HITS is Back and Better than Ever!
The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is HITS’ longest-running horse show series, having started in Gainesville in 1982. Now celebrating its 39th year, the annual USEF-Rated show jumping circuit returns to HITS Post Time Farm for what may prove to be its biggest season yet in terms of horses, participants, prize money and economic impact on the surrounding community.
“In this first week we have already seen an increase of 500 stalls for a total of 2,200 stalls rented on-property,” said Tom Struzzieri, President and CEO, HITS, Inc. “We expect that trend to continue the rest of the circuit, putting us on pace to grow by 30% this year, surpassing our previous entry records.”
A Staple Winter Circuit Returns
Having grown from a five-week circuit at its inception to the current 12-week schedule that runs from December through March each year, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit offers USEF National- and Premier-Rated Hunter competition, and 4*, 5* and 6* Jumper competition. Eight of the shows boast the highest Hunter Rating of Premier, and increased Grand Prix prize money has raised the number of shows with a 6* Jumper rating to seven.
These highly-rated USEF shows offer exhibitors at HITS Ocala valuable qualifying points for the prestigious “Indoor” horse shows, a number of National Medal and Horsemanship finals, and several USHJA programs. In addition, points earned and money-won throughout the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit count toward USEF Horse of the Year National and Zone Awards.
“My business is based in Ocala, due in part to HITS and what Tom has built here over the years,” said Robert Braswell, Owner and Trainer at Terrapin Hill. “You couldn’t ask for more than to have this caliber of USEF-rated show in such a horse-friendly area. The facility is a top-notch competition grounds, but it also has a wonderful ambience for the horses. If you need to ride and train, there’s plenty of room for that, or if you want to take a horse out for a relaxing graze or trail ride, there’s plenty of space for that too.”
HITS continues to stay at the forefront of equestrian sport by offering a range of classes for every level of horse and rider, from Leadline to Grand Prix. With over 450 classes offered each week, HITS promotes one of the most marvelous aspects of show jumping – where a child at their very first show may be seen at the competition ring standing next to an Olympic athlete.
This may be never more true than what this year’s circuit will see, where myriad upgrades and unique offerings at HITS Post Time Farm have attracted top riders from around the world. These riders include half a dozen Olympic athletes and represent at least a dozen countries. The richest purse in show jumping, the seventh annual Great American $1 Million Grand Prix, will be the ultimate showcase for these riders to cap off the circuit on March 22.
“There is such a great feel to this property. It’s a great place for horses to be. I remember how I felt the first time I stepped onto this property – and I still feel that way today.” – Struzzieri, recalling the purchase of Post Time Farm in 2001.
HITS Commitment to Ocala and Economic Growth
HITS continues to increase its investment in the long beloved Post Time Farm, cementing their dedication to horse sport in the Horse Capital of the World. “The City of Ocala and Marion County are the Horse Capital of the World for a reason, and we love being part of it,” Struzzieri said. “It’s all part of creating a symbiotic relationship that is good for HITS and for the communities where we run our events.”
The economic impact of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit on the surrounding area is unmistakable – $94 million annually according to an independent study by the Sport Management Research Institute (SMRI) conducted in 2014. Adjusting for inflation, that impact calculates to over $101 Million today, and the County and State have noticed: HITS Ocala has earned a number of Special Event and Business awards in the past several years.
While the Corporate Office is in New York, you could say the Heart of HITS is in Florida. HITS even got its name here – Horse Shows In The Sun. “It all started with our first horse show in Gainesville in 1982. It’s been 39 years, and we’re still counting,” Struzzieri exclaimed. HITS is excited to be back in record fashion for another year of fantastic Horse Shows In The Sun, and of community involvement and unmatched competition in 2020 and beyond.