Discover Florida: ‘The Sunshine State Stands Out’ When It Comes To Horses

by | 01.07.2020 | 10:38am

The following sponsored article is from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nicole “Nikki” Fried, Commissioner.

Florida is currently home to nearly every breed of horse. As far back as the 1500's, Spanish explorers brought a rare breed of horse to Florida's shores. The Florida Cracker Horse, as they became known, was a small, stocky breed used primarily for herding cattle. Its genetic heritage was similar to the Paso and the Mustang.  

Florida farmers nicknamed them “Crackers” because of the sound made by their cow whips cracking the air. The Cracker Horse became and still is a living legacy of America's ranching history, long before Western cowboys drove their cattle across the plains.

To this day, Florida has carried on its love affair with the horse. From ranching and rodeo to Thoroughbred racing in South Florida and Tampa, to world-class international equestrian events in Palm Beach and Ocala, Florida has it all.

At every level, breeders, owners, trainers, riders and suppliers are drawn to Florida's year-round moderate climate, mineral-rich water and soil, outstanding facilities, professional associations and strong support from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Economic Impact
The Florida horse industry generates an annual $6.8 billion economic impact on the gross domestic product of Florida. This includes industry suppliers and employees.

With a total employment impact of over 240,000 jobs, horse owners, service providers, employees, equine associations and equine tourism combine for an economic contribution of $11.7 billion dollar statewide. Florida's horse population stands at 387,078, including over 100,000 Thoroughbreds, numbers that make Florida the third largest horse state in the country.

The Ocala Breeders Sales (OBS) located in Ocala is Florida's premier Thoroughbred sales venue. OBS conducts year-round sales of 2-year olds, horses of racing age and selected sales of yearlings. Over $1 billion in Thoroughbred horse sales were recorded from 2010-2018.

Florida's Strong Agricultural Business Climate

Florida is the best state for business for many reasons. Here's why.

  • No personal state income tax.
  • No individual capital gains tax.
  • No tax on stallion seasons.
  • Horses are exempt from sales tax if purchased from their original owner.
  • Feed and animal health products, along with other specific items are also exempt from the state sales tax.
  • Florida's greenbelt exemption provides property tax breaks for Florida horse farms.
  • Certain farm equipment is also exempt from the state sales tax or receive special treatment.
  • Moderate climate allows for year-round farming, training, racing, and showing.
  • Florida ranks as a national leader in veterinary and equine research  Over 700,000 acres of land in Florida are used for horse-related purposes.
  • Limestone rich soil and spring-fed aquifers contribute to the growth of strong, healthy horses.

Marion County – “Horse Capital of the World”

Ocala, located in Marion County, is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. A desirable place to live, the city of Ocala has many of the amenities of a much larger city including excellent medical facilities, fine dining, high-end shopping, cultural events and world renown equestrian facilities.

The first horse farm was established in Ocala in the 1930's. Today, with over 600 farms, every breed of horse from A to Z is represented there.

Florida is currently home to over 600 Thoroughbred horse farms and training centers and over 1,300 Thoroughbred owners, breeders and trainers. More than 75 percent are located in the Ocala-Marion County area. Florida Thoroughbred breeders and owners alone have contributed a multi-billion investment to Florida's economy.

Host to champion year-round Thoroughbred racing at Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Tampa Bay Downs, racetrack operations generate over $300 million in revenue and create approximately 3,000 jobs. The state also ranks second in Thoroughbred foal production in North America having produced six Kentucky Derby winners, six Preakness winners, six Belmont Stakes winners and one Triple Crown winner (Affirmed, 1978).

Breed the Best Bloodlines for Less

Florida-based Thoroughbred stallions are consistently found in the top stallion rankings in North America among freshman, juvenile and general sire lists. In addition, the stud fee for a Florida stallion is much more affordable when compared to other states. Breeders will also find top commercial and racing bloodlines with proven progeny records from Florida stallions.

The Sunshine State also offers breeding incentives to Florida stallions including no taxes on stallion seasons. Breeders who bring their mares to Florida can also expect to find an excellent equine infrastructure including affordable care for mares, world-class horsemen, farms, facilities and acclaimed veterinary and reproductive specialists.

“Florida's Thoroughbred horse industry has played a vital role in our state's history and way of life. We hope to keep it that way,” said Nicole “Nikki” Fried, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Home to over 385,000 horses and over 715,000 acres of land used for horse-related purposes, the Sunshine State stands out as the best state for your business.”

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