred horse farms. In 1943, Rose took a gamble and bought acreage along State Highway 200 at $10 per acre, which became Rosemere Farm. The next year one of his horses, Gornil, won at Miami’s Tropical Park, becoming the first Florida-raised thoroughbred to win a Florida race.
Close on Rose’s heels, the entrepreneur Bonnie Heath soon set up his own thoroughbred horse farm. He produced the state’s first winner of the Kentucky Derby. Highways were named in Ocala after each of these men. Bonnie Heath Farm is now owned and operated by Bonnie Heath, III, and his wife Kim. Rosemere Farm was sold long ago. The large site has been redeveloped as the retail center, Paddock Mall, and College of Central Florida.
In 1956, the Ocala-area Thoroughbred industry received a boost when Needles became the first Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. In 1978, Marion County-bred-and-raised Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Today, Marion County is one of the major thoroughbred centers of the world. It has more than 1,200 horse farms, including about 900 thoroughbred farms, totaling some 77,000 acres. Ocala is well known as a “horse capital of the world.”
Ocala is one of only five cities (four in the USA and one in France) permitted under Chamber of Commerce guidelines to use this title, based on annual revenue produced by the horse industry. 44,000 jobs are created by the breeding, training and related support of the local equine industry, which generates over $2.2 billion in annual revenue. “Postime Farms” and Ocala serve as host to one of the largest horse shows in the country: H.I.T.S or “Horses in the Sun.” It is a Dressage/Jumper event lasting about two months; it generates some 6 to 7 million dollars to the local Marion County economy each year. The show features classes with more than 100 different breeds, including the Tennessee Walker, Paso Fino, Morgan horse, SaddleBred, Drafthorse, and the American Quarter Horse. Other equine events in the area include cowboy mounted shooting by the Florida Outlaws, as well as endurance rides, barrel races, “extreme” cowboy events, jumper shows, trick shows, parades, draft pulls, rodeo events, and more.
Sourced from Wikipedia