Boy did we ever do it. Bobby and I definitely covered a wide range of everything the area has to offer during our long weekend. Originally the recap was gonna be split up into multiple posts with a lot more detail but this week has gotten completely insane and then we got home a day later because of airplane issues so my whole life is a bit backed up at the moment, thus… we’re gonna shove pretty much all of it into one post. Buckle up.
We flew into Gainesville on Monday, arriving mid-afternoon. We grabbed our rental car and immediately headed over to say hi to Presto at Ocala Jockey Club. Everyone was still over at the Horse Park for the show but it was very easy to tell which stall he was in – he had his head over the top of his stall (which he can barely do on his tiptoes, because the stalls are not meant for them to get their heads over) so you could see his goofy white nose from a mile away. We gave him cookies, got him out to say hi, and hung out for a few minutes. Bobby hasn’t seen Presto in a while, and he was a lot smaller back then. Not so much anymore.
He definitely looks like he’s filling out a little bit, and he’s nice and dark and shiny again with his summer coat. Florida seemed to agree with him.
After we left Presto we headed to WEC – had to see what all the fuss was about, of course. And yeah… I get it. It’s pretty freakin nice.
The view at the grand outdoor is impressive, and then as you keep walking further in the sheer size of the whole facility is something else. Tons of barns, tons of rings, restaurants, tack shops, the hotel… it’s definitely covering all the bases. Once it’s totally finished it’s gonna be hard to beat. We poked around some of the empty barns to take a closer look at the stabling and it’s top notch. The only complaint I could come up with was that it would have been cooler if the pavers around the barn and from the barns to the arenas had been rubber instead of cement, but… that’s being super super picky. The stalls are big, airy, each with their own fan, stall mattress, lots of washracks everywhere with hot and cold water, tons of restrooms, etc. I did a little video tour so you can see what the barns look like.
By the time we got there it was getting late and there were only a couple vendors still open but we did poke around the shops we could, and then grabbed some dinner and headed over to catch some of the Grand Prix Freestyle at the dressage show. Originally the class was supposed to be in the grand outdoor arena but got moved inside due to weather… kind of a bummer because a freestyle would have been really fun to watch in that stadium!
The next day it was suuuuper rainy (why you gotta do that to us, Ocala?) and the entire goal of the day was getting more video of Presto, so… that was super timing. We did locate and load up on some OCP’s before we headed out
which Presto was pretty excited about. The forecast called for rain basically all day, so we tried to just time it to where it at least wasn’t lightning or it wasn’t pouring SUPER hard. Megan rode Presto and I got video, so mission accomplished even if all of us ended up completely soaked.
Naturally, not long after that it cleared up and stopped raining. These weather people, I swear. 90% chance of thunderstorms all afternoon ends up just being mostly cloudy… sure. Thanks.
I’m not complaining too much though, because our afternoon objective was tack shops. Bobby wanted some stuff for his new horse, so we had plans to hit pretty much every place we could find. We headed back to WEC so we could go to all the places that had already been closed the evening before, and we found plenty of trouble.
The Romatelli store was extraordinarily dangerous for me, but I did escape unscathed. Mostly because the navy boots I liked so much weren’t in my size. Thank goodness for small miracles. I did pick up a few little things at other shops though… a new pinney holder, some soap, a couple WEC shirts, and some peanut butter fudge. I got the full WEC experience.
Then we headed over to Tack Shack, which was just as overstimulating to me this time as it was last time I was there. Too many things I want to touch all at once, my brain shorts out. My main goal for Tack Shack was actually getting my hands and eyes on an Ikonic saddle… I’ve been really interested in this brand for Presto because they have interchangeable gullets and wool flocking, and Ikonic is a Belgian company so I was hoping they’d have the kind of leather I’m used to from my French brands. They didn’t have the monoflap jump saddle I really want, but I could at least see and touch the other jump saddles and the dressage saddle (and I sat in the dressage saddle too). They were nice. Reminded me a lot of CWD. They’re all under 4k too, so the leather plus the price plus the adjustability factor makes it a SUPER interesting brand to me. The only bummer is that it’s just about freaking impossible to find one to take on trial. That’s… problematic.
While a new saddle definitely wasn’t in the budget for the day, I did grab a new pair of gloves (RSL Rider’s Touch – I hadn’t seen that brand before but they were nice and thin and super comfy so I figured I’d give them a try), a couple pairs of glittery boot socks, and a Fair Play show shirt with lace sleeves and sparkly buttons that was very reasonably priced. Really I was hoping to pick up a couple new sunshirts but apparently every brand now thinks that hideous patterns are what we want and I legit couldn’t find a single shirt I liked. Ok that’s a lie, I really liked the Dada Sport ones but the only color they had in my size was baby pink and that’s a no for me. I swear I looked at sunshirts at every single shop we went in the whole weekend (which was like… 10+ by the time all was said and done?) and didn’t find a single one. I tried.
After we were done shopping we met Megan for dinner and talked about a plan for Presto before wrapping things up and heading back to the hotel for the night.
The next day we got up and hit a couple more tack shops, including the consignment shop. I tried really hard to find something in there to buy but either it just wasn’t quite right or I didn’t think the price was good enough. The other thing I wanted aside from sunshirts was a leather monoflap jump girth for Henry, and they actually had a couple I really liked (Forestier and Voltaire) but they were too expensive for their condition, IMO. We did have a lot of fun wandering through all the rooms looking at everything though!
After that we headed to downtown Ocala for lunch, walking around the square to see the painted horses of course
then we headed out to my friend AJ’s place to see her horses. She has a thoroughbred stallion that I had yet to see in person, Saketini, and lots of foals to pet. My kind of activity! I was really impressed with Saketini, he’s a big very correct horse with lots of bone, athleticism, and a super temperament – nice blood option for sporthorse breeders, for sure.
Last year someone with a Mighty Magic mare contacted me to ask if I knew of any good TB stallions that might work for her and I suggested Saketini, and wouldn’t you know it – guess who was at the farm? The resulting filly from that cross!
She was the one horse I saw all weekend that I was tempted to steal. SO cute, definitely has a Mighty Magic look to her but more elegance than the mare and lovely movement. Excellent cross, for sure. We got to see some other Saketini offspring too, from foal to 3 years old, as well as their race-bred foals from this year. I was in heaven.
She also took us over to a farm down to street to see a couple of their stallions that she thought were interesting – in particular Long on Value and Gunnevera. Both definitely super handsome, I’d keep an eye out for their offspring for sure. It was fun to see Gunnevera since he was such a successful racehorse, and boy did he look every inch an athlete. That horse is super well put together, still on clean legs even after the career he had, and has a ton of presence and swagger. I’m not usually drawn to anything with Storm Cat, or chestnuts, but that was a super nice horse.
We got to see some of their other stallions too: Bucchero, Breaking Lucky, Handsome Mike, Sweetontheladies, and another couple bay ones that I forget which was which. Kid in a candy store, I got over-excited again.
After that we drove around scoping out some horse properties for a friend, which… Ocala is literally horse farm after horse farm after horse farm and a lot of them are for sale, so that’s also a bit mind-boggling too. Of course, most of them are also mega expensive now with WEC there. We were able to tour one of the ones on the list and get lots of video/eyeballs on it to send back and discuss with my friend, so it was a fruitful adventure.
We rounded out the day with some fish and chips at Horse and Hound, and honestly it was one of those days where you started out with a loose idea of plans but nothing really firmed up, yet it ended up being just the best day ever. Most fun day of the trip for sure, and we got to see and do a little of everything. Even Bobby was happy, despite having to spend a couple hours enduring the chatter of breeding nerds (he liked petting the babies, it worked out).
We headed back to Gainesville the next morning, hit one more tack shop, had lunch, and went to the airport… only to end up sitting there for hours and hours and hours. Turns out our plane had damage to the fuselage and they had to figure out whether or not they could repair it. By the time they even got the crew out there, we’d missed every possible connecting flight from Atlanta back to Austin, so we just ended up rebooking everything for the next morning instead. We made an evening of Gainesville (thanks for the nice hotel, Delta!) and were up bright and early for the first flight out. We definitely didn’t have good seats heading back since we were at the “beggars can’t be choosers” stage, and that Atlanta to Austin leg got a little rough especially at the back of the plane. Crossing through that big cold front and then coming out the other side to super gusty winds made for a lot of green-faced people on that plane, myself included. I took hours for me to stop feeling motion sick. But hey, we made it, only a day late, and it was a fun trip even if getting home was an ordeal.
Now I have a lot of work to catch up on though, as well as some other stuff going on, so… it might take me a while to get myself caught back up. More to come about Presto at some point!