The philosophy of “love
what you do and you never have to work a day in your
life” fits for Mary Garland, the owner of Ocala
Carriage and Tours based in Ocala, Florida. Mary
has a passion for horses that started when she was
six years old on her grandfather’s ranch. Originally,
she came to Florida with no intention of getting
into the horse business. She moved to Fort Lauderdale,
where she had a sales career but as fate had it,
someone mentioned the city of Ocala and how it’s
known as the horse capital of the world. This sparked
Mary’s interest and she, subsequently, visited
Ocala. It didn’t take long for her to realize
that she was meant to live there. Soon, she sold
everything and moved to Ocala to start her business.
In 1996, Mary turned
her passion into a career and started running horse
drawn carriage tours through
the beautiful countryside of Ocala. Today, her tour
will take you on a Clydesdale’s drawn carriage
or trolley wagon, depending on the group. Mary’s
passion is obvious when she talks about the area. She
notes that Ocala is the "Horse Capital of the
World." Horses are big business in Marion County.
Between 45 and 50 different breeds are represented
in the area. Nearly 29,000 residents are employed in
the county's Thoroughbred industry alone.
The facts are that
in 1999 the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its
seal of approval on promotions using that label.
In 1997, the USDA's Census of Agriculture reported
that Marion County led all U.S. counties in total
number of horses and ponies in residence, cut-off
the five-year census. Furthermore, the county ranked
third nationally (behind two counties in Kentucky)
in total value of horses sold.
More than three-quarters
of Florida's 600 Thoroughbred breeding and training
facilities are located in the
Ocala area. The county is one of only four major
Thoroughbred centers in the world, and is equal to
Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France.
finish first in 20 percent of the foremost stakes
races in the U.S. and are counted
among Triple Crown, Breeders' Cup, Belmont Stakes,
Preakness and Kentucky Derby winners. The Thoroughbred
industry's economic impact on the state is considered
to be in excess of $1 billion dollars annually, and
the exciting horse sales at the Ocala Breeder's Sales
Complex run into the millions.
More than 200 farms
and training centers are devoted to breeding, training
and showing other breeds such
as the Paso Fino, Missouri Foxtrotter, Arabian, Morgan,
miniature horse, quarter horse, hunter/jumper, and
the gentle giants, draft horses. A newly registered
breed, the Gypsy Vanner, makes its home in Marion
County. Champions from all breeds are available for
purposes, and bring back top place prizes from national
and international horse shows.
These are some impressive
facts, and they just keep going on and on. Marion
County's own Silver Charm
won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes
Another Marion County raised and trained horse,
Real Quiet, also won the first two thirds of the
Crown in 1998. The last Triple Crown winner "Affirmed",
in 1978, was born in Marion County at Harbor View Farm.
Mary’s carriage tour will give you an opportunity
to view and possibly interact with these different
breeds of horses. The hour-long tour will give you
plenty of opportunity to take pictures of your favorite
breeds of horses in their natural environment.
Reservations are a
must for the trips with Ocala Carriage & Tours;
so make sure to call early. There are carriage rides
for special events like weddings, birthdays, grand
openings, and more.
Rates are $95.00 for
4 Adults and a couple of small children. This number
usually fills one carriage.
For larger groups of 10 or more people, the rate
per person. Ocala Carriage & Tours is open 7
days a week.
Carriage & Tours
Places to stay:
Ramada Inn and Conference Center
Other Area Attractions:
New England Shire Centre
This is the largest Shire farm in the world.
Austin Carriage Museum
Great horse drawn carriage museum
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