Horse Farms Forever Celebrates Four Years of Big Wins for the Farmland Preservation Area

Horse Farms Forever Celebrates Four Years of Big Wins for the Farmland Preservation Area

Spring Speaker Series at Vintage Farm

On Friday May 20, Horse Farms Forever® (HFF) held our annual Spring Speaker Series at the College of Central Florida’s Vintage Farm. It was an intimate event for our members, guests and other large farm owners to continue the conversation about conservation. We celebrated the organization’s fourth birthday and reflected on the growth and success under the leadership of outgoing Executive Director Sara Powell Fennessy.

“I am so incredibly proud to have played a role in growing Horse Farms Forever into all that it has become,” said Fennessy. “It is hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a short period of time and the mountains we have climbed along the way. My love, dedication, and passion for Horse Farms Forever will live on. I whole-heartedly believe in all that Horse Farms Forever is and will always be its biggest fan and advocate.”

We also welcomed Emily Holmes as our new Executive Director. Emily brings a wealth of experience as the former Events Coordinator and Director of Events at the Florida Horse Park. Holmes is also a freelance organizer of USEA/USEF Horse Trials and FEI Eventing competitions across the country and has her USEF “r” Eventing Technical Delegate’s license. Emily lives in Williston where she operates Five Hound Farm, a sport horse breeding and boarding operation on fifty acres.

“At 12 years old on a vacation from Maine with my aunt, I fell in love with Marion County – the incredible horse farms, the miles of fencing, the wide-open pastures, and the majestic oak trees,” said Holmes. “I welcome the opportunity to work with the dedicated Board of Directors, and everyone involved to preserve the character and culture of the Horse Capital of the World®.”

Importance of the Horse Farms Forever® Amendment

The recent conservation victory for the Farmland Preservation Area was highlighted by HFF Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires.

“We are also here tonight to celebrate a big win for the Farmland Preservation Area,” said Shires. “Horse Farms Forever has amended Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan with a Text Amendment to enhance the definition of Rural Character and add further protections to the Farmland Preservation Area by requiring all applications for Zoning Requests and Special Use Permits be consistent with the character of the Farmland Preservation Area.”

Sara Powell Fennessy, outgoing Executive Director, accepts flowers and a plaque as a thank you. Bernie Little, HFF President of the Board (R); Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies and Emily Holmes, HFF Executive Director (L).

Billy Van Pelt II, Director of Special Program Development and Senior Advisor, American Farmland Trust, Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies, Emily Holmes, HFF Executive Director, and Bernie Little, HFF President of the Board

 Nick de Meric, with his wife, Jacqui and daughter, Alexandra (L) and HFF Executive Director, Emily Holmes on the right.

Billy Van Pelt II, County Commissioner Michelle Stone, and Chester Weber.

photo Sean Dowie

Dawn Vigne, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm George Isaacs, and Chuck Vigne.

photo Sean Dowie

Jimmy and Hannah Goodwin and their son Wills.

photo Sean Dowie

Gorgeous decor courtesy of Lugano Diamonds.

photo Sean Dowie

Co Owner of Grandview Clydesdales, Karen Cobb (L) with Sara Powell Fennessy and Accounts Manager of Seminole Feeds, Charley Ragland (R).

photo Sean Dowie

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, County Commissioner Carl Zalak and his wife, Ann Zalak.

photo Sean Dowie

Hugh and Valerie Dailey, Owners of Showcase Properties, and Jason Reynolds, Executive Director of the Florida Horse Park.

photo Sean Dowie

Added sparkle.

photo Sean Dowie

Michael and Tasha Osbourne and Ann Zalak

photo Sean Dowie

County Commissioner Craig Curry and his wife, Carol.

photo Sean Dowie

Pauline and Gary Hartogh, with Suzanne Cantrell (R).

photo Sean Dowie

White diamond ring and bracelets by Lugano.

photo Sean Dowie

Private Landowners Hold The Key

Billy Van Pelt II, Director of Special Program Development and Senior Advisor at the American Farmland Trust, was our featured speaker for the evening. Van Pelt highlighted the importance of good planning through Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan, but he also emphasized the important role that private landowner’s play in conserving farms to help ensure the future of the equine industry.

Some of the reasons why landowners conserve their land include:

For Farmers & Ranchers

  • Fulfillment of personal conservation goals/peace of mind.
  • Provides capital farmers can reinvest in their operations.
  • Lower land values; creates opportunities for access and affordability.

For Communities

  • Slows the path of development and ensures land is permanently available for agriculture.
  • Protected farmland supports local economies.
  • Protects other important natural resources and maintains rural/agrarian character.

Set A Goal

Van Pelt suggested as a next step, that Marion County consider adopting a goal of conserved acreage in the Farmland Preservation Area. This will give planners a goal to work towards and will also help guide development to appropriate areas within the Urban Growth Boundary.

To close out the gathering, HFF Board Member Nick de Meric of de Meric Stables shared his heartfelt and inspiring tribute titled Reflections of an Ocala Horseman.

Our presenting sponsor, Lugano Diamonds, brought a distinctive glow to the event with a stunning display of diamonds and jewels. We thank them for their continued support of Horse Farms Forever.

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.


Conversations About Conservation Summit 2021

Conversations About Conservation Summit 2021

Photo by Russell Crowder.

Conversations About Conservation 2021 Summit Was A Tremendous Success.

Thanks to everyone who made the time, during Thanksgiving week, to attend the second annual Conservation Summit at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company on November 23rd.

Over 400 people attended the event in person and online and the event was supported by over 40 sponsors! Our diverse sponsors ranged from the equine industry to health care and to the construction and development industry. This tremendous level of support is a testament of how important this Conversation about Conservation is for the future of Marion County. The purpose of the Summit was to inspire a community wide Conversation about how to preserve the horse farms and agricultural lands that are fundamental to Marion County’s global brand as the Horse Capital of the World®.

We were so honored to have Dr. John C. Malone, CEO of Liberty Media, as our Keynote Speaker, who shared his passion about land conservation and sustainable forestry and cattle ranching practices. “I’ve always been a conservationist from a sustainability point of view,” he said.

Thank you to George Isaacs, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm, for the heartfelt introduction of Dr. Malone.

Thank you to Kevin T. Sheilley, President & CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (Ocala CEP) for your candid presentation about Marion County’s booming economy and how to balance growth with preserving open space and farms. You did a great job presenting the Quality of Life Survey results in an engaging manner. (P.S. We knew the answer to the question about protecting the Farmland Preservation Area before we asked the question.) https://ocalacep.com/the-cep/team/

Thank you also to Mark Casse, Canadian and National Hall of Fame Trainer, for presenting the Acorn Conservation Award to Charlotte Weber.

Thank you, most of all, to Charlotte Weber, for your careful stewardship of Live Oak Stud for over 50 years.

And Special Thanks to Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company for donating the sales arena for the Summit.

One of the comments on the feedback survey summarized the key points of the Summit: “Hearing from Kevin Sheilley about the economic impact of the horse industry and that the growth of the horse industry and protection of farmland can work together with other smart growth in the County. Thanks to Horse Farms Forever for bringing the right people together and remaining ever vigilant in protecting our local treasure – farmland. “

We hope you were inspired too and we thank you for all that you do!

We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!


George Isaacs, General Manager of Bridlewood Farm, introduced John Malone, telling us all the story of how the Malones came to own Ocala’s largest Thoroughbred farm, and how the farm has thrived under John and Leslie’s leadership.

Mark Casse presented his friend and colleague, Charlotte Weber, with the Acorn Conservation Award.

Casse also got in some face time with Magic, one of the Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

“Think of these beautiful, iconic horse pastures as our ocean; and the magnificent live oak trees as our coral reefs,” said HFF President, Bernie Little – reminding us all that we are stewards of an environmental gift here in Marion County that is woven tightly to our culture and identity.

“I came here, as many of you did, because it was rural. It was quiet. You could have a nice little place. Now? 10,000 houses going up on this corner, 20,000 on the next. It gives me great concern…help us preserve it,” said Charlotte Weber.

Acorn Conservation Award winner, Charlotte Weber, with HFF President, Bernie Little and Mark Casse.

The beautiful Acorn Award, sculpted in Bronze by Colorado artist, Bryce Pettit.

“The ideas of growth and conservation are not always in conflict,” said Guest speaker Kevin Sheilley, President and CEO of the Ocala Metro CEP. “We really can have it all.”

“Ocala, which has this great heritage in horses and Thoroughbred horses, it’s kind of a unique area when you think about areas that deserve preservation. There aren’t that many places on the planet that are great for raising and training horses. The best ones have deep limestone soils,” said  John Malone, Liberty Media Chairman and owner of Bridlewood Farm.

“It is no coincidence that many of the world’s best horses have ties to Ocala. Our mineral rich soils have produced some of the strongest, best equine athletes in the world,” said Sara Powell Fennessy, HFF Executive Director.

“Beauty alone will not protect our farms. But there are several win-win solutions to protect land – from the Comprehensive Plan to Conservation Easements,” said Busy Shires, HFF Director of Conservation Strategies.


Katie Reynolds Wentz, Regional Sales Manager, Triple Crown Feed and Bill Vander Brink, Co-Owner of Elite Equestrian Magazine.

Scout – miniature therapy horse extraordinaire!

HFF Founder, Pauline Hartogh

Guests arriving. Over 400 registered to attend.

Thanks to an amazing corps of volunteers, each guest was greeted with a program and directions on where to find an amazing catered lunch by Fresh Green Tomatoes Catering Company.

HFF’s Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires, with Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, Jorge Garcia-Bangochea with Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horse, Magic, and HFF’s Executive Director, Sara Fennessy.

HFF President Bernie Little and Dean Saunders

Guy Marwick, Executive Director of The Felburn Foundation, his wife Pat, daughter-in-law Elia and his son Matt Marwick.

HFF Volunteer Nancy DiMaggio discusses the FPA Map with a Guest.

Juliet W. Reid, Chester Weber, and Niki Popp Tripodi.

Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone, Assistant County Administrator Public Works & Growth Services, Tracy Straub, Growth Services Director, Mary Elizabeth Burgess, and Executive Director at Ocala/Marion County Visitors & Convention Bureau, Loretta Shaffer.

Advent Health Foundation’s Executive Director, Jenna Krager, shares a smile with Magic from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

HFF President Bernie Little with Horse Protection Association of Florida’s new Executive Director, Christine Massinger.


Jorge Garcia-Bengochea and Magic from Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses.

(L to R) Jim Henningsen, President of College of Central Florida, Christopher Knife College of Central Florida Foundation Executive Director, Joe Johnson, CEO of Advent Health Ocala and guest.

Sam Reid and Gary Hartogh, HFF Founder.

Matt Varney from Ocala Horse Properties with Juliet W. Reid.

Mary Phelps of Markel Equine Insurance and Horses Daily (R) along with Gina Capone of Ocala Florida News (L).

Jacqueline Taylor of Equus TV.

Lonny Powell, CEO of the FTBOA (R), with wife, Karen Powell (L) and daughter, HFF Executive Director, Sara Powell Fennessy (Center).

Staff & Board

HFF President, Bernie Little (R) with wife and HFF Founder, Mary Jane Hunt (L).

Board Vice President, Rob Desino (c), with Founders Jim Cannavino, Matt Varney and Elma Garcia Cannavino, and guest, Luann McElduff.

Executive Director, Sara Powell Fennessy.

Director of Communications, Michelle Grald.

Director of Conservation Strategies, Busy Shires.

Summit Articles and Videos


Guest Survey: "What Did You Enjoy Most?"

  • “Especially touching was the spontaneous standing ovation for Charlotte Weber, it was very wonderful to be part of that experience and see her family there with her. The information was fascinating regarding statistics and growth in Marion county. I was amazed to see such a large and diversified crowd in attendance and heard nothing but very positive comments about the entire event either directly or in passing. Excellent job to all!”
  • “My favorite part was the opening speaker (Sara Fennessy’s) ability to address the room. I liked Kevin Sheilley’s presentation and really liked the Acorn Award and thought it was so cool to see Mark Casse in person! He is a celebrity to my family. All of the staff did a great job conducting and participating in the event. A job well done HFF!”
  • “Kevin Sheilley was engaging and such a character. I learned a lot. “
  • “Hearing from the Kevin Sheilley about the economic impact of the horse industry and that the growth of the horse industry and protection of farmland can work together with other smart growth in the County. Thanks to Horse Farms Forever for bringing the right people together and remaining ever vigilant in protecting our local treasure- farmland. “
  • “John Malone is always calm, optimistic and inspiring. George Isaac’s introduction of JM was epic. Kevin Sheilley’s presentation was very informative. He expresses an understanding of the need for urban development as well as preservation. The proof, as they say, will be in the results. Tough job as you can’t please all the people all of the time! Everyone involved made it a great experience.”
  • “This was a well organized event. Thank you for all your hard work. It is certainly appreciated. Having lived in Marion County for about 25 years and watched its growth it is comforting to know that everyone is doing their best to preserve what we love best about it. Long live SLOWCALA.”

Guest Survey: "Ideas For Future Summits"

    • “Keep up the good work! Remind people you are a non-profit and how the operation is structured!”

    • “Testimonials from select farms & breed interests. Drill-down next year on next steps/call to action, updating of issues current & of import at the time.”

    • “What we need to do to assist with conserving our horse farms. “

    • “Transportation and how it relates to conservation. Proposed new Marion County Roads. 75 Interchange North of 27. World Equestrian Center”

    • “More about conservation easements, other alternatives to save the agricultural lands in Marion County”

    • “I would like to know more about any State level protection efforts, laws, programs that are intended to encourage conservation of lands. What can be done by Horse Farms Forever to strengthen those state level efforts, if any exist now? It is wonderful to rely on wealthy and sympathetic land owners but we ultimately need more than that to ensure significant conservation in and outside of Marion County. “

    • “I feel it’s helpful for the people who do not want urban sprawl to understand what plans need to be passed to be able to contain the growth. (i.e., infrastructure such as city water/sewer, etc.). That infrastructure is going to cost money and if it is easier for homes to be built without damaging the environment close together, the need to take over more land will be less.”

    • “Would like to know about volunteer opportunities.”

Thanks to Our Sponsors!

Starting With Our Presenting Sponsor,
Brook Ledge Horse Transportation!




Jacqueline B. Mars

Misty Lane Cattle Co.
Niall Brennan Farm Horse Farms Forever Ocala Marion County



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Florida Horse Park Logo

Marketing Partners:

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Always Watching

We work hard to keep you informed, and to represent our members' interests in preserving our horse farms, farmland and the unique character and culture of Marion County's 193,000 acre Farmland Preservation Area.

Join the herd. Every voice matters.

The Little Acorn That Started It All

The Little Acorn That Started It All

Photo by Russell Crowder

Sculptor Bryce Pettit Fashions A Timeless Award for Horse Farms Forever

When Horse Farms Forever Founder, Mary Jane Hunt, was seeking a one-of-a-kind award design for the Acorn Conservation Award, she sought the help of Adam Warner from Mountain Trails Gallery in her summer hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Warner connected Hunt with Durango, Colorado, wildlife bronze sculptor, Bryce Pettit. Both Warner and Pettit were moved by the mission of Horse Farms Forever, and happily accepted the project, graciously donating their services.

Mary Jane Hunt (center) with Mountain Trails Gallery owner, Adam Warner (left) and Wildlife Sculptor, Bryce Pettit (right) who is holding the clay form which would become the Acorn Award.

You may recognize Warner from another prominent bronze sculpture in Marion County – he worked with Utah artist, Mike Wilson, to create and install the very familiar “Cracker Cowboy” series of sculptures at the entrance to Brownwood in the Villages.


Bryce Pettit has been featured in a variety of galleries and exhibitions in his 20 years as a bronze sculptor. He has been chosen for several large public works including for the Tulsa International Airport, the Maritime Museum in Ludington Michigan, the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kawai, Hawaii as well a collection of libraries and schools.

The phrase “From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow,” aptly describes how we envision the conservation movement in Marion County. A few landowners are leading the way by putting their vision into action as they protect their land. The first of these that we have honored is Charlotte Weber of Live Oak Stud. We look forward to honoring more in the coming years. Each time, they become an example to other landowners who see the possibilities, and the movement grows. In the end, a magnificent tree has grown, with branches that spread throughout the County, and the Farmland Preservation Area is sheltered in its shade.

We thank Adam Warner and Bryce Pettit for embracing our vision and bringing it to life as an Award that will be treasured by all who receive it.

The artistic strength of a sculpture is in the simplicity of its composition. I try to pare each piece down to the minimum necessary to tell the story. When the composition is reduced to only the essentials, the intensity of the movement and impact of the form is pure and direct.

Bryce Pettit

Wildlife Sculptor, Durango, CO

An Acorn For Charlotte

Live Oak Stud horse farm owner Charlotte Weber (center) is presented with the Acorn Preservation Award by Horse Farms Forever President Bernie Little (left) and Canadian and National Horse Racing Hall of Fame Thoroughbred Trainer Mark E. Casse (right) at the Conservation Summit at Ocala Breeder’s Sales, Tuesday, November 23, 2021, in Ocala, Florida. Photo by Cyndi Chambers, Ocala Star Banner.

A small gallery of Bryce Pettit’s work. To see more, visit http://www.brycepettit.com/

Proactive Planning to Save Farmland

Proactive Planning to Save Farmland

Elma Garcia Cannavino

In Ocala, A Win-Win Is Possible

It’s a familiar and sad chain of events when farmland is lost- growth leads to unplanned development which leads to sprawl. Without intention, open spaces and beautiful places shrink away and the character of a community is changed beyond recognition. Matt Varney comes from a family of real estate developers, and he’s passionate about farmland preservation. Together with Rob and Chris Desino, they operate Ocala Horse Properties – representing the largest portfolio of horse properties in the world. Ocala Horse Properties has been a steadfast ally in forwarding our mission, right from the beginning. Varney and the Desinos are all Founding Members, and Ocala Horse Properties is a Corporate Founder and Gold Sponsor of this year’s Conservation Summit.

We had a conversation about conservation with Matt Varney.

Why is it important to have a Conservation Summit?

“We look into the faces of buyers who come to this area for the first time,” says Varney. They are in awe of the natural beauty and open space. This is one of the few places in the country where I can literally sell a farm that is worth more as a horse farm than as anything else. This area is unique. I want to know that when I’m long gone, there will still be beautiful open space, horse farms, and a community of likeminded people. Horse Farms Forever is looking out for that future.”

Why is now an important time for conversations about conservation?

“Most communities find out too late that shortsighted development has taken over. They then have to react,” warns Varney. “That is not the case here. When we had the Coastal Connector proposal three years ago, Horse Farms Forever formed and reacted very quickly to stop it. In 4 to 5 months, we organized a grassroots effort that can often take years. Now, we are in a position to be proactive, protecting the land before it is threatened.” Varney contends that Marion County is in a position of opportunity right now, and is poised for smart growth.

“Marion County can responsibly grow in a lot of different directions,” he says. “I’m from a family of developers and have seen the effects of shortsighted development. We are unbelievably fortunate to have the Farmland Preservation Area and Urban Growth Area here, and leadership that values them equally.”

Why are you looking forward to the Summit?

“We brought John Malone to Ocala. He was a customer of ours,” notes Varney. “He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. His passion for land and knowledge for conservation is at a completely different level – something we should all strive for. He is a role model.” It is clear that Varney shares our excitement at the opportunity to learn from an icon, but he also recognizes the pure fact that when people who care get together, good things happen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a large group of leaders and neighbors gathered together to learn and connect around the subject of farmland preservation,” concludes Varney.

So are we! Thank you, Ocala Horse Properties, for helping to make the Summit possible. See you at Ocala Breeder’s Sales on November 23!

Meet Some of our Gold Sponsors


Ocala Horse Properties

Selling horse farms is our one and only business — not a hobby or a part-time job. With the OHP Team, you hire the entire company of three agents, not just one agent! We are united with one mission & only one mission: to sell your property!

We have been the number 1 Ocala Farm Sales realtors for the past 13 years and counting. And, as leaders who set the pace for how to do business and serve our clients, it’s no surprise that others locally and across the nation seek to emulate us.

Lugano Diamonds

Located in The Equestrian Hotel at The World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida. This world-class facility is the largest equestrian complex in the United States and we are very proud to be a founding partner. Our newest salon can be found in the lobby of the hotel overlooking the VIP Terrace and Grand Prix arena.

JP Morgan Chase

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are integrated into the policies and principles that govern our business and reflect our commitment to sustainable growth.

Our approach to ESG management includes having robust governance systems, risk management and controls; striving to serve our customers exceptionally and transparently; investing in our employees and cultivating a diverse and inclusive work environment; working to strengthen the communities in which we live and work; and advancing sustainable solutions for our clients and within our operations.

Tri-Eagle Sales

Tri-Eagle Sales has been the leading beverage wholesaler in the North and North Central Florida area since 1996. Our 210 knowledgeable beverage professionals service over 2,000 retail customers in our 14-county territory from our two facilities in Tallahassee and Ocala. 

Niall Brennan Stables

Success is no accident was chosen as Niall Brennan’s motto because it embodies his philosophy of life. Sometimes people are lucky in the horse business but success generally comes from hard work, attention to detail, integrity, leaving nothing to chance, and striving to fine tune the quality services of our program. NBS is the leader or amongst the leaders in EVERY Category from Winner to Grade One Stakes Winner at the Two Year Old Sales from 2015 -2019.  


Naturally Healthy Ocala

Naturally Healthy Ocala

The great explorer and forest conservation advocate, John Muir, said

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Like Muir, we recognize the instinctive connection between beautiful landscapes and healthy healing.

We are honored to have AdventHealth Ocala as a Charter Member and Gold Sponsor of our Conservation Summit – happening in just a week on November 23. AdventHealth Marketing Manager, Natalie McComb, echoes the sentiments of John Muir as she explains why it is so important for Marion County to have conversations about conservation:

“As healthcare providers, we know that experiencing nature can be a powerful tool in the healing process. Our environment can also greatly impact our health and quality of life. AdventHealth Ocala is excited to support this year’s Horse Farms Forever Conservation Summit.”

Meet Some of our Gold Sponsors


AdventHealth Ocala


At AdventHealth Ocala, uncommon compassion meets unparalleled expertise to help you feel whole in more ways than one. Discover how we put innovation, expertise and research to work for your whole health.

HDG Hotels

With a reputation for success without compromise to integrity, HDG Hotels is looked to as an experienced voice in the hospitality industry for those looking to build, own, and operate hotels. As both a respected developer and preferred management company, HDG’s team employs its core values of teamwork, communication, innovation, leadership and resourcefulness consistently. HDG has an established reputation for living out its vision to “positively impact” and mission of “being brilliant in the basics of hospitality”, all while offering stakeholders exceptional industry experience and results.

de Meric Thoroughbred Stables

For nearly 40 years the de Merics have revolutionized the thoroughbred industry in Ocala/Marion County. 
For the de Merics, de Meric Thoroughbred Sales is a family affair. Their son Tristan and his wife Valerie are successful consigners and live here in Ocala with their children. Ali, their daughter, and her husband Brandon Rice, who also live locally, operate a successful training and breaking business.
Nick and Jaqui de Meric are very present in and committed to the equine community here in Ocala/Marion County and know the importance of preserving the character and culture that horses, horse farms, and the horse industry make unique to our area.

Golden Ocala & World Equestrian Center

Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club offers its own unique equestrian amenities and is adjacent to the future World Equestrian Center Ocala. The facility, modeled after the World Equestrian Center (WEC) in Wilmington, Ohio, features:

  • Four climate-controlled indoor arenas
  • Multiple Outdoor Riding Rings
  • Stable Facility for over 2,000 Horses

The World Equestrian Center calendar is your best resource for equestrian events. Experience the quality, class, and distinction of the World Equestrian Center!

The Service Companies

As a leading service provider to the hospitality, gaming, commercial, education, and entertainment industries, we have proven success in creating a healthier and safer environment, streamlining recruiting processes, providing staffing solutions, and eliminating the hassle of managing hard-to-staff shifts for our clients.


Ensuring Marion County’s Tomorrow

Ensuring Marion County’s Tomorrow

A Conversation about Conservation with Todd Rudnianyn of Neighborhood Storage

The Rudnianyns are landowners, philanthropists, and real estate developers here in Marion County. Todd Rudnianyn recently aligned his business, Neighborhood Storage, with Horse Farms Forever as a Charter Member and Gold Sponsor of our Conservation Summit, coming right up on November 23.

Rudnianyn is a Marion county native. He is fluent in English, Korean, and Spanish. We thank Neighborhood Storage for their support of our mission, and Todd Rudnianyn for being so kind to engage with us in a conversation about conservation:

Why is it important for Marion County to have conversations about conservation?

“Conservation is key to ensuring that there is a tomorrow for our community,” says Rudnianyn. “Marion County is growing – and that’s a good thing! – but having thoughtful, strategic, honest conversations about conservation will help us grow smarter, and without losing sight of one of the things that makes folks want to live here in the first place – our beautiful outdoors!”

What do we stand to gain through farmland preservation?

“Farmland preservation means more than just supporting local agriculture, maintaining our county’s rural beauty, and limiting urban sprawl; it also means protecting the very thing that makes us who we are! Our local farmland – fed by our famous aquifer, and among the most scenic in the country – has helped put Ocala and Marion County on the map, and future generations deserve to enjoy this incredible natural resource too,” he concludes.

What do we stand to lose if we don’t raise the subject now?

“If we don’t find the time to address the topic of conservation now, then a time will come – sooner than we think – when there will be no more time left,” warns Rudnianyn. “Marion County is growing now, people are moving here now, and so the time to start talking solutions is now. Too late is a terrible time to try to get it right.”

How would you describe Marion County’s unique identity?

“From natural springs and pristine forests, from sprawling farmland to vibrant downtown squares, from the largest equestrian complex in the United States to boutique restaurants, wineries, and arts venues, Marion County offers all of the amenities of a big city against a backdrop of natural splendor,” he accurately describes. “We have a lot to be proud of here, and a lot to protect.”

Meet Some of our Gold Sponsors


Neighborhood Storage

If you are looking for a storage unit in Ocala, Belleview, or anywhere else in Marion County, you’ve come to the right place!

We promise to provide each of our customers with quality storage space & friendly, caring storage consultants. Our goal is to provide you with helpful tips, maps, directions and contact information to each of our 25 storage facilities in the Ocala, Florida area. We strive to make your stay at Neighborhood Storage Center the most comfortable and convenient experience possible!

Cone Distributing

Cone Distributing is a beverage distributor presently operating in 22 counties in north central Florida, with offices in Ocala and Tallahassee.

Douglas P. Cone, Jr. founded the company in 1985 when he was only 31 years old. Mr. Cone and his team built the company on healthy and mutually profitable relationships by providing the right product, at the right time, in the right place.

Initially, the company’s territory was limited to only four rural counties and carried brands from just a few suppliers. Since the inception of the company, ownership and management have been very strategic and innovative in their approach to better serving the state of Florida.

Team Cone is committed to seeking the highest standards at every level, and our leadership team continuously looks for strategic growth opportunities in geographic territory and suppliers.

Great American Insurance Group

For nearly 150 years, Americans have trusted Great American to protect them. Their innovative insurance solutions and specialization serves niche marketplaces that they know well. This expertise gives them a successful foundation that spans generations.

Whether your client owns one pleasure horse or has a barn full of Kentucky Derby contenders, horses are an ongoing investment that deserve expert insurance coverage. With the wide variety of horse breeds and uses, it’s important to choose a carrier that understands the unique risks of every equine situation.


For over 40 years Pyranha, Inc has been innovating and providing pest control solutions for the residential and livestock industry. Pyranha not only offers ready-to-use and concentrated insecticide products as well as their misting systems, but they also offer a line of odor-management products ideal for homes, kennels, livestock areas and more.

The Equine Chronicle

The Equine Chronicle is sent out free of charge to every AQHA, APHA, ApHC, NSBA and NRHA judge. The Equine chronicle is also distributed FREE of charge at most AQHA, APHA and ApHC horse shows nationwide by over 150 distributors. And with a circulation of over 60,000 copies reaching that count, it’s no wonder The Equine Chronicle is…THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK!