The World Equestrian Center and Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club are partnering to develop the World Equestrian Center South in Ocala, Fla. They recently acquired 1,000 additional acres adjacent to the 1,200-acre Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club property, which is where the new facility will be built.
The plans for the property include 17 rings with footing and an additional grass ring. The goal is to break ground in November.
“We’ve been sold out at a lot of our shows [in Wilmington, Ohio, home of the World Equestrian Center, which features one of the largest indoor arenas in the country], and that’s a good thing,” said Roby Roberts, director at the WEC. “It’s a bad thing because we can’t accept new people, a good thing because the place is full of energy, and people love it. We asked people, ‘Would you like to go to Florida and have the same feeling there?’ ”
People responded enthusiastically to the idea of a similar facility down south, so Roberts decided to forge ahead with the plan.
The facility will have a feel similar to Wellington, Fla., with farms and homes available for sale within a hack or short golf cart ride away from the showgrounds. There are already a few barns on the property as part of the club, but the show facility will be built from scratch. It’s just five miles from HITS Post Time Farm, and Roberts said once they’ve finished building, they’ll approach the U.S. Equestrian Federation about acquiring dates.
“My goal isn’t to hurt Post Time or any show complex,” said Roberts. “I think there are enough people in the world who love equine and horse sport to do both. If we never get a [USEF-sanctioned] date, that’s OK. We’ll have shows. We’ll offer prize money that’s going to attract people and makes people excited to come like we have at the northern facility.”
Roberts hopes to start holding shows sometime next year at WEC South, and he said he is open to hosting other equine disciplines outside of hunter/jumper competition.