Work and Leisure in Ocala, a Horse Community
Wild Horses and the Iron Horse
Imagine Central Florida in the late 1700s to early 1800s with cattle and wild horses tended or pursued by new Americans, the Spanish, and Black cowboys as well as Seminole, Ai, and Timcuan native groups. Records of this can be found in Ocala's historical museums and libraries as well as on cowboy-related Internet sites.
By the mid-1800s, Henry Flagler, a wealthy man in other industries, brought the American Railroad through Florida as well. At least one Florida county and one regional hospital are named in his honor and his history is well presented in the book called Last Train to Paradise, seen below.
Traces of scrub cattle, a number of large horse farms, but little railroading are found in Ocala and Central Florida today. Flagler's trains were disabled by inclement weather, but Amtrak appeared in 20th-century developments. Wealthy business people used to ship their cars to Florida from the Northeast for pleasure and business, and today, an auto train will bring your car along with you on Amtrak.
The Ocala, Silver Springs and Park Street Railroad Company was incorporated on June 7, 1887.
Horse farms are a large part of the Ocala and Marion County (named for the American Revolution's Swamp Fox, Francis Marion) economy today.
At least 30,000 residents of Ocala. Marion County work in the horse-related industries, including tourism. Tours of Ocala horse farms are available and some are free-of-charge. A carriage tour through a number of farms is convenient and available with a starting point just south of Ocala.
The Ocala Chamber of Commerce in the Downtown District keeps a list of these horse farms for visitors and calls Ocala the Horse Capital of the World. A public art project in recent years resulted in painted and decorated horse statues throughout the city along the sidewalks.
In addition, Olympic Equestrian medalists and rodeo champions also make their home in Ocala, where horse shows and rodeos are always popular. Florida Horse Park in Marion County is an official US Equestrian Federation training site as well.
New England Shires
One local horse farm is named after the breed of horse that is its specialty, the New England Shire. This breed is one of the largest draft, or working, horses. This horse center is one of the largest shire breeding farms globally at a size of 125 acres of limestone-rich land, important for horses' bone health. It is difficult to imagine horses larger than Percherons or Belgians, but some of the shires are larger.
Two shire farms are located in Ocala:
- New England Shire Centre at 4877 S.W. 134th Terrace; Ocala FL 34481
- Sterling Shire Stables at 998 NW 63rd Ct; Ocala FL 34482
Horses of nearly every other breed are raised in and around Ocala, Florida in addition to shires, on over 200 different farms and horse/rider training centers.
The City of Ocala bills itself as a city-country mix with affordable housing. Apartment living runs from an average of $570 to $1300 a month.
Home sales in 2014 ranged from $120,000 to nearly $500,000+ and that includes horse farms. Mean and median values are around $225,000. Some of the housing subdivisions are named exotically, like Lady Lake and On Top of the World .
Best Places for Photos and Memories
Horse and Country Venues to Visit
- Appleton Museum of Art: 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala FL 34470. This is a great family place that is maintained by the Central College of Florida. it is set on a former estate known for horse breeding. The famous John James Audubon is celebrated here with several pieces of his original art.
- Crystal River Archaeological State Park: 3400 North Museum Pointe, Ocala FL 34428. This park is one of discovery and is family friendly. The park is within a larger preserve and state park of the same name. This one is full of the oldest Native American mounds and artifacts before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. These Indigenous Peoples built temple and burial mounds, a central plaza, and other structures. The park is a registered US Historical Landmark. Manatee tours of manatee watching and snorkeling are also available.
- Florida Carriage Museum & Resort: 3000 Marion County Rd, Weirsdale FL 32195.
- Florida Horse Park: 11008 S Hwy 475, Ocala FL 34480. The Florida Agriculture Center & Horse Park Authority Inc. puts on horse shows and special events all year.
- Museum of Drag Racing - 13700 SW 16th Avenue; Ocala FL 34473. Many folks do not realize that drag racing is organized, has a history, and is celebrated in museums.
- Ocala National Forest
- Ocala Speedway - 9050 North West Gainesville Road; Ocala FL
- Ocala Jai-alai. The game of Native Americans and everyone else. 4601 Northwest Highway 318 Orange Lake Fl. This is the oldest Jai-alai playing arena in the Eastern US.
- Santos Trailhead. Southeast 80th Street & US Highway junction 441/301/27. This entrance leads to wonderful walking and hiking trails, equestrian trails, and a picnic area.
- Silver Springs: Nature's Theme Park. 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd.; Silver Springs FL. Nature park and zoo: 10,000 years of historical displays, amusements rides and a large springs that pumps 550 million gallons of water daily. People used to come to Florida for respite in its the healing waters and hot springs back in the 1800s, and they still come to enjoy the water and the sight of the springs.Wildlife, native plants and exotic flowers fill the park and glass-bottomed boats will take passengers into the Silver River to see the underwater life.
- Timucua Nation Village. Marion County Historical Museum.
Business and Employment Market
Best Jobs in the Local Employment Market
- IT: Software Engineers and Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
- Truck Driving
- Construction: Sheet Metal Workers, Cost Estimators, Mixing and Blending Machine Jobs, Heating A/C and Refrigeration (HVAC) jobs
- Salespeople and Sales Representatives
- Mainstream Preschool Teachers
- Construction: Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers, Electricians Helpers, Excavating and Loading Machine jobs
- Pharmacy Technicians
- Dental Assistants and Technicians
- Instructional Coordinators, Special Education Teachers for Middle School and for Preschool - Elementary (Grades PreK thru 5th grade)
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists
- Mainstream Elementary and Middle School Teachers
- Employment Specialists
Higher Education and Training
- College of Central Florida
- Marion County Community Technical and Adult Education
- Online College Degrees, Classes & Courses - Rasmussen College
Regionally accredited college offering bachelors and associates degrees. Programs offered online and throughout the U.S. on campuses in MN, IL, FL, WI, and ND.
- On Top of the World Communities - Housing developments for the Active 55+ person. These housing subdivisions have their own shopping, cultural centers, hobby airplane modelers, golf, and a lot more. Prices start in the $100,000s.
- Brookdale (a local top employer) - Chambrel at Pinecastle, located at1801 SE 24th Road in Ocala, FL 34471.
- Camelot Chateau Assisted Living - Advertises affordable rentals.
- Stone Creek - Built around 2006 off Rt 200, southwest of Ocala.
- Summer Glen - This community receives many positive comments on Internet forums.
Apartments for Seniors
- Carlton Arms - In 2011, efficiency and 1-bedroom apartments starting at $497, up to 3 bedrooms. Three miles from I-75 at State Route 40.
- City of Ocala, Florida: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report - For September 30, 2016. ocalafl.org. p. 175. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Standiford, L. Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean. Broadway Books; 2003.
© 2011 Patty Inglish MS