Protecting Horse Country
About Florida's Horse County
The horse industry is drawn to the north central Florida area by the mild climate, rich pasture land, and quality amenities and support services like the University of Florida vet school. The picturesque landscape is a product of the unique soil structure and surface limestone, and is identifiable by the expansive oak trees and rolling hills.
The limestone-rich soil enriches the grass with calcium and other minerals that strengthen the bones of growing horses. This rare soil structure is the common element among each of the four major Thoroughbred breeding and training centers in the world: Ocala, Marion County; Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France. Even in north central Florida, it’s found only in certain areas. It is no surprise that Marion County is home to some 1,200 horse farms which represent all of the equestrian disciplines.
The beauty of the these landscapes attract another industry—urban development. The “Horse Capital of Florida” is at risk, along with the nearly 29,000 jobs the industry provides. The goal the Protecting Horse County component of The Farmlands Program is to slow the development trends by protecting horse farms.CTF’s goal is to protect horse farms, the network that supports horse farms and the horse farm lifestyle for future generations by educating landowners about land conservation methods, and by assisting them in protecting their land.
When landowners have information about strategies to protect their farms, there is a better chance that family lands can be maintained and passed on to future generations. Financial assistance, federal income and estate tax savings, and reduction in property taxes can all help sustain Horse Country.
THE HORSE COUNTRY PROGRAM: Knowledge is Power
CTF hosts educational workshops geared toward landowners in horse country to provide information about current tax incentives for land conservation, the economic benefits of conservation easements and ways to reduce property, federal income, and estate taxes. Additional topics covered include life estates, charitable remainder trusts, and business organization strategies.
CTF also meets with individual landowners, area farm organizations, elected officials, and the media to ensure that accurate information is available to support action. CTF is working with the horse industry to promote conservation easements, which can provide income and tax benefits, to protect horse farms and provide long term security for the horse sport industry.
CTF Outreach activities identify programs that have direct impact on land conservation and stewardship. They help landowners connect with resources provided by the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, Rural Land Stewardship Areas, the Wetlands Reserve Program, Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, the Florida Forever program. See the details in the Conservation Toolbox.
The Quail Roost Foundation, founded in honor of Elmer and Harriet Heubeck, has generously contributed $5,000 to develop materials to help horse farm owners protect their lands. These funds supported development and printing of information targeted toward horse farm owners.
The Conservation Trust for Florida mailed this special brochure to all horse farm owners in Marion County, along with materials on land conservation options such as conservation easements and tax and estate planning methods.
CTF also writes articles and letters to the editor that appear in equestrian publications and the print media. Such articles extend the CTF’s reach, ensuring that the equestrian community is aware of issues and options, as well as the resources that pertain to their situation.
Learn how help farmers and landowners protect the character of their property and plan for its future.
View this inspiring and informative video by Former Florida Governor Buddy MacKay, who is also a member of CTF's Advisory Board. He talks about the importance of protecting wildlife corridors and protecting land for conservation. Video is by the University of Florida, IFAS as part of the Springs Protection Workshop in May 2012 (11 minutes).