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Four new all-weather arenas at the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park got their first real test this weekend as hundreds of riders competed in the Ocala International Three-Day Festival of Eventing.
Martin Collins installed the new arenas at the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park, which include two smaller show rings for warm-up or smaller events and two Grand Prix arenas for larger competitions. Each has an underground drainage and watering system that allows for consistent footing.
Last week’s torrential rains in Florida, ahead of the eventing competition didn’t impact the arenas.
“These rings technically should be flooded, and within about two hours, all the water was off,” said Carol Dover, chairwoman of the horse park board.
The competition drew eventers from around the country and served as a final prep for the Kentucky Three-Day Event, which draws the best eventers from around the world. The arenas, which cost about $1.2 million, are a combination of Clopf fibers, sand and other material. They are essential for dressage tests and show jumping, two of the three disciplines in eventing.
Before the new rings, the former arena was prone to flooding and the surface elicited its share of grumbles.
“I think the footing is amazing. My horse feels great, said Lila Gendal, who came from Vermont to compete with her horse, BT Justarebel, or “Rolo,” for short. “I was here at the last Ocala and the footing was challenging.”
Maddie Carey, who moved to Ocala to train, also noticed the difference while riding her horse, Nick.
“Compared to last year, it’s like light years different. It is really nice,” she said.
Carey is among a growing number of eventers who are moving to the area to train. World-class eventing coaches and competitors swear by the area’s soil, climate and horse infrastructure, making it prime winter training grounds. The third phase of eventing is cross country, for which, they say, the ground in Ocala is perfect.
The new arenas are likely to make the area even more popular.
“I have been coming down for about three years and it is unrecognizable now,” said Giles Rowsell, who is a recognized eventing announcer. “It is amazing and it’s not finished yet.”
Single discipline competitions of dressage and jumping also will use the new facilities and it’s hoped the number and the size of the rings will attract higher-level competitions.
Thanks to The Ocala Star Banner for a great feature.