Ocala Culture & Community – History of the Horse & Beyond!
December 9, 2016
It is true that many people flock to Ocala for the equestrian environment, but there is more to the greater Marion County community than just the horses!
When contemplating a move to Florida for your equestrian interests, consider the rich history of Ocala and all the region has to offer.
A quick history lesson reveals that Ocala was originally settled by Spaniard Hernando de Soto in 1539 and became known as “The Kingdom of the Sun”. The region was named Ocale (or Ocali) until the late eighteenth century when the Seminoles, Creek People, Spaniards and other Native Americans and African Americans sought refuge in Florida. Foreign colonial rule shifted between Spain and Great Britain until 1821 when the United States acquired the territory of Florida.
History of the Horse in Ocala
It’s interesting to note that the horse industry didn’t solidify itself in Ocala until 1943 when the Rose family moved to the region to develop the roads system. Carl G. Rose settled in the area as the contractor hired to develop the road system and discovered that the region was rich in limestone which is used in making asphalt. As proven in Kentucky, where limestone soil is the basis for the rich Kentucky Blue Grass, so is the soil in Ocala. Where there’s limestone, a key element in rich grasslands, there is the ability to breed and raise strong and healthy horses. The Rose family purchased a great tract of land along state highway 200, which became Rosemere Farm, and the birth of the Thoroughbred industry in Ocala became etched in history books.
The first famous racehorse in the region was bred and trained at Bonnie Heath Farm. Needles became the first Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby in 1956 and nearly clinched the Triple Crown. He galloped to a close 2nd in the Preakness, losing hopes for the Triple Crown, but battled back to win the Belmont and capture the National Title.
Bonnie Heath Farm is still in existence and the story of Needles is a part of Marion County history. With over 1200 horse farms in the area and over 900 of them being race horse farms, the thoroughbred industry is alive and well in Marion County. The Heath’s website claims that Needles had a great effect on the real estate market in the 1950’s stating that “Needles put the Florida thoroughbred industry on the map and sold more land than all the real estate agents in Marion County.”
Click HERE for the story of Needles.
Beyond the Horses – Why Choose Marion County?
If you are considering a move to the Ocala area, more than likely you gravitate towards the great outdoors. Many of our clients look at purchasing property in Ocala due to their interest in all things equine, but the area has much more to offer than just equestrian pursuits! Marion County boasts a plethora of outdoor activities through The Department of Parks and Recreation. There is a multitude of parks for hiking, running, biking, camping, swimming and water related recreational activities. Some of Marion County’s top parks are: Ocala National Forest, Carney Island Recreation and Conservation, Baseline Road Trailhead, Coehadjoe Park and more. In fact, Ocala is a very popular tourist destination, where people choose to vacation due to all of the area attractions, access to beaches, and availability of recreational activities.
“There’s a beauty that exists in Ocala/Marion County that you can’t find anywhere else in Central Florida, and we aren’t just referring to the lush expanses of the Ocala National Forest, the endless number of scenic nature trails, or even the crystal-clear spring waters. There’s a reason that people from all over the world choose Ocala/Marion County as one of their top destinations to get away from it all.”
Please visit Explore Ocala as an excellent resource for learning more about the region’s plentiful events and activities.
The City Of Ocala – Thriving Culture and Entertainment
After a fabulous day of outdoor recreation, there’s plenty of choices for those who seek a variety of music, arts, dining, and nightlife in a downtown setting. The city of Ocala has enjoyed support from the Downtown Business Alliance and a resurgence of redevelopment efforts for downtown economy.
‘Feel Downtown Live’ is a great website resource for all the activities in the historic downtown square and includes information on city, hotel, and retail development. It is also the perfect online resource for the arts, entertainment, films at the Marion Theatre, concerts at Citizen’s Circle and hotspots for dining and nightlife.
‘Tis The Season
The historic downtown square is also very family-friendly (as is the rest of Marion County) and during this time of year offers many festive options to get into the holiday spirit! The Downtown City Ice Rink opened right after Thanksgiving and will remain open through the beginning of the year! The entire town is lit up in lights for the holiday season and plans are underway for Santa to make a personal appearance on the square.