Striking Up An Alliance

In an exclusive interview, six members and the founder of the newly formed Ocala Horse Alliance (OHA) discuss their plans to give a united voice to Marion County’s varied equine industry.

Numbers support why Ocala/Marion County lives up to the moniker of “Horse Capital of the World.” According to the 2018 American Horse Council Economic Impact Study of Horse Ownership in Marion County, there are 80,260 equines in the county, with an economic impact of $2.3 billion.

The other number, also impressive but not so specifically quantified, is Ocala/Marion County’s concentration of dedicated folks who initially entered the industry for personal reasons only to later find themselves advocates for a diverse cross section of equine disciplines. This is the case for one multifaceted group that has recently come together to form the Ocala Horse Alliance (OHA).

One of the alliance members, T. Paul Bulmahn, the owner and founder of GoldMark Farm, a Thoroughbred operation, recounts  what initially triggered his love for horses.

“When I was in the fourth grade, I read The Black Stallion and set my goal to become a jockey,” he says with a nod and hands spread out. Without words he acknowledges that his physical stature got in the way of his dream, but not without trying. “I stopped eating so I wouldn’t grow to be as tall as my sisters. My mother had to force me to eat.”

Although Bulmahn was unable to become a jockey, his enthusiasm for horses continued throughout his life and it’s a love he’d like to share with local fourth graders through efforts the alliance has dubbed The Black Stallion Project. “We’d like every school age child to have the book The Black Stallion and the opportunity to visit a horse farm and learn more about horses.”

Fostering the next generation of horse enthusiasts fits nicely into the mission of the alliance, which is to unify the diverse equine industry and stakeholders to champion a unified voice.

The OHA’s Equine Industry Summit in January will provide the platform for a 5-year Strategic Plan to promote, educate and grow the horse industry in Marion County. Stakeholders in the OHA range from trainers and riders across all breeds and disciplines, to horse rescues, trail riders and therapeutic equine programs…to name a few.

We chatted with the OHA members T. Paul Bulmahn; Raymond Di Maria; Lynn Palm; Bonnie Heath III; Pat Parelli; Tom O’Mara; and Ellie Trueman about their connection to the equine community and their hopes for our local equine industry.

T. Paul Bulmahn

Are you from Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

The beautiful farm countryside caught my eye. I’ve lived here since my house was finished on land that I acquired in 2002.

Your love for horses started in the fourth grade. When did you realize a recreational or commercial equine endeavor?

In 2002, I established GoldMark Farm, a commercial Thoroughbred operation.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I own horses that compete in Thoroughbred racing and have completed construction of sport horse competition arenas for dressage and show jumping.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

That the farms will always be able to connect horses and people in a beautiful setting.

Bonnie Heath III

Are you from Ocala/Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

Our family moved here when I was 6 and I have been here 63 years. We came for the horses, land and water.

What is your equine background?

My family has been racing, breeding and raising Thoroughbreds for over 65 years. My father co-owned Needles, the first Florida-bred national champion (1955) and the first Florida-bred Kentucky Derby winner (1956).

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

Bonnie Heath Farm LLC has been in existence for 63 years as a commercial Thoroughbred operation.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

No, we breed, raise and sell Thoroughbreds.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

To do whatever it takes to keep this the best place in the world to raise horses.

Tom O’Mara

Are you from Ocala/Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you been here?

We just moved here after visiting for 12 years with family members who were showing at HITS. My wife and I appreciated the agricultural and horse heritage of the town. We always thought that someday we should relocate to Ocala and we just did.

What is your equine background?

I was a horse-show dad for 20 years, following four children and my wife to horse shows, so managed a small horse carnival in a part-time role. I have also owned and managed a hunter/jumper training facility, as well as a hay farm.

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

We don’t currently own a farm. Our previous farm was a commercial operation.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I do not compete, but five members of my family still compete. I am an advisor to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, which oversees NCAA Equestrian as it travels the path of emergence to championship status.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County horse farms?

Education and outreach.

Pat Parelli

Are you from Ocala/Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

I have lived in Ocala for the past 19 years; it is our winter home. I had not heard of Ocala before I came here through a fluke invitation, but fell in love with the ambience of the county. Then I awoke to the realization that it truly is the “Horse Capital of the World.”

What is your equine background?

I own the world’s largest horsemanship program. It’s digital and you can learn how to train your own horse at home; we have over 200,000 students in 73 countries worldwide. We have a campus here in Ocala and one in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I was a professional rodeo bronc rider for 14 years and learned how to train horses from a great horseman named Troy Henry in California. I then studied under the great horsemen like Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, who coined the phrase “Natural Horsemanship,” which is a worldwide ubiquitous term.

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

I have owned horse farms for more than three decades as commercial endeavors.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I have competed in several Western performance events. I mainly focus now on cutting and reining cow horse events each year at the National Cutting Horse Association championship futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

The preservation of farmlands is not just important, it is imperative. Marion County is the heart of the watermelon when it comes to horse country beauty and lifestyle. The limestone under our pastures creates the health needed in the bones of our horses.

Lynn Palm

Are you from Ocala/Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

I was born in Philadelphia, raised in Sarasota County, Florida, and have lived in Ocala for 23 years.

What is your equine background?

I have a classic dressage background and used to train and compete all-around horses in American Quarter Horse Association shows. I have gone back to my dressage roots in both classical and western with quarter horses and all breeds. I am currently a trainer, coach, judge and author.

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

I have owned Fox Grove Farm in northwest Ocala since 1997. Palm Partnership Training is my business.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I compete in dressage, western dressage, ranch riding, trail riding, pleasure driving and hunter events.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

I want the horse farm country and the community to be an international destination, so we can share the charm of the area with visitors far and wide.

Raymond Di Maria

Are you from Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

I moved to Ocala five years ago after having a state-of-the-art, competition, sport horse farm in New England for many years. What brought me here was that it’s a great place to retire to and to own a top-notch horse farm if you’re going to be in the horse industry.

What is your equine background?

I was an international network television producer and director since the 1970s, formerly with both ABC Sports and NBC Sports. At both networks, I covered the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races for several years. I have also been a Western Pleasure rider and member of the American Quarter Horse Association for many years. Upon retiring from network television in the late 1980s, I designed and built competition horse farm training facilities.

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

I have co-owned horse farms for the better part of two decades  as professional/commercial endeavors.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I still trail ride, but don’t compete. But I participate in all other areas of the horse farm industry, as well as consult with many of the professional horse show events, organizers, sanctioning bodies, sponsors and global television network production groups.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

Industry growth, business opportunities, preservation and education for the next generation to get involved with a great industry.

Ellie Trueman

Are you from Ocala/Marion County? If not, what brought you here and how long have you lived here?

I grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, lived in the Boston area for 15 years and the Washington, D.C.-Maryland area for 25 years. I moved to Ocala in early 2018, drawn here by the weather, the horse-centric atmosphere and the beautiful environment.

What is your equine background?

I have owned horses for 40 years and showed hunters for several years. I was the CEO of Trueman Communications Group, a strategic planning and marketing company, for 22 years. Our client list included numerous equestrian companies such as Ariat, Dover Saddlery, Hermès, State Line Tack, Nutramax Laboratories, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Troxel and the British Equestrian Trade Association. I’m now the CEO of Certified Shade Technologies, a manufacturer of the product Kool Kurtains for the agricultural market.

How long have you owned a farm? Is it a recreational or commercial endeavor?

I have owned a farm for personal use since 1987.

Do you compete/participate in an equine discipline?

I used to compete in adult hunters, but I’m not competing at this time.

What tops your wish list for Ocala/Marion County’s horse farms?

Ocala is clearly a mecca for horses of all breeds and disciplines. The diversity of equine activities in Ocala is extraordinary. The OHA was founded on the principle that in unity there is strength. Collectively, the OHA will work to promote the industry and its members while simultaneously sharing the magic of the horse with the entire community.

Posted in Ocala Style FeaturesTagged

Share this post

Leave a Comment!

What's New at Ocala Style

Help Honor Vietnam Veterans at Memorial Service...

The VFW Veterans Village in Ft. McCoy will be honoring...

A Beautiful Night For An (Art) Walk

Every First Friday Art Walk is unique, with different artists,...

Getting Artsy in Ocala

Organizing and hosting an event such as the Ocala Arts...

The Dark Night

“A journey of taste, touch, sounds and awareness.” That’s how...

Class Acts – November 2019

School news from Marion County Public Schools More Reading with...

Holiday Dressing

Sarah is a study in effortless elegance. She likes to...