By Shaneen Kohler

OCALA, Fla. (March 28, 2006) —

The Florida Horse Park will be having a month of firsts come April: It will be the first time an internationally-recognized combined driving event will be held on the grounds, the first time a show jumping competition will be held, the first time an internationally-recognized two-star eventing competition will take place there and the first time polo tournaments will be held. Competitors from at least five countries will be at these events, two of which are sanctioned by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Both the CAI-B Sunshine State Combined Driving Event and the $100,000 Ocala Jumping Classic will begin the month's activities, April 7-9. The driving event is a qualifying event for the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany this summer and will test the skills of such renowned drivers as Chester Weber, Meghan Benge, Keady Cadwell and Miranda Cadwell. At CAI-A Live Oak Driving Event in Ocala, March 16-19, Weber earned the National Four-In-Hand Combined Driving Championship for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Johnson in reserve and Fairclough in third.

The Sunshine State CDE sponsored by GreenSouth Equipment "will be the first event of its kind in Ocala," said Weber, explaining that it will be just as much about testing the skills of the exhibitors as it is about providing entertainment for the spectators. In addition to the driving, there will be Children's Home Society's Dozer Days, an antique tractor show, and a show jumping competition.

The $100,000 Ocala Jumping Classic will feature five divisions and a $40,000 Grand Prix on Sunday. Jay Hayes, a two-time Olympian from Canada, is organizing the event in conjunction with the Florida Horse Park staff. "I think that the horse sport in general and the jumping in particular has grown exponentially in the last few years and will continue to do so," said Hayes. In light of the state-of-the-art footing at the Florida Horse Park and its staff and location, "We thought we better get in on the ground floor at the Florida Horse Park," remarked Hayes about the decision to hold a show jumping event at the park. Plans to hold the show were finalized March 6 and the competitor list has already grown enough to warrant three days of competition, said Show Manager Ainsley Hayes.

Following driving and show jumping competition on Saturday, April 8, polo players will take to the fields. The all-weather arena, with the help of Lord Lyall of The Villages Polo Club, will be filled with players from Barbados, Mexico and the United States playing under the lights. Four teams will compete in the First Annual Founders' Cup during "Polo at the Park." For $25, enjoy the games, dinner and a wine/beer bar, or for $10 see the action in the general admission area.

Four-goal polo player Brad Limehouse, who is the resident polo instructor at the Florida Horse Park, compares the game to "hockey on horseback" and said spectators "are in for an exciting treat."


The Festival of the Horse presented by the Star Banner will take place April 20-23. It will consist of the CCI**/CCI* Florida International 3-Day Event, Jack Russell races, an antique car show, arena polo on April 22, a Vendor Village and breed demonstrations. The polo tournament will feature a "Celebrity Chukker," where local well-known names will try their hand at polo. "To grow a sport, it is always fun to take folks involved in other disciplines and have them give polo a try," said Lyall.

Capt. Mark Phillips will be designing the course for the two-star three-day event. The chef d'equipe for the U.S. Eventing Team, an Olympian and a well-known course designer, Capt. Phillips praised the staff at the horse park and feels the park "will become a very important part of the competition and training program in the winter time."

For details on any of the events, call (352) 307-6699 or visit www.flhorsepark.com

April 7-9:
Sunshine State Combined Driving Event presented by GreenSouth Equipment, a John Deere company — Contact: Susan Gilliland, s_gilliland@msn.com
$100,000 Ocala Jumping Classic — $40,000 Grand Prix. Contact: Ainsley Hayes, ainsley.hayes@direcway.com

April 8:
Polo at the Park, First Annual Founders' Cup, Florida Horse Park, Ocala, 6 p.m. $10 general admission. $25 VIP admission with dinner catered by Bella Luna and wine and beer. Polo players from Mexico, Barbados and United States. Contact: Margaret Rowell, www.flhorsepark.com, (352) 307-6699

April 20-23:
Festival of the Horse presented by the Star Banner, aka "Florida International 3-Day Event" — Contact: Shelley Lambert, horsetrialsinc@aol.com

April 22:
Polo at the Park, Celebrity Polo, Florida Horse Park, Ocala, 6 p.m. $10 general admission. $25 VIP admission with catered dinner, wine and beer. Live and silent auction. Presentation of Horse Fever horse, Copper Charm, to Florida Horse Park by Laurie Jones. Contact: Margaret Rowell, www.flhorsepark.com, (352) 307-6699

For details on any of the events, call (352) 307-6699 or visit www.flhorsepark.com



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