Jumping Show at Florida Horse Park a Win-Win
By Shaneen Kohler

OCALA, Fla., (April 13, 2006) —

With 152 horses and class sizes numbering in the 60s, the Ocala Jumping Classic did not slip through unnoticed by the show jumping industry. Though it was initiated less than a month before being held, riders jumped at the chance to be able to compete at the Florida Horse Park. They also jumped at the chance to win some of the $100,000 in prize money being offered at the show, including the $40,000 Ocala Jumping Classic Grand Prix.

Henrik Gundersen, the winner of the $40,000 Ocala Jumping Classic Grand Prix, has ridden 27 grand prix level horses and brought up and educated 25 of those 27. Darvin Garbo was his grand prix ride at the Ocala Jumping Classic.
Photos by Shaneen Kohler

Henrik Gundersen, 36, of Denmark took home the $12,000 winner's check in the grand finale on Sunday after two clean and fast rounds with Darvin Garbo. Not only was this the first time the horse park had hosted an all-jumper show and a $40,000 grand prix, it was the first time Gunderson's 10-year-old Danish warmblood had won at that level. "Darvin Garbo has been continuously jumping well. He has done five Grand Prix in a row and jumped clean in all of the main rounds, only to miss out on the blue because of time faults or a rail down," said Gundersen. "His success makes me happy considering he is only 10 years of age."

Darvin Garbo is the only horse Gundersen decided to keep when he and his family moved to Florida from Denmark in 2004. "We needed finances to start our business once moving over here. I kept this one horse, which I actually leased out for one year to a junior rider in Denmark, Emily Thorut," said Gundersen. Now that the business, www.HorseGym.com, is becoming more stable, Gundersen is starting to become more active in the show ring. "Riding is what I do best and am looking forward to competing more."

He decided to make the trip up to Ocala from Wellington after running into the Hayes family at a show. The Hayes family organizes the Collingwood Horse Show in Ontario, Canada and they were the ones to initiate the jumper show at the horse park. "They do a great job with the shows," said Gundersen, who went to Canada last year to show in Collingwood. Plus, "I am always looking to support people who are trying something new in the sport. It is great when someone goes ahead and risks their neck to build up something."

Riders' Photos May Go International
In addition to riders from all over the world, spectators at the Ocala Jumping Classic hailed from faraway places, as well. With rider citizenships from Denmark, England, Columbia and Canada, it should not have been any surprise to see a photographer at the show from the United Kingdom. David Waters, who owns www.HorsePix.co.uk along with his wife Sally, was at the Ocala Jumping Classic to take pictures to offer to publications in England. "There are three equestrian photo libraries in the United Kingdom and we are one of them," said David. "We supply photos for books, magazines, calendars and other publications."

Derek Petersen of Archer, Fla. looks like he is in heaven as he clears a jump aboard his mount, Heaven Bound, at the Ocala Jumper Classic
Photos by Shaneen Kohler

One of the latest books to use their photos, "100 Ways to Improve Your Horse's Schooling," used some photos they took of Charlotte Trentleman, vice president of STRIDE (Striving Toward Rider Improvement and Dressage Education), based in Ocala.

David said he and Sally have been coming to Ocala in the winter for eight years, as well as spending time in other parts of America. "We visit various farms and stay with friends, such as Ray and Judy Diehl of Masterpiece Morgans," said Sally, which is how they heard about the Ocala Jumping Classic. They opted to come to the show because they needed to increase the number of American horse photos in their photo library. "Almost all books have a United Kingdom and United States version, requiring different photos for each," explained Sally.

Everybody Wins
Riders, sponsors and vendors were feeling smug about their choice to be part of the events at the Florida Horse Park. Sponsors relaxed under the VIP tent and watched all the action up-close while congregated around tables packed with influential area business leaders and world-class competitors. Businesses set out their wares in Vendor Village and encouraged people to visit by handing out free DVDs, magazines, information packets and candy. Riders patted their own backs for deciding to compete in a debut event where some of the classes only had 11 riders, almost ensuring them a check. With an entry fee of $125-$400 per class, and prize money ranging from $12,000 to $125 for spots 1-10, they were thankful the organizers only had a month to spread the word about the show.

But, perhaps most thankful of all for the increased activity at the Florida Horse Park are the area businesses.

Tom Architetto, the owner Ocala Ranch RV Park, said he has noticed an increase in his business since the park had its debut event in November. "We have guests stay with us that are here specifically for horse park events," said Architetto, whose 171 full hook-up RV sites start at $20 a night. "We are expecting more and more business, too. I am very enthusiastic and will do whatever I can to help." Architetto sees the horse park as "a tremendous plus for the community. I am very pleased and intend to continue my sponsorship of the Florida Horse Park for a very long time."

Robin Swinderman of Ocala and her Westphalian Lamira keep cool while waiting their turn at the Ocala Jumping Classic. Lamira was wearing a new bridle, was competing for the first time at 1.35 meters and had a new rider
Photos by Shaneen Kohler

What Do You Think?
"I am really enjoying it (Ocala Jumper Classic). The competition is not easy. There are a lot of riders in the classes. For its first time, it is a really nice show." Louise Whitaker, Yorkshire, England

"It is nice to have a competition here while we're still in the area, plus the staff is friendly and they are trying really hard. Thank you to all the sponsors for doing this and making it possible." Andrea King, Millstream, Inc., Ocala and Aiken, S.C.

"I love the horse show and it is a great spot. Plus, they are trying really hard to keep the ring nice." Mary Beth McGee, Pembroke, Mass.

"It has been fabulous. The footing was wonderful and they have the top course designer in the world." Jeff Brandmaier, Anthony, FL

"I think the Florida Horse Park is just going to get bigger and bigger. It was so nice to be able to compete in a new place and Palacios is a top course designer. It is nice they were able to get someone like him. The show is so flavorful. How often do you get to see so many things going on at once?" Kim Burnette-Mitchell, Ocala and Tennessee

For details on the Florida Horse Park, visit www.flhorsepark.com or call (352) 307-6699.

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