Ocala is located in Marion County, “The Horse Capital of the World.” (One of many Horse Capitals, it seems, but that’s a different story.) There are over 1,200 horse farms in the county, which includes 900 thoroughbred farms. The farms are spread over 70,000 acres of panoramic landscapes that include green rolling hills, well-manicured pastures lined with moss-draped oak trees, and luxurious estates. We had driven the main roads of Ocala many times without realizing how picturesque this area is until we went on the tour.
The tour met at 8:30 at the Florida Thoroughbred Breeder`s Association. We left our cars and hopped into the 10 passenger van along with the other tourists. Our tour guide was a long-time resident of Ocala and had experience in the horse business.
She took us to an Arabian horse farm, where we were able to get up close to the horses as they came running to us when they saw that we had carrots! Then we explored the extravagant barn and the estate owner’s office where the walls were literally covered with photos of his winning horses and the ribbons they had won over the years.
Then we headed to a Thoroughbred breeding farm where the owner met us and explained how she and her husband welcome mares and stallions from all over the world. They come together to breed in a specially built barn where trained personnel manage and oversee the mating process. Artificial insemination is not allowed with registered Thoroughbreds. The mating barn was a beautiful building and impeccably clean.
The last farm we visited was Pleasant Acres Farm where we were able to see retired multi-million dollar winner, Presious Passion. He was happy to see us and the carrots we brought to feed him, and he gladly posed for photos.
The tour was interesting and great fun. We saw so many beautiful horses and playful foals at every stop. The tour cost $45/each and was about 4 hours long.
Website: Farm Tours of Ocala