Coming Soon! World Equestrian Center ‘Vendor Village’

The World Equestrian Center management has shared plans for the construction of the World Equestrian Center Vendor Village, a permanent indoor location featuring charming storefronts, landscaping and lighting that emulate a beautiful town square. The World Equestrian Center Vendor Village is designed in the epitome of equestrian style, with a gray and black palette and décor evocative of the facility’s elegant Paddock Club and Sudden Impulse boutique. Designed in collaboration with Diverse Building Solutions, construction of the World Equestrian Center Vendor Village is expected to begin in May of 2018.

The World Equestrian Center Vendor Village is everything you could want at a horse show in a quaint, village square style setting.  Complete with charming storefronts, paved walkways and lighted lampposts which will transport visitors to another place and time. Visitors will enjoy exclusive shopping, dining and day spa experiences conveniently located in the center of the horse show complex.  All of these upscale amenities are within a minute’s walk of the horse show action in each of the competition arenas or within a short walk to the barns and onsite accommodations.

Artist Renderings of the New Vendor Village

Shopping at Vendor Village

Imagine a welcoming town square, with permanent stores where exhibitors and spectators alike can take advantage of shopping for equestrian clothing, tack, equipment and accessories, watch fine artists at work and see their gallery spaces; or perhaps browse through a clothing boutique with rich cashmere sweaters and fine silk scarves and jewelry.

Dining at Vendor Village

Visitors can take a seat at one of the elegant high top tables on the deck of the High Horizons Café overlooking the Vendor Village town square. They can sip a latte or a breakfast smoothie or enjoy a full menu of breakfast or lunch there while they watch the stunning show horses travel back and forth on the walkway between the schooling area and the show ring. The World Equestrian Center’s free WiFi make it easy to bring a laptop or tablet to work or stay on top of your emails while enjoying the bustle of the busy horse show scene.

Visit our Day Spa

Visitors to the World Equestrian Center Vendor Village can enjoy a single treatment or day of pampering at The Cutting Room Aveda Day Spa.  They can step away from the horse show hustle and bustle to revel in the soothing atmosphere of the day spa – with quiet music, air transfused with essential oils and a complete listing of spa services including massages, manicures and pedicures, skin treatments and haircuts / coloring. Whether visitors are at World Equestrian Center to compete or to spectate, they’ll be relaxed, rejuvenated and looking their best after a trip to The Cutting Room.

“At the World Equestrian Center, our goal is to provide our horse show exhibitors, owners, vendors, sponsors and spectators with an experience that transcends the typical horse show world,” said Roby Roberts. “We place an emphasis on customer service and on providing our guests with the best possible indoor horse show experience in the United States.”  For more information please visit http://www.wec.net

USEF Selects HITS to Host 2018/2019 Nations Cup™ CSIO-5* in Ocala

HITS, Inc., America’s leading horse show management company, is proud to announce that the USEF Board of Directors has again selected HITS to host the FEI Nations Cup Qualifier, which will be elevated to a CSIO-5*, in 2018 and 2019.  The Nations Cup Jumping series is equestrian sport’s oldest and most prestigious team challenge. Pending FEI confirmation, the 2018 Nations Cup CSIO-5* will be held Week V of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, February 13-18.

“To host the Nations Cup for a fourth straight year is an enormous honor,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS Founder and CEO. “To produce this event in the Horse Capital of the World demonstrates HITS’ continuing commitment to offer premier horse sport in Ocala and Marion County. Now, with three years of experience, HITS is prepared to create an event that will be the flagship FEI Nations Cup event for the United States.”

New to the 2018 and 2019 Nations Cup in Ocala will be a special Youth Nations Cup event for the Young Rider, Junior and Children’s age categories.  “We are especially excited about the opportunity to expand the Nations Cup to include sections for these age categories,” noted Struzzieri. “It is our top priority to utilize our venues to continually provide new opportunities to strengthen and develop our up-and-coming riders.”

Last year, the Nations Cup at HITS Ocala hosted seven teams: Canada, USA, Colombia, El Salvador, Ireland, Mexico, USA, and Venezuela. The City of Ocala and Marion County’s leaders and community welcomed the Competitors with an inaugural Parade of Nations which culminated in ‘Jump Downtown,’ a ceremony held in the Town Square to introduce the Teams to the community and kick-off Nations Cup Week in Ocala.

“Ocala has an eclectic mix of horse people who come out for this event and invite their horse-loving friends to join them. The love of horses connects us all, and that is what makes Ocala a unique location,” remarked Struzzieri. “We are already working with local councils and related groups to ensure that the next two Nations Cup events will be extraordinarily special for both the Exhibitors and the loyal Spectators of Marion County.”

In 2017, over 5,000 spectators packed the grandstand at HITS Post Time Farm, while a live webcast via FEI TV streamed around the world, as the seven Nations vied for Gold. The event has historically ranked among the highest in national and international media interest.

The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will host 12 USEF-rated shows during the 2017-2018 season, with the Ocala Holiday Series running for two weeks, December 1-3 and 13-17, 2017, and the Ocala Winter Circuit running for 10 weeks, January 16 – March 25. The Circuit culminates with the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, March 25.

HITS plans $1 million in improvements before 2018

Equestrian show organizers and others discuss this year’s event, next’s year slate and the fact that a new venue is set to open just east of the HITS Post Time Farm.

Each year when Horse Shows in the Sun — or HITS — comes to town, it is as if a temporary city has sprung to life in northwest Marion County.  The series of world class equestrian events has grown to 12 weeks between December and March and culminates with the Great American $1 million Grand Prix.  The circuit, officially made up of 10 weeks starting in January, has an estimated annual $94 million economic impact locally. That does not take into account the two additional weeks of jumping competitions each December.

Now that HITS is over, executives with the organization are looking back to evaluate this year’s circuit, talking about facility needs at their expansive Post Time Farm on U.S. 27 west of Ocala, outlining their plans for the future, and discussing the new equestrian showplace just east of their complex.

In short, they are happy with their seasonal Marion County home, spent about $1 million getting ready for this year’s events, will spend more than that getting ready for next year and do not fear competition.  Kristen Vale, HITS’ manager in Marion County during the winter circuit, said the money the organization spends here is an investment in the sport and is in response to what the thousands of competitors and their families want when they arrive at the 450-acre farm.

Before this year’s event, for example, HITS invested more than $1 million by building a new barn, adding stalls and improving drainage and foundations in more than half of the 12 competition rings.  Before the 2018 circuit, HITS will invest more than $1 million to build another two commercial barns that will house 48 permanent stalls. They also plan to add landscaping, including trees and flowers, to give the temporary community a better aesthetic quality. Vale said the two additional barns are in response to competitors’ requests for more permanent spaces to house their horses.

The farm has 40 barns and 52 miles of fencing, more than 100 electrical outlets and WiFi. There are typically 100 HITS employees at the farm during the annual events.  This year, fewer people arrived during the earlier weeks of the circuit, but more arrived during the latter portion of the show than last year. Vale said the HITS team will be studying when competitors came, how long they stayed, what worked well and where they can improve.

“That’s what we’ll spend the next six months trying to figure out,” she said.  She said HITS is not worried about pouring money into the winter circuit as the investment will pan out.  “Ocala always makes money for us,” she said.

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HITS, Inc., based in upstate New York, produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville in 1982. Now, the company organizes world-class hunter/jumper circuits in Florida, California, Arizona, New York, Virginia and Illinois.  HITS produces three of the richest grand prix events in the world, including the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix in Marion County on the last day of the circuit. There were also two International Hunter Derbies and a Nations Cup in this year’s circuit.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 competitors, along with family members and friends, come to HITS in Marion County each year. There are between 1,500 and 2,000 horses at the farm on any given day.  About half of the competitors stay throughout the full circuit. And while that proportion has not changed much over the years, the length of the circuit has. Fifteen years ago, it operated between Feb. 10 and March 15.  With the extended weeks, Vale said, there are more riders, who are staying longer, and they want more permanent structures.

Post Time Farm offers about 1,700 temporary stalls, and has room for more.  People renting permanent stalls typically rent them for about six months a year and commit for about five years at a time, Vale said.  As much as competitors like the new stalls and barns, Vale said, it is what they and the public don’t see that gets financial priority.

Before this year’s circuit, for example, that included workers pushing aside 400 tons of dirt in eight show rings to replace the base dirt and make improvements to drainage systems, then put the top layer of surface back into place. Regardless of the amount of rain, competitors don’t “want to see water sitting on the ring or on the road. They are not glamorous improvements, but its infrastructure (that has to be maintained),” she said.  “One of the most important things is footing in the ring,” she said. “It’s not just dirt.”  That’s in addition to regular maintenance of roads and utilities, she said. The farm basically has to provide many of the same amenities needed in a small city. In addition, competitors and visitors want nice landscaping and vegetation, Vale said.
Much of HITS revenue comes from stall and barn rentals. And that means competition because just outside Post Time’s boundary are plenty of small farms willing to rent to HITS’ customers.  The organization’s goal is to entice riders to board horses on their property and buy supplies from them, Vale said. The goal is to make the riders and their families happy and satisfied.

To help, HITS built five homes adjacent to the farm for people who want to live close to their horses stalled at the farm. Vale said they have room to expand that housing. HITS also rents out seven homes at other locations.  About 5 percent of the riders and their families live in travel trailers on the grounds, she said.  About 30 vendors are on site selling food, clothing and riding equipment during the 12 weeks.

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Larry Roberts, founder and owner of Ohio-based R + L Carriers interstate trucking company, has bought up more than 1,500 acres of mostly agricultural land south of his Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, which is east of Post Time Farm.  Roberts is planning to use at least a few hundred of those acres to build an upscale equestrian community with indoor riding arena, barns, stalls and outdoor riding rings. He owns The World Equestrian Center in Ohio and the facility here will be similar.

Vale said the new equestrian center will attract more riders and attention from the equestrian community.  “We think it will be just fine,” she said. “(Roberts) is going to run shows in the summer so I don’t think it will be a bad thing for us. It will keep horse people longer in Marion County.”  “(But) we are watching it closely,” she added. “We’re aware of what he’s doing.”

The U.S. Equestrian Federation regulates the number of sanctioned shows and limits their location and calendar days based, in part, on proximity to other equestrian events.

As for the next 20 years, Vale said, it is hard to say what changes HITS will make.  For now, she does not see them extending its winter circuit and will work to rent out the farm for other events.

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Loretta Shaffer, executive director of the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, said HITS helps make Marion County a tourist destination.  “Ocala/Marion County is acknowledged globally as the ’Horse Capital of the World,’” she said in an email. “We have been able to leverage that strong reputation, coupled with the county’s natural assets, such as its springs and forests, into a relevant and desirable authentic Florida tourist destination for the 21st century. Our community rejoices at the related growth that’s coming from equestrians, visitors and business owners investing money in all levels of the local economy.”

Louisa Barton is the director of equine engagement for the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership. She said there is no single event in Marion County that compares to HITS.  “We see it as a huge benefit to Ocala and Marion County as a whole,” she said. “It’s worth at least $94 million a year. The economic impact is enormous. The CEP is extremely grateful that HITS chose Marion County as its winter home.”  Barton said there is an additional impact that cannot be measured when HITS competitors buy second homes here or move here to stay.  “It’s very hard to measure the true impact; and the publicity for the area is huge,” she said.  But there’s always room for improvement, Barton added.

One endeavor is to get more people not necessarily knowledgeable or connected to the show jumping sport to get more involved, for example, she said.  Her hope is that the CEP can help market the event and increase the number of spectators at HITS. She also wants to see other equestrian disciplines, such as western and thoroughbred racing, play a larger role in interacting with HITS. To that end, the CEP helped host a formal HITS welcoming event this year at the Ocala downtown square, where local horse breeds were on display.  “And I think we want (HITS) to come here earlier and stay longer,” she said.

As for the new World Equestrian Center, Barton does not think it will put a damper on HITS either.  “When you think of the number of different breeds and disciplines we have, there is an endless possibility of shows,” she said. “All year long would be fantastic.”

The Future of The World Equestrian Center In Ocala, FL

The World Equestrian Center and Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club has been approved and construction has begun on Phase One of the planned World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida.

Slated to host events in 2018, the new venue will be a world-class equestrian sports venue adjacent to the Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club property. With an outstanding equestrian facility already operating in Wilmington, Ohio, the two entities have combined forces in Ocala to create a unique destination featuring a winning combination of top equestrian sport and country club living.

The World Equestrian Center Ocala facility features include four 262 x 550 climate-controlled indoor arenas surrounding an open-air stadium and 15 outdoor arenas on 300+ acres. The complex has access to 3,100 additional acres with real estate and amenities, including retail space and a restaurant. There are plans to build additional amenities as well as permanent stabling for 800 horses.

HITS Ocala Winter Circuit

The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, January 18th – March 26th, 2017, offers exhibitors 10 consecutive weeks of shows with two additional weeks of USEF-Rated shows—the Ocala Holiday Series—in mid-December. The extensive range of classes, offering over $4 million in prize money, and abundant show opportunities makes HITS Post Time Farm in Ocala, Florida, a prime winter destination. The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit features USEF National and Premier-Rated Hunters, 5* and 6* Jumpers, two $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derbies and qualifiers for the HITS Championship. In February, HITS Post Time Farm will also play host the 2017 Nations Cup for the third consecutive year. The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit culminates each March with the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix.

HITS moved to Post Time Farm in 2002, hits-2017where exhibitors take advantage of the Horse Capital of the World. With 450 lush acres, 52 miles of four-board fencing, and 30 permanent barns, HITS Post Time Farm is an inviting home-away-from-home for you and your horse to enjoy a world-class showing experience.