World Equestrian Center Ocala Issues Assurances of USEF National, FEI International Dressage Shows

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With seating for 8,000 spectators, one of two Grand competition arenas at the newly built World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

April 27, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The World Equestrian Center has given assurances that national and international dressage competitions sanctioned by the U.S. and International federations will continue to be staged at Ocala, Florida even though all hunter/jumper events will be approved solely by the National Snaffle Bit Association this year.

Roby Roberts, chief executive of the massive show grounds built in Ocala and Wilmington, Ohio by his family, told dressage-news.com he wanted no changes to the schedule of dressage competitions that in this inaugural year of WEC Ocala includes three CDIs sanctioned by the International Equestrian Federation.

The organization staged a CDI3* in April and has World Cup qualifiers scheduled for Oct. 21-24 and Dec. 9-12. Three national only dressage competitions were held during the winter. Each of the CDIs also accompanied by a national show.

Questions were raised about dressage after the WEC organization announced that the NSBA will be the exclusive sanctioning body for hunter-jumper shows for the rest of 2021 after what it said was a successful Winter Spectacular circuit to kick off events in the first year of operation.

“We could not get the certainty from the USEF that we wanted and is essential for us to be able to operate,” Roby told dressage-news.com. “We operate our businesses for the long-term–planning ahead for five years, 10 years…”

The Roberts family operates a fleet of 14,000 trucks across North America as well as other substantial businesses, such as resorts, that require large investments and long-term planning.

The family has invested many hundreds of millions of dollars in creating the Ocala facility that may be the finest in the world. Although built as an equestrian center, other events have also been booked; two auto shows, including an East Coast version of the prestigious Pebble Beach (California) Concours d’Elegance.

“As a competition organizer we have experienced incredible support from the NSBA and their executives,” he said. “For our exhibitors, in addition to being an affordable choice, the NSBA offers many benefits including transparency, safe and clean sport and amazing opportunities for junior, amateur and professional riders.”

He pointed out, though, the decision on hunter/jumper shows applied only to this competition year so as not to close out possible future arrangements with the USEF.

The Ocala venue includes more than 2,000 permanent horse stalls in concrete climate-controlled buildings and four indoor arenas also climate-controlled, both with more to come. There are two outdoor Grand Prix rings with stadium seating and another 17 open air outdoor competition arenas.

A five-star hotel with more hotels to come, 278 recreational vehicle spaces with full hookups, a permanent veterinary center, a gasoline filling station, 11 restaurants with a bakery to make their own hot dog buns among other treats that are real restaurants with food and service that is not your typical horse show fare, horse feed store and a grocery. Six electric generating plants keep the lights and air handling equipment on in lightning-prone Florida.

And a chapel with a full-time chaplain that Canadian FEI 4* judge Lee Tubman and Pan American Games gold medalist Sarah Lockman of the U.S. will be married in December.

The chapel at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com