Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day Event brings cream-of-the-crop competitors to town.
Top horses and riders will make their way to Marion County for the third annual Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event to be held November 15 through 18.
The sport of eventing is like an equine triathlon combining three different disciplines—dressage, cross country and show jumping—in one competition. Because a single horse and rider team must compete in all three, it’s a vigorous test of physical ability, requiring not only talent but endurance and soundness.
“Last year’s event attracted entries from nine countries across four continents. It was a qualifier for the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 (“WEG”) that just concluded in Tryon, South Carolina, so it has a lot of implications. This event becomes even more important this year because an extra division was added,” notes Pavla Nygaard, president of the Ocala Jockey Club.
For 2018, the OJC Event features an added prestigious CCI3* division, only one of five in the United States and the only one to be held in the Southeast. This translates to more jumps and a more challenging course, which will be designed by Olympic Individual Silver medalist Clayton Fredericks, assisted by Mike Etherington-Smith, who designed the courses for the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games.
“It’s a big deal having the CCI3* designation in Ocala,” explains Nygaard. “This means there’s a greater need for the top-level athletes to come here because it’s one of the limited places where they can qualify for events like the Olympics or WEG. There will be about 200 riders competing, mainly from the United States but also some from other countries.”
The Ocala Jockey Club’s idyllic setting, complete with huge majestic oaks and rolling hills, makes it one of the highest elevations in the county. Riders love the terrain and footing because it’s safe and forgiving for their horses.
Shelley Page, the OJC Event organizer, notes that another unique aspect of the OJC event is the extra prize fund for retired thoroughbred racehorses competing, as many of them make excellent eventing mounts after their racing careers.
Spectators can get in on the action starting on Thursday, when dressage competition begins. The dressage event concludes on Friday. Cross country takes place on Saturday, and Sunday features show jumping and the last of the cross country.
Tailgating is a popular way to enjoy the cross country, and remember to claim your spot for the day along the jump course for an up-close-and-personal view as the horses come galloping by.
Food trucks, equestrian-themed vendors, a beer garden, demonstrations and a Kids’ Zone with pony rides and other fun family activities will be on the grounds. Saturday’s theme is the “Hip, Handsome and Hokey Hat Day,” with prizes to be won by spectators wearing the most unique hats.
Learn more › Visit ojc3de.com for more information on the Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event. › Admission: Thursday, free; Friday, $5; Saturday, $10; Sunday, $10; $25 for all four days (including parking and event program); youth 16 and under, seniors, military and first responders are free › Parking: $5/day › Tailgating: $150/weekend, $95 Saturday only, $65 Sunday only