What a great trip we had to show in Ocala, Florida. I traveled with three students, Shannon deWit, Kaela Harvey (with mom, Donna) and Kate Murphy (with dad, Steve) to Florida last weekend to lease horses and show for three days. I don’t think it could have gone any better. The horses were fantastic, the support was excellent (thanks to Mary Babick and her road manager, Julia Hogan) and the weather was perfect (mid-80’s each day).

Thursday, we caught a late flight to Orlando, where we rented two cars and made our way to the hotel in Ocala. On Friday morning, we drove to Mary Babick’s stable, a private, permanent barn on the edge of the HITS Ocala show grounds. Prior to our arrival, I had some in-depth discussions with Mary regarding the riders’ strengths and skill level, which helped Mary select the appropriate horse for each rider. Upon our arrival, Mary and Julia greeted us and showed us around briefly, then it was time to tack up the horses and see what we had. The horses were lovely. Kaela rode Rembrandt Z, an 8 year old Zangersheid gelding who’s regular job is doing the Young Jumper classes. Kate rode Van Guard, and 8 year old Dutch Warmblood who does both Equitation and Hunters and has done both the USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay Finals, and Shannon rode Papillone, a Hannoverian gelding who is mainly an Equitation mount (been to USEF Medal Finals) and also does the occasional hunter class. Wow – some nice horses. If I had room, they would have been packed up into my suitcase for the flight home!

I gave the riders a lesson in which they jumped around a little to “test drive” the horses and ensure they were the right match. They were lovely, so we put them away and then went to the office to check in and get back numbers.

Next came trying to find each ring. On Friday, there are a ton of schooling divisions and age-group equitation classes – all in different rings. There are 11 arenas at HITS Ocala, so it took a while to identify each, then get into each jumping order. The gate staff at each ring were extremely helpful and pleasant, so after that was checked off the to-do list, I knew it would be smooth sailing after that.

Kaela was the first to show in the 14-15 yo Equitation. She did a great job and placed in each of the jumping classes. Next, Kate and Shannon joined Kaela in a Schooling Hunter class, as a way to test the waters in a different ring and figure out their rides further. Kate then showed in 12-13 yo Equitation, she pinned in two of three jumping classes. Kaela and Kate also rode in the M&S Medal, putting in nice rounds. Shannon rounded out the day with the Pre-Adult Hunter, where she places as well. Off to a great start! We picked out classes for the next day and finished caring for the horses, and we were off to dinner and sleep for an early day again on Saturday.

HITS Show Grounds
HITS Show Grounds

Formulating the day's strategy
Formulating the day's strategy
Ocala Trip

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