GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) Thousands of people have been in Ocala this week for the Live Oak International, a horse driving and jumping championship event. Here's a look at how much hard work it takes to get the horses ready to compete.
The Live Oak International drew in record crowds this year with more than 10-thousand in attendance to spectate and watch the competitions.
Chester Weber is a 16-time Four-in-hand driving champion and a co-organizer of the event who said: "when we added jumping and the event has just really exploded and it's become more than just an event for horses and horsemanship it's become an event with a car show and there are just many many facets."
However, for competitors, it's not all fun and games
Weber explained why a win at Live Oak International is a big deal. "This is the last qualifier for 39 riders all trying to bid to go to the world cup finals this year so they're riders it's on the line here. They have to produce a result or else they're watching the world cup finals in the spectators' seats or online."
Hyde Moffatt and his horse had the first clean run of the jumping competition, he said. "For us as riders, it's an all-day job every day. We are constantly working with the different groups of horses because that's what it takes in this sport the constant practices and then the development of horses. It takes a number of years to reach this level."
And as for what it actually feels like to be on a professional jumping horse? Moffatt happily explained,
"When all of the pieces come together it's a very smooth gymnastic athletic kind of a movement but it feels very much like flying. The best horses come off the ground so they float up in the air and you almost don't feel them land again it's a really special feeling."
Many of the competitors also use Live Oak International to rack up qualifying points for the Olympics, while for spectators many like are just here to see the fantastic beasts...
Emilia Guthrie was selling lemonade for charity to all the thirsty spectators, she says she's a big fan of horses for multiple reasons, "they are fun to ride and they are very sweet and gentle.