Florida offers more beyond Disney and sunny beaches: every year, thoroughbred horses head to the Kentucky Derby from Ocala, the Florida horse farming capital.
When you think of thoroughbred horse heaven, you likely think somewhere near the Kentucky Derby, but America’s Thoroughbred Capital is much farther south than you think, according to an AgAmerica article on Florida horse farms. Read a synopsis of the horse farming that goes on in Ocala, Florida, thoroughbred horse heaven, below.
A Land of Surprises and Florida Horse Farming
Ocala is a town in Marion County, Central Florida, and it’s home to some of the world’s top thoroughbred horse farms and the source of some very notable champions, including 1955 Kentucky Derby winner, Needles, and 1978 Triple Crown winner, Affirmed.
There’s Lambholm South, a 1700-acre, half century-old thoroughbred farm owned by Roy Lerman where they grow their own forage to feed their thoroughbreds. “The northwest part of Marion County has topography, flora and weather that is very different than people’s perceptions,” Lerman explains. “We have seasons here, along with first magnitude springs, limestone caves and the second largest aquifer in the United States.
Lerman’s neighbor, David O’Farrell, the 3rd generation owner of Ocala Stud—a “full-service facility,” with several stallions, a brood mare band, foaling services, yearling boarding, and an extensive training program—maintains Ocala is the very best place to raise horses, saying it “rivals Kentucky” for a quality environment.
“The soil, the climate and the water, even the wonderful shade from the numerous stands of oak trees…it’s all here,” says O’Farrell. “Plus, the bedrock underneath it all is limestone, which leeches into the Bahia grass pastures. It’s the best equine diet we could ask for to build strong bones.”
Paul Bulmahn, owner of GoldMark Farm, a sophisticated state-of-the-art training and rehabilitation facility, describes Ocala as “Kentucky without the winters.”
Bulmahn adds that the local infrastructure of tack shops, grain and hay merchants, personnel to select from, large animal veterinarians, transporters and real estate farm specialists around the area also “makes it much easier to be in the horse industry.”
The above farms are a slice of the 1200 or so horse farms (half of them thoroughbred farms) in the county, all of which have eyes on horse sales, spring foals, and the Kentucky Derby this time of year. Many of them have real reason to watch the 20 horses race around the Oval every first Saturday in May. Bulmahn shares that “last year in 2016 three of those 20 were trained at GoldMark Farm.” For a foal born in thoroughbred horse heaven, a turn in the winner’s circle could be next.
Want more info on Florida horse farming? Read about horse farm land prices and the future of the industry in the full article here.
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