When the weather starts to cool down across the country, equine owners, trainers and competitors migrate to warmer climates. Texas, Arizona and most notably Florida, are ideal places to continue horse training and shows throughout the winter. With more than nine million horses in the country, the horse industry alone brings over $3 billion to Florida’s economy each year. Nationwide, the horse industry contributes around $39 billion to the economy.
About an hour north of Orlando, Ocala, the “horse capital of the world” serves as the hub of the state’s horse industry with thousands of horses visiting each year. That’s why investing into a state-of-the-art Horse Park with other amenities and attractions was a natural fit. The 500 acres have been transformed into an ideal place for archery competitions, rodeos and even family picnics.
“My goal with this place is to create a multipurpose venue to bring in various events and a great getaway place for the public,” executive director Shawn Doherty says. So far, the Horse Park is hitting the mark. Doherty says bookings are up 38 percent since the addition of the covered arena, and will continue to rise as the mezzanine and media facilities are added. In 2015, the Horse Park will gain 160 additional horse stalls and 32 additional RV sites.
With its prime location and new amenities, the Horse Park is projected to generate up to a $30 million economic impact in 2015. Not only is the Florida Horse Park bringing in the big spenders of the equine industry with events like dressage, jumping and rodeo, but it’s also attracting corporate events and cross country competitions to keep the park busy year-round.
For the Pan American Games, the park broke records by hosting more than 500 registrants.
Doherty has big dreams for the Horse Park.
“I hope to start bringing in concerts and build a convention center,” she says. “We’ve got the space to have something here for everyone.”