By Louisa Barton

The equine industry is a really big deal here in the Horse Capital of the World. In fact, it is worth over $2.6 billion a year in the Ocala Metro and our public and private leadership appreciates the importance of this industry to our community.

A few years ago, the CEP commissioned a study showing the incredible number of jobs and revenue created in the Ocala area by the horse world. With this study, came a new realization of a need to find ways to bring the horse world and the non-horse world together. The CEP began its Equine Engagement Initiative with this goal in mind.

A new project from this initiative is a partnership between the CEP and the City. Bronze plaques will be created and placed in the new or re-done sidewalks downtown to celebrate a variety of horse breeds. The plaques will name thoroughbreds or other breeds who were either born here or who had strong ties and connections to this area. Perhaps, they were trained here or spent some major part of their lives here on one of the farms. Any horse born, weaned, conditioned, competed, trained or who learned to be a racehorse here, could be eligible for a plaque or a brick. It was decided an App would play a major role in sharing the details with visitors, so that the famous horses’ names could be located on this App and interested parties could learn all about the equine history and how these horses were tied to the area. Over then next year or so, one should start to see this plaques around the square.

While developing this, we realized that many people own a pasture pet or two, who they may love dearly, but who would not qualify for such recognition. That was when the brick opportunity part of this project became a real option. A brick ribbon will be created near the bronze plaques and for a nominal fee, horse owners will be able to have their horses name placed on the brick. There are horses who, although not in the Hall of Fame and who may not have won the Triple Crown, but who have been dearly loved by their owners. For many horse owners, these beloved creatures had a very real impact on their lives. My horse Sundance, aka Sunny, is 34 years old and has been by my side for over 26 years. Sunny will be one of many to be celebrated in our downtown square on his very own brick. What better way to celebrate your horse!

Creating a place to celebrate the horses like this in our downtown square is such an honor and I am so excited to be part of this project as it progresses. If you would like to see if your horse qualifies for the honor of a bronze plaque and if not, you would like to apply for a brick for your horse, please email me at Louisa@OcalaCEP.com. We are REALLY looking forward to creating this legacy to celebrate all that we are here in ‘the Horse Capital of the World’!

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