For 37 years, HITS has called Central Florida its Winter Home, and since 1985, Ocala, the Horse Capital of the World, has been that home. From the Golden Hills property HITS leased for 10 years and then purchased from the Castro family in 1995, to the purchase of Post Time Farm in 2002, HITS’ commitment to the Ocala Winter Circuit has been unwavering.
“We started to outgrow the Golden Hills property,” said Tom Struzzieri, Owner and CEO of HITS, Inc. “As much as I loved it there, and as much history as we had there, it was time to make a change.” Post Time Farm wasn’t for sale when Struzzieri first found it, but the moment it was, he jumped on it. “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.”
The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit has been a staple of the Show Jumping calendar for decades, and is a proud member of the Ocala and Marion County communities. “We’ve always felt welcome here. We always felt like the community embraced us, but that relationship has really gone to another level in the last few years.”
HITS works closely with the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Marion Country Tourism Development Council, and the Florida Sports Foundation. “The HITS Ocala Winter Circuit brings a great tourism impact to the Ocala/Marion County area each season,” says Corry Locke of the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau. The economic impact of the show on the community is unmistakable – $94 million annually according to an independent study by the Sport Management Research Institute (SMRI) conducted in 2014. And the County and state have noticed: HITS Ocala was named Best Event of the Year – Small Market by the Florida Sports Foundation in 2015, and the Medium Business of the Year Award of Excellence by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) in 2016.
“We want to give back to our communities,” said Struzzieri. “We bring so many people to the area and it translates into jobs, spending, real estate purchases, heads in beds – it’s all part of creating a symbiotic relationship that is good for HITS and for the communities where we run our events.
“I believe the backing of the community is also one of the reasons we have been awarded the Longines FEI Nations Cup for the fourth time. When we first brought this event to Ocala, I knew that we could run the horse show part of the event. I hoped the community would get behind it too – and they did – to an extent I never imagined.”
The City of Ocala hosted a Welcome Parade and Rider Reception for last year’s Nations Cup, and plans to expand that event this year. “HITS is the event we have looked forward to each and every year for the past 37 years. We appreciate so much the people who attend and participate in the event and the economic impact it creates for our community. It is one of the great events that makes Ocala, Marion County, the ‘Horse Capital of the World,’” said Kent Guinn, Mayor of Ocala.