Dressage Begins The Steady Migration to Ocala!

Kim Van Kampen

Kim Van Kampen

The Ocala horse community has long been known for it’s diversity in disciplines, as the open space and rich soil in Marion County offers the perfect environment for a number of breeding and training operations for thoroughbred racing, hunter/jumper, western, Quarter Horse and Paso Fino enthusiasts. With anticipation for the grand opening at the World Equestrian Center, farm sales in Marion County are on the uptick, and Ocala Horse Properties is thrilled to report that we’re catching the eye of world class dressage enthusiasts!

In a recent article by EuroDressage, Olympic dressage rider Shelly Francis announced her relocation to Ocala, as the ability manage a world class operation in Marion County’s year round Florida climate is best for her horses. Ocala Horse Properties has also been fortunate to work with two other high profile moves to our region in 2020, proving that the steady migration of dressage riders to Ocala will continue to grow as show dates are solidified at WEC.

The team at Ocala Horse Properties recently had the opportunity to catch up with two of our clients,  Kim Van Kampen and Elma Garcia-Cannavinoabout their decisions to move to Ocala. Here are their Ocala stories………..

Kim Van Kampen

Kim has become one of the most respected breeders of PRE (Spanish) horses in the world and is well known within the industry for being one of the largest supporters of youth dressage. Based for the past 20 years at her Hampton Green Farm, in Wellington, Kim has had a significant impact on the dressage industry in Palm Beach and beyond.

Kim’s resume in the dressage world is impressive and philanthropic in nature. As a founding member of the Wellington Equestrian Partnership, her contributions to ownership at the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Global Dressage Festival, have been impactful. She donated the large covered arena adjacent to Global which hosts dressage in the winter and hunter jumper shows during the summer circuit.

Hampton Green in Wellington

Hampton Green in Wellington

Kim’s Hampton Green Farm (which is on the market with Wellington Equestrian Realty) remains the home base for the annual Winter Intensive Training program for young riders under 21, which will continue to be headed by U.S. Olympian Lendon Gray. Both these ladies have been the backbone of the Dressage4Kids project, which will continue to be hosted at Hampton Green while the property is on the market. In fact, during the winter dressage circuit at AGDF, Kim and her family are still there for competitions, as her daughter is an enthusiastic competitor. Kim’s wish is to sell the property to someone who will continue to carry on the program well into the future.

An Ocala Style Wedding

An Ocala Style Wedding

Tell us about your decision to move to Ocala.

Love and marriage brought me to Ocala. My husband is currently working on the project at the World Equestrian Center, and I’m loving it. Ocala is all that people say it is – the pace is different, the openness is different.

Lendon Grey and her program have had a huge impact on my family in Wellington. She’s had a huge impact on my girls, and she will remain working on the young rider program and we will continue to compete at Global.

What key differences do you see between Ocala and Wellington?

I’m a 20 year resident of Wellington and it is currently the winter capital. Ocala is a year round capital for the horse industry. Breeders and trainers need a lot more space. The demographic in Ocala is real career horse people. It’s different from the smaller high end sport horse community traveling to Wellington for winter circuit. Frankly the sport horse community starts in Ocala. The infrastructure is here for success. Soon, the rest of the country will find Ocala more comfortable and will be based here.

Marion County and Palm Beach County are very different in terms of climate, landscape and social needs. Land is affordable and available for breeding and agricultural businesses. There are so many universities and vets conducting research here, and there are more charitable efforts here in Ocala.

What are your favorite aspects of Ocala?

Personally, we are enjoying being married and our privacy here is what we love. We’re busy pouring our heart and soul into our farm. The location is also great as my mother lives in Orlando, and 3 of my 4 boys are in Florida. I have grandchildren in Tampa and have access to seeing all our family.

My husband, Michael Crook, is also into racing carts, and there’s a track shifter cart racing in the region. 80mph on track. Popular in Italy, and is a level below indy car racing. They go 80 mph on the track! For adult amateurs who aren’t career racers, there’s an Ocala Gran Prix, and that group of people is a big part of our social life.  The old down town is also really changing, and when we go out, we love Mark’s Prime.

Kim’s husband, Michael Crook, is an avid shift car race driver!

Kim’s husband, Michael Crook, is an avid shift car race driver!

What are your thoughts on WEC and the Future of dressage in Ocala?

I still go back and forth to Wellington for Global as the young riders and my daughter is still competing there, but we will have a phenomenal circuit in Ocala. Clearly we’re confident that WEC will hold shows based on the model of having national and FEI level shows on a regular basis. We’re all waiting to see and know that WEC is working with the federations to secure those dates.

Why did you decide to work with OHP?

Matt has sold us a number of properties over the years and he’s my main connection in real estate. First of all, as soon as they agreed to sponsor global dressage, I was interested in working with Rob, Chris and Matt. I always try to help the companies trying to help the sport. I knew the boys as an ambitious group willing to give back to Wellington equestrian sports. Dressage just doesn’t get the sponsorship that the show jumpers get at WEF and they helped start Global 8 years ago as a founding sponsor.

Elma competing in Kentucky

Elma competing in Kentucky

Elma Garcia-Cannavino

Elma Garcia-Cannavino has lived in many places throughout the USA, growing up in a small rural region outside of Yakima, Washington where she first caught the riding bug aboard a Quarter Horse that she competed in barrel racing till she went to college.

Her love for the visual arts took her to college to study photography in California, where she quickly made a name for herself with still photographs before launching an award winning career in video and commercial production. In the cinematography space she has excelled, creating a portfolio of work that has been featured for a broad spectrum of clients including Levis, Jack Daniels and the Make a Wish Foundation. Creating commercials for corporate clients, her work has been featured on prime time TV and has aired during the Super Bowl and the World Series.

Perhaps Elma’s innate creativity and drive for success is why she has become one of the top amateur dressage competitors in the United States. This can be credited to her ambition to learn and sheer dedication to the sport by training with the best in the industry. Early in her dressage career, Elma began training with Debbie McDonald and quickly became enamored with the art of dressage.

Elma’s next chapter began with a Hanoverian mare by the name of Wenesa. This partnership has flourished, resulting in top FEI finishes, including the 2016 Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur reserve champions at the US Dressage Finals in Kentucky. In 2017 this pair won both the I-I and the PSG adult amateur championship titles, and took reserve honors in the I-I AA Freestyle.

Elma and her husband, Jim Cannavino, initially relocated from the West Coast to Tryon and she had success at small tour level on the East Coast with Wenesa. Since retiring Wenesa, she has purchased 3 young mares two develop, and currently trains with FEI Supervisory Judge and renowned horseman David Hunt. David, who resides in England, comes stateside several times a year to teach clinics and also trains Elma weekly via Pixio & Skype. Video distance learning has worked well for Elma and her new string of horses, allowing her to train from any location.

Although Elma and her husband relocated to the Tryon area in 2017, they still craved the warmth of Florida and access to competitions in that region. In 2018 the decision was made to relocate and build a second dressage training operation in Ocala. This is when the connection was made with Matt Varney at Ocala Horse Properties and they decided to purchase a training facility in Marion County.

Dream Catcher enjoying Ocala’s lush turnout!

Dream Catcher enjoying Ocala’s lush turnout!

When and why did you decide to relocate to Ocala in addition to Tryon?

It snowed in Tryon and that was the lightbulb moment. Jim and I decided we needed to head further south for horses and golf. In 2018 we would haul from Tryon to compete at Wellington, but it was too much.

We moved to Ocala for the open space, the calmness, the relaxing countryside. At the end of the day having access to Wellington will always be important, but Wellington was not the right choice for our horses & dogs.

Why did you chose to work with Matt Varney from Ocala Horse Properties?

A mutual friend recommended Matt. I called Matt and we had a long conversation and he showed us the Golden Corridor. We loved his energy and that his wife is a vet and dressage rider. They’re committed to the community, other riders and organizations that support the region.

What are your favorite aspects of living in Ocala?

The weather here in Ocala is delightful, as it’s still cool in the evenings. It’s also a nice break from Tryon that we live in a town with more services and civilization. The expansion at Golden Ocala and the WEC is very exciting. We’re hoping that dressage really launches at WEC, but there’s still the ease of getting to the CDI’s at Wellington.
Tell us about your community outreach in the equestrian community?

Jim and I wholeheartedly support Horse Farm Forever because we believe in protecting the beautiful open spaces and horse farms that make Marion County so unique and special. It’s a way of life that we fit into so well.

I feel like we live in a painting when I am riding on my horses or walking with my dogs in the meadow. It’s just so darn gorgeous here. I am honored to join the board of Horse Farms Forever because I believe in protecting our Horse farms in Marion County. All the beauty of horses just make my heart feel so happy. Jim and I just love it here.

Elma & Jim enjoying life in Ocala!

Elma & Jim enjoying life in Ocala!

Ocala Horse Properties’ Update on The Future of Dressage at WEC

Ocala Horse Properties appreciates the time that Kim and Elma took to speak to us about their recent relocation to Marion County. These interviews prompted us to reach out to the management team at the World Equestrian Center to confirm the plans for dressage at the new facility.  Although there is a specific process for acquiring dates for CDI level competition during the winter season, there are ample opportunities for dressage shows throughout the year.

Director of Marketing, Candace FitzGerald stated that Roby Robert’s goal of the World Equestrian Center is to be a world-class destination for all equestrian events, including dressage. WEC plans to host their own dressage shows and hopes to bring riders from the USA and around the world to compete in Ocala. In keeping with our model, the facility will also be available for lease by organizations who wish to hold their dressage events at WEC.

Jim Wolf, who also works as a sponsorship consultant for WEC, believes that having a more robust dressage competition schedule in Ocala will ultimately benefit, and not compete with, the schedule at AGDF in Wellington. Jim stated, “I anticipate that with Ocala’s easy access to Wellington, more people will buy farms in Marion County to operate year round equestrian businesses, choosing to ship to Global for the CDI’s.”  This is a win-win for both regions in Florida!

Stay tuned for more information on WEC dressage from the team at Ocala Horse Properties as details become available!