Making your Way to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit
An Insider’s Guide for Tips & Tricks on Heading South this Winter
So many equestrians dream of spending their winter someplace warm and what better place to be than in America’s Sunshine State – Florida! For four decades, HITS has made Ocala, Florida, known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’, its Winter Home. The 12-week USEF-Rated HITS Ocala Winter Circuit takes place annually at HITS Post Time Farm, one of the most horse-friendly show grounds in the world.
When it comes to making your plans for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, let the HITS team make your trip to HITS Post Time Farm the best it can be! With a full-time staff of nearly 50 people, from Horse Show Office to Grounds Management and everything in between, HITS can help you every step of the way. From the planning and preparation to making your ‘Million Dollar Dreams’ come true, we are here to help!
Photo courtesy HITS.
Where to Start
It’s official! Time to pack your bags and embark on a trip to HITS Post Time. Who wouldn’t want to avoid those winter-time blues? I can tell you first hand that HITS Post Time is beautiful (and I promise that’s my non-biased opinion!). While in the sunshine state, I would suggest packing a coat as the mornings can get a bit chilly!
HITS Post Time has lots of room to ride, and I’m not just talking about in competition or warm-up rings. If you like to trail ride on the days or weeks you take off from showing, there is plenty of room for that too. Do you have a horse that needs to lunge or wants to just hang out and graze? HITS Post Time offers plenty of lungeing areas and, well, basically anywhere you look you can find a spot to go graze your horse. But that’s not all – I often describe HITS Post Time as having everything you need all in one place. It’s true, there are on-site eateries, including the infamous Jane’s Café (the Avocado Toast is to die for!), VIP Lounges (including a brand new VIP at the Main Hunter Ring for the 2021 season!), the HITS HotSpot which will have complimentary WiFi, on-site housing and so many vendors to keep you and your horses at the top of your game!
First things first, entries! With the technology available these days, there are a number of ways to complete and submit entry blanks. Printable entry blanks are available on HITSShows.com – just head to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit web page. Once you’ve printed and filled out the entry, mail it right to our Corporate Office in Saugerties, New York.
We know there is a lot of information being asked for on the entry blank, but filling out the form completely and accurately is super important, and will make check-in and check-out a breeze. Without complete information, it can be difficult for the horse show secretary to determine the owner or rider on a horse! Do you know how many “Smiths” there are in the USEF Database?
If you are using labels (we know you love them and we do too!) please be sure they are up-to-date. If you prefer handwriting your entries or don’t have labels, it is perfectly fine to fill out one entry blank and make copies for each week that you are showing. All we ask is that you clearly change the Show Week number in the upper right hand corner of each entry blank.
HITS also accepts online entries through ShowManagementSystem (SMS). Creating an account is easy! Once you have entered all the information for a horse, SMS lets you pull it into each week you want to enter. There is a small processing fee of $3 per entry submitted through SMS, but the perks are worth it! First, it’s a time saver. Second, SMS is continually introducing new features. In 2021, exhibitors who submit their entries online through SMS will enjoy a more seamless experience with online add/scratch and online checkout. The SMS Dashboard is also being expanded to show more real-time updates on class counts and timing, as well as orders of go and results. Stay tuned for more updates!
Let’s talk specifics! Send in your entries by the closing dates (November 18 for the HITS Ocala Holiday Series; January 6 for the 10-week HITS Ocala Winter Circuit) so your entries are considered “on-time.” For specific questions or more information on submitting your entry blanks, please reach out to us at 845.246.8833 or Info@HITSShows.com. Please note that some trainers work with a specific HITS Secretary and might advise you to contact one of us directly.
A common mistake we see is not submitting an entry for the first week of the show when requesting a Circuit Stall. If you are planning on reserving a Circuit Stall, whether it be permanent or temporary, an Entry Blank must be submitted for that horse for the first week of competition – even if they are not competing!
We know Prize Money is important to many of you, so please be sure to fill out the Prize Money Recipient box on the Entry Blank and double check in the horse show office to ensure it is correct. Our system automatically defaults to the last recipient of Prize Money on a horse, so please double check that we have made the update for you! We don’t want your prize money to go to the wrong person.
USEF and USHJA Requirements
Now that we have gotten past the initial entry blank conversation, let’s talk about the other requirements you should iron out before showing. Memberships! All owners, riders and trainers listed on an entry blank must be Active Competing Members of USEF and USHJA. To check if you are active, log on to your USEF MyWay account. The USHJA box is easily missed in this process of joining or renewing your membership, so go slow and make sure you choose BOTH USEF and USHJA. If you are showing someone else’s horse, make sure the person who owns the horse according to USEF is an Active Competing Member also. People are able to pay a Show Pass fee if one or both of their memberships are inactive – but be aware this is a weekly fee to USEF/USHJA, and is not for the whole circuit! Please also take note if your membership will expire mid-circuit or mid-show, and renew it before it expires or your points won’t count and you may have to pay Show Pass fees. Also check any memberships that are specifically required for Medals or other organizations (i.e. National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, Marshall & Sterling Insurance League, North American League, etc.,) and who needs to be a member of the organization (i.e. just the rider, or rider and trainer).
All participants 18 or over must also complete USEF Safe Sport Training. Any owner, rider, trainer, or registered owner of a Farm is required to complete the training, or the refresher, before they or they or any of their horses will be allowed to compete. For more information visit USEF Safe Sport.
You have the people taken care of, now for the horses. All competing horses must be Registered with USHJA. There is no “Show Pass” for a horse registration, so it’s best to take care of this before you arrive at the show. If you are trying to earn points toward any USHJA Zone or USEF National Horse of the Year Awards, or for any USEF/USHJA Championship or Program, your horse must also be Recorded with USEF. Pay special attention to other requirements for these programs – for instance, new this year, every horse competing in a USHJA International Hunter Derby must be enrolled in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Program. Don’t get left out!
If you are leasing a new horse or for the first time, don’t forget to record your lease with USEF! This is the best way to be sure all records stay up to date.
All competing horses must be microchipped and have the microchip number recorded with USEF. If your horse is not already microchipped, please coordinate with your home vet to have this completed prior to attending the horse show; or visit the Official HITS Veterinarian on-site at HITS Post Time who can also take care of this for you. Here is a link to USEF’s Microchip FAQ.
For a complete list of USEF’s rule changes for the 2021 horse show season, click here.
HITS doesn’t require a Health Certificate from your vet, but we do have a Health Declaration form to complete. USEF also requires all horses to provide proof of Flu/Rhino vaccination within six months of the competition. A letter or email from your vet is required as proof. If you administer your own vaccinations, you will need to provide a written statement with the date you last gave the shots. As an easy reference, the vaccination must have been completed on September 28, 2020 or later to last through the very end of the circuit! Any vaccination prior to that will need to be updated during Circuit (dependent on date). Your Health Declaration form and Vaccination records can be emailed to us prior to your arrival at HITSHealth@gmail.com (please include the trainer’s name in the subject line) or you may bring them to the Horse Show Office when you check in.
Once You’re Entered
Congratulations! You’ve entered for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and we can’t wait to see you! Let’s cover just a few more things prior to your arrival in the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ including Health and Safety, Accommodations and Amenities at HITS Post Time and the surrounding areas.
While you were filling out your entry, you may have asked yourself about the stabling options. HITS offers weekly and circuit pricing on temporary and permanent stabling so you can choose which is best for you. HITS also allows you to ship-in to show and has a designated parking area for day parking.
Temporary Stalls: One of the biggest changes that you will see this year is nearly all new temporary stalls and tents. Circuit tent stalls will again be priced at $1,000 for the entire ten-week circuit. That’s right, it comes out to just $100 per week – a price that can’t be beat any place else. And the price doesn’t change whether you show or not! Tent stalls are also available on a weekly basis at $250/week if ordered by the closing date.
Permanent Stalls: HITS also has a select number of permanent stalls available for the 2021 horse show season. These are available for the season for $3,000, or on a weekly basis at $400/week, space available.
Private Barns: There is one Private Barn available for this season, with 24 stalls, plus a tack room, feed room, wash rack/grooming stall and a laundry/bathroom. Rental of a Private Barn also includes your own designated paddocks (two), RV hook-ups (two), and a small private riding ring. Contact us for more information!
Photo courtesy HITS.
Now that you have your horse’s accommodations settled, let’s talk about you! One of the biggest questions we are asked is about lodging. HITS has longstanding relationships with several hotels in Ocala, as well as new partners in 2021, covering every price range and amenity level, from budget to luxury.
HITS is pleased to welcome its returning lodging partners as well as several new partners for the 2021 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit! Joining HITS for the 2021 season are the Springhill Suites, Comfort Suites, Hilton Ocala, Equus Inn, Super 8 by Wyndham Ocala, and Red Roof Inn Ocala. For more information on our lodging partners, check out the Accommodations page for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit!
Along with an extensive list of Lodging Partners, HITS offers a selection of on-site housing options at HITS Post Time. The HITS Post Time Condos and Homes offer spacious living, while the new GenZHomes offer a unique next-generation feel. On-site RV Hook-Ups are also available by the week or for the entire circuit. For more information on the housing options that are on-site, please contact us.
There are a number of other amenities I’d like to mention before we part ways – the first being the food options. The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit is taking on-site eateries to a whole new level. The HITS Restaurant returns with the same great stations but with a new exciting flavor. Riders can also look forward to the delicious coffee and small bites at Jane’s Café and a new menu being served from the Mobile Cantina near the Hunter Rings.
HITS is also introducing a brand new VIP experience for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. A new VIP area is being built along the long-side of the Main Hunter Ring and will offer Breakfast and Lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The Hunter VIP will also be open for special evening classes on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the circuit. A limited number of tables will be available, all situated with social distancing in mind. As far as service, your VIP experience includes complimentary beer and wine service, as well as a fine dining menu prepared by our house chef.
Dever Golf Cars return as the official Golf Car supplier for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. Being one of the most horse-friendly facilities in the United States means there is lots of room to spread out horses and people. Simply put, HITS Post Time is huge. Rent a Golf Cart from Dever and get around the show grounds with ease. With separate horse and Golf Cart paths you’ll never have to worry about traffic. Dever will once again be located behind Barn 5.
Don’t put your education on hold while at HITS Ocala! The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit has provided on-site educational services since 1992, and this year will welcome back Blue Ribbon Scholars, as the official On-Site School. HITS and Blue Ribbon Scholars, founded by Mira Korber, are committed to helping competitive student-athletes discover and achieve their own academic, athletic and personal best. Shine in and out of the competition ring at HITS Ocala with flexible educational services, ranging from a supervised study hall environment to a complementary education program that is tailored to the students’ needs and everything in-between. For more information or to register, check out the HITS Ocala Educational Services page.
Out & About
There are a plethora of places to eat and visit while you’re in Ocala! From local favorites Tony’s Sushi and Brick City Southern Kitchen, to shopping just minutes from the show grounds, check the Out & About Page on the HITS Ocala web page to start exploring. Not only are there great restaurants just minutes from HITS Post Time, but you can try local fare at any of the exhibitor parties scheduled during the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. With several catering partners already confirmed and more to come, you can use this time to catch up with friends and chow down after a day of showing. More details to come on the Post Time Parties!
For day trips or an afternoon of sight-seeing, Ocala is home to the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost forest in the Continental United States, with more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs. There are plenty of activities to do in Ocala, but if you’re looking to get out in nature we suggest checking out the Silver Springs State Park, home of the glass bottom boat tour, Crystal River and Cedar Lakes Woods. If you want to swim with the Manatees – you can do that too!
Keeping you Safe
In these unusual times, the health and safety of our exhibitors, officials and staff is of the utmost importance. USEF has an extensive guide on their website, and HITS created its own Covid Protocol last spring that worked well throughout the summer shows at HITS Saugerties, HITS Culpeper and HITS Chicago. To ensure a safe environment for everyone, we ask that all exhibitors take a moment to review the protocol for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit prior to your arrival. Masks will be required at all times when you are not mounted. This includes but is not limited to ringside, in the barns, riding on a golf cart, and in all schooling and lungeing areas. Please stay home if you are feeling ill or experiencing symptoms.
Cleaning and sanitizing throughout the grounds, including special care taken in the restrooms is a primary piece of the protocol in effect. New Restroom Trailers will be replacing many of the portable toilets throughout the grounds offering a more comfortable and convenient option.
Stay tuned for updates which will be shared on HITS Social Media and available on the Show Office Procedure Page at HITSShows.com. Should you have any questions regarding the HITS Protocol, please do not hesitate to contact us at Info@HITSShows.com.
See you There!
The HITS Ocala Holiday Series (December 9-20, 2020) and HITS Ocala Winter Circuit (January 19 – March 28, 2021) are right around the corner and we can’t wait to see you there! If you have any questions as you make you plans or just want to chat about the upcoming circuit, we’d love to hear from you! We are available by phone at +1 (845) 246-8833, Monday through Friday 9am – 5pm, via email, or send us a message on social media!
Words by Erin Webb / HITS.