Don't Miss Out on the 2021 Ocala International Horse Show!
Published Date: Sep 22, 2021
There is "Magic in the Making" at the 2021 Ocala International Horse Show and you won't want to miss it! We are now accepting entries online at HorseShowsOnline.com. Credit cards will be required when submitting entries online.
You can view the full prize list and more important show information at ocalainternationalhorseshow.com
Learn more about the spectacular event coming your way below!
Magic in the Making for the 2021 Ocala International Horse Show
Published Date: Jun 23, 2021
Long renowned for being a ‘Horse Capitol of the World,’ Ocala, Florida is beloved for its vast green pastures, elegant old oak trees, and peaceful swaying Spanish moss. However, in the last year this quiet, elegant town has had an electrifying makeover. The World Equestrian Center (WEC) Ocala is now open for business. If you’re itching to see the sprawling, shiny new equestrian paradise, you’re in luck- the Ocala International Horse Show (OIHS) is scheduled for October 26-30, 2021.
The American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association and the United Professional Horsemen’s Association Chapter 16 are pleased to work together to present this horse show. The show is designed to be have opportunities for all show horse breeds with specific classes for Saddlebreds, Hackney Ponies, Roadsters, Dutch Harness Horses, and Carriage Driving. This will make the show the first to include all of these various breeds under one roof at WEC Ocala.
WEC Ocala opened its facilities in December of 2020. The entire equestrian paradise is comprised of over 4,000 acres with 300 acres dedicated to the equestrian facility. The hotel, The Equestrian, is elegantly designed and has 254 suites. While guest capacity for hotel rooms is remaining limited through 2021, but look forward to what having an on-sight luxury hotel will offer exhibitors in the future! Beyond the basics, WEC Ocala also features restaurants, ample turn-out space, a chapel, a candy store, a full hook-up RV park complete with a general store and a laundromat, and so much more. WEC Ocala has repeatedly been described as a, ‘Disney World for horse lovers,’ and an ‘equine paradise’!
Horses & hospitality are always first at OIHS and WEC Ocala (Maven Photo)
Ali DeGray, an owner and exhibitor of several breeds slated to perform at OIHS as well as a Florida native, said she is excited to see a venue and event of this caliber in the area where she began her career. DeGray said Ocala is on the rise again thanks to the resurgence it has experienced from the equestrian community and is excited to see what the WEC and OIHS will bring to the local area as well.
“I am thrilled to see this area built up again. I grew up on these circuits, when I was a kid it was huge. The breed circuit here in Florida stalled for a while and I see a really big reemergence of it,” DeGray said. “I think getting to see that level of vitality in the area is going to be really great. In North Carolina, Ohio, and Kentucky they have really incredible facilities and it’s truly spectacular to see that caliber of facility brought to the southeast. It feels like the Devon of the south.”
Florida's 4,000 acres of an equine Disney World (Maven Photo)
David Mount, Executive Director of the American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association (ASHBA) and Co-Chair of the Ocala International Horse Show, is looking forward to what role this show can play in the expansion of the public promotion and value in the experience of exhibiting the American Saddlebred and Half Saddlebred.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to feature our breed at the World Equestrian Center Ocala and in the heart of Florida’s horse country” Mount said. “The facility offers exponential opportunities to connect with the community and cater to the needs of horses and exhibitors to provide the ultimate Saddlebred show experience. We look forward to seeing this competition be a tool for the ASHBA to enhance and secure the future of our horse and sport.”
Pamela Roush, President of the United Professional Horsemen's Association Chapter 16 and Ocala International Horse Show Committee Member, said she is honored to have the show at the WEC Ocala during its opening year.
“We have the luxury of starting a national level, top tier show and creating all the things we want,” Roush said. “We are fixing the mistakes and enhancing what other shows have done, all during year one.”
Lark Rene’ Henry, a UPHA Chapter 16 Board Member and Co-Chair Ocala International Horse Show, said the Ocala show grew out of another they had previously put on, Harvest Day Horse Show. She said they originally planned to stick with the familiar format of their Harvest Day Horse Show, but they decided to modify it.
“When we first started, we were going to implement a very similar schedule and simply relocate the Tampa Harvest Day show but then we decided to change it up and make it accessible to all show horse breeds,” Henry said. “We really had to step back and rethink our schedule.”
Henry said she was excited about the multi-breed aspect of the show. She said she is thrilled it gives spectators a wide glimpse into a facet of horse shows that they typically don’t see in this strong hunter-jumper, dressage, and eventing area.
“We decided to make sure our schedule gave opportunities to all performance horse breeds through our Open Breed Division,” Henry said. “In the future, we can build toward a better show depending on what our first year’s exhibitors.”
Every barn at WEC Ocala safety and luxury first (Maven Photo)
Joe O’Brien, President of ASHBA and Founding Member of the Ocala International Horse Show, loves seeing the excitement this location is bringing to our breed show community. O’Brien shared the positive reception and interest from trainers, owners, and exhibitors is an encouraging sign that OIHS is giving our members what they want and feels the industry needs.
“The Ocala International Horse Show at WEC Ocala is the ideal opportunity to create an event for the American Saddlebred that attracts new interest, support, and outreach for the breed. The owners, trainers, sponsors, and spectators are in for an inclusive, entertaining, and hospitality-first horse show.”
Bret Day, trainer, OIHS Committee Member and future show attendee, said he is a dreamer and has high hopes for the Ocala show. He said he also believes it can be the new show that everyone flocks to at the end of the season.
“I expect it to be really exciting. I am expecting a lot of smoke and mirrors and some really great entertainment. The possibilities are bigger than we can even dream and we have more than what we need,” Day said.
Day said one of his clients has already booked a room in the hotel for the show. He added that he is ready for the event to live up to the scale of the venue and for it to be something grand.
“I hope it is a show that is the year end show and it is going to be if they don’t go they feel like they are missing out,” Day said. “That is what I really hope that this facility and org[anization] can achieve. I feel like we really need that and it has the potential to do that.”
a birds eye view of the 2021 Ocala International Horse Show main arena (Maven Photo)
Marty Schaffel, ASHBA Board and OIHS Founding Member, is passionate about how OIHS can help direct the future of how members of our community think of horse shows and utilize them to introduce communities to the sport.
“I saw Mary Jo Schmidt’s Facebook post in 2019 that there was an amazing new facility coming to Florida and there was a chance for a breed show to be hosted there,” said Schaffel. “Immediately I knew it would be a tremendous opportunity for the breed. During my time as president of the American Saddlebred Horse Association, now ASHBA, we were always being challenged with how ASHA was going to make an impact and help the American Saddlebred industry. Without any competitions or events of our own we were in need of having a place where we could “be the change we wanted to see” I believe the Ocala International Horse Show will have a key role in fulfilling that responsibility.”
DeGray said she is very excited at the possibilities of the show and would love to participate as an exhibitor. She said she has heard much about the possible classes and events and when the time gets closer she will figure out what she wants to compete in.
“There are some really great classes in the schedule and I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say it will be a true show. There will be new and exciting things for everyone to compete in,” DeGray said. “Everything feels like it is being reimagined and it all feels very fresh.”
Roush sung the praise of the WEC and further explained how momentous this facility will be. She explained how the stalls will be spacious and lined in soft, plush flooring, furnished with individual fans, permanent hardware for buckets and crossties and many more convenient “horse-first” amenities.
Every stall at WEC Ocala safety and luxury first (Maven Photo)
“That facility reflects how important we think our animals are. The first time walking in is going to be like everyone’s first time at Disney World,” Roush said. “That feeling as an equestrian, looking at a facility that caters to every need and whim beyond those needs.”
The equestrian center features a variety of indoor and outdoor arenas, with four indoor arenas being climate controlled. Two grand outdoor arenas that can accommodate 11,000 people in covered seating will serve as home for marque events like OIHS. The facility will have climate-controlled stabling and over 2,000 permanent stalls. The facility offers an incredible 22 outdoor riding rings and an impressive 1.5 million square feet riding space overall.
Roush said she wants to create an event to live up to the high standards WEC Ocala and to the high standards has set for themselves.
“We wanted to create a show that would reflect the facility. We are hoping to surpass this quite a bit.” Roush said. “We are looking for a wide array of entries and we want to promote the whole spectrum of show horses from top level horses from around the country to the ASHBA National Select Series Regional Championship participants.”
a sample of a craft cocktail you can enjoy at the Golden Pony on location at WEC Ocala (Maven Photo)
Henry said they are planning for the OIHS to be a premier event in the southeast and they have much more planned for the five days. A driving force behind this show is to engage and include the local community, enhancing the experience for the spectators to better understand the show they’re watching.
“We want to make it exciting, for people who don’t know these breeds of horses up close. We’re trying to reach outside of the box to get them into our community and show them what we are all about,” Henry said. “What we want to do is show them a great example of our sport, have a fun time and memorable event and really knock it out of the park in our first year.”
Additionally, she said they are currently marketing the show and reaching out to sponsors for the event.
As you might expect from an event of this caliber, the prizes will be worthy for top earning exhibitors. Roush said one prize in particular is one they hope will attract many exhibitors to the event- a $10,000 invitational jackpot pleasure class.
“We want to embrace the exhibitor. We want to get in tune with the person that pays money to bring the horse here.” Roush said.
Henry agrees and she is excited to bring others to her hometown in the ‘Horse Capital of the World’.
“We have the finest facility in the nation here in Ocala and we think this is going to be THE place to show your horse,” Henry said. “I want to have the best horse show we can produce and make it the most-loved horse show of the year, so they’ll come back year after year.”
Interested attendees can stay up to date on the show at www.ocalainternationalhorseshow.com
If you are interested in becoming involved in the show as a volunteer or sponsor, please visit the show website to find out more information today.