Ocala, Florida   1 comment

Day 4-5

Ocala is a beautiful area, home of 12,000 horse farms! Who would have thought. Ocala Carriage & Tours provided us with a horse drawn wagon ride and lunch. Our “team” driver, Kim, was also our step on guide on our bus tour of Ocala. What a wealth of information and very entertaining. She was actually from Philadelphia and moved to Ocala at age 14 with her family to continue their horse business. She pointed out all of the big “millions of dollars” horse farms, gave us a lot of the “local tidbits” about the goings on of the divorces and sales of the farms. There are only a few areas in the world that are big horse country, Ocala, Kentucky, England and France. The abundance of limestone in the soil, which give the horses the nutrients they need to build strong bones (like calcium does for us), is the reason these areas are used to raise horses. Ocala has the largest population of horses per capita than any other place.

The last horse to win the Triple Crown, Affirmed, in 1978 was from Ocala. In order to win the Triple Crown, a 3 year old horse has to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont all in the same year. These races are just a few weeks apart and the horses have to be transported from Kentucky to Maryland to New York to compete against other horses who may not have run in a previous race, and beat them all. They would have to truly be a fast horse. Below are three 1 year olds who were romping in their pasture.

Kim explained how horses gain and lose value in breeding. It was interesting to see the breeder’s auction area right across the street from the Ocala Airport. This makes it convenient for someone to buy horses and fly out.

The team of horses, “Duke and Doc,” (pictured below) pulled our wagon. They were flown to Puerto Rico and used in the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Our driver says sometimes they tend to act like Divas.

One of the farms we passed had a mishap the night before. Someone crashed into their stone entrance wall and the big stones were scattered all over the ground. Pictured below is our team of horses, who were looking to the right at the damage. Kim explained that horses notice when things are “amuck” and it makes them nervous if anything is changed on their routine route. It was kind of comical to watch them slow up and nervously looking toward the damage, making sure nothing was going to jump out at them. Of course, I don’t think the horses thought it was comical.

One of the farms we passed is owned by someone who started a small pet food company, which later became PetSmart.

The house is in a U shape, has an indoor swimming pool, which converts into a basketball court with the push of a button.

John Travolta as a “local” regularly seen shopping at Kohl’s and Walmart. He is a night person, so his sightings are usually late at night, like Black Friday. He picked Ocala to settle in because it has the largest privately owned airport and he is able to land his plane without complaints. The property was owned by the Vanderbilt’s, who built the airstrip, but was eventually sold and is now a development. Pictured below is what we could see of the development (which was not much). The white wall to the right in the background is the sound barrier for the airport. I understand Travolta can hop out of his plane and in a few steps is in his house.

While driving thru downtown Ocala, we saw the painted horses, which are part of an artist contest. These horses are auctioned off for charity. The “jeweled” horse was a little different, decorated in jewels and watches.

The afternoon was spent at Silver Springs where we rode the glass-bottom boat and saw the underground springs (below left) and a cedarwood tree laying next to an boat artifact which they believe belong to the Spanish settlers.

took the river cruise where we saw alligators in the wild (below left) and turtles sun bathing (below right)

and checked out their alligators.

Have you ever seen an albino alligator?

True albino alligators are genetically inferior to normal alligators. They have poor eyesight and skin that is easily burned from the UV rays of the sun. They are similar to normal alligators in temperament, appetite, temperature tolerance, and overall metabolism. Legend has it that white alligators are thought to bring good luck to those who gaze upon them, hence Native American Indians hold them in high regard.

They feed on any type of animal, such as fish, birds, small mammals and snakes. If they prey is too big to eat whole, it can tear off chunks of meat by rolling until a piece breaks free. Our boat guide said if you ever watched that, it’s nasty.

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One response to “Ocala, Florida

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  1. That was a great day. Love your pictures. Some of them look familiar but many are much better than what we got.

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