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Ocala -- The Horse Capital of the World
One can't come to Marion County without becoming immediately aware that this is the "Horse Capital of the World." The U.S. Department of Agriculture in early 1999 put its seal of approval on promotions using that label. The USDA's Census of Agriculture reported that Marion led all U.S. counties in total number of horses and ponies in residence in 1997 (the cut-off year for the five-year census.)
A few years ago visitors and residents alike caught "Horse Fever." A special arts exhibit featuring life-sized fiberglass horse figures designed and painted by local artists galloped into town. Fifty-two horses were seen in parking lots, on street corners, at companies and businesses and in the main downtown square. They came in a rainbow of colors and were a public art project of the Marion Cultural Alliance and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association. At the conclusion of the public display, the horses were rounded up, and auctioned off to raise funds for the arts and other nonprofit organizations. Five of the horses found a home at the Downtown Square while a sixth is at the City Hall. Many others found local homes and can be seen at businesses and farms throughout the county.
Ocala/Marion County's own Silver Charm won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 1997. Another Marion County raised and trained horse, Real Quiet, also won the first two thirds of the Triple Crown in 1998. The last Triple Crown winner "Affirmed" in 1978 was born in Marion County at Harbor View Farm. More than three-quarters of Florida's 600 Thoroughbred breeding and training facilities are located in the Ocala area. The county is one of only four major Thoroughbred centers in the world, and is equal to Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France.
Florida Thoroughbreds finish first in 20 percent of the foremost stakes races in the U.S. and are counted among Triple Crown, Breeders' Cup, Belmont Stakes, Preakness and Kentucky Derby winners. The Thoroughbred industry's economic impact on the state is considered to be in excess of $1 billion dollars annually, and the exciting horse sales at the Ocala Breeder's Sales Complex run into the millions.
The text for this page was provided by Ocala Chamber of Commerce.