Grand arena at WEC
If you live in Ocala – or really, anywhere near Marion County – you would have to be in an underground hermit cave not to have heard of the World Equestrian Center, lovingly referred to as WEC by those in the know.

You’ve heard of Disney World, we presume? Well, WEC is a sort of Disney World for horse people, if you will. The gargantuan complex is a training/expo/competition center, education facility, retail destination, luxury resort, and RV spot – a veritable smorgasbord of activities and events concentrated in one 378-acre location. And it’s still growing.

Ocala is home to a stunning variety of horse breeds and champions; name a Kentucky Derby competitor, and you’re more than likely to find a few who were bred, raised, or trained here. Equestrians come from all over the world to buy a horse – or two or three – find a property to settle down on and work their horses, or find a trainer to get them fit for competition. This area was already a draw for equestrians to live and work in; WEC is an added bonus that sweetens the prospect.

You don’t even have to be an equestrian to enjoy yourself at WEC; you could spend the whole day just shopping, eating, or taking a spa at the Equestrian Hotel and never go to the stables. There’s something for everyone. But it is designed and focused on all things horse – after all, we’re in the Horse Capital of the World®, and that’s the lifeblood of Marion County.

If you haven’t yet taken a jaunt up on 80th Avenue yet to visit the complex, you might be wondering: What exactly is going on up there? Is it open to the public, and would non-horse people have something to do? We’re going to break it down for you and tell you all about what WEC has to offer for everyone.

Ready? Let’s go.


Barns and Stables

If you go look at the map of the complex, you’ll see that it’s mind-bogglingly expansive.  It has 15 outdoor rings, 5 climate-controlled indoor arenas, and the giant centerpiece that is the Grand Outdoor Arena, right in front of the Equestrian Hotel. The arena itself is situated in a beautiful plaza where spectators can come to sit and watch the activities.

With 25 spacious barns and modern stabling facilities, it might be arguable that the horses have the best accommodations on the entire property. The barns and stables are all climate-controlled, and each 12×12’ or 12×14’ stall has matted flooring, grated sliding doors and  individual ceiling fans for the comfort of the horses and the riders.

An adorable horse nose.
The barns are designed with 12-foot aisles so that horses, riders and staff have plenty of room to move around, and each aisle comes with a spacious tack room. Seven temperature-controlled wash racks are at the corner of each barn, as well as washrooms for men and women. All of the barns are conveniently located close to turnout paddocks, training areas, and dedicated paths for getting to and from various locations on the grounds.

There are also two large expo centers on the property, with flexible indoor space for conventions, sports and athletics events, canine shows, trade shows and automotive exhibitions – or whatever event organizers need. In addition, WEC provides several outdoor venues for similar events and shows, located near easy access to the surrounding community and airports.

University of Florida Veterinary Hospital

UF pet hospital at WEC
Tucked into the southeast corner of the grounds is the brand-new, 41,000 sq.ft. veterinary hospital. It’s one of the most modern, state-of-the-art hospitals providing leading-edge care for horses and small animals alike. Operated by the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, it opened its doors in 2022, offering the best modern diagnostics, therapy, and treatment for competitors and companions alike. There are two distinct sections of the hospital focusing on specific needs:
The Small Animal Hospital is for those of us with furry or feathered companions needing primary and urgent veterinary care, and it’s top-notch. There are 9 exam rooms and a surgery, isolation and treatment areas, plus an oxygen therapy unit and grooming services. The hospital is also equipped with a comprehensive system for digital radiology, sonogram, and CT scans – so they can handle pretty much anything in-house no matter how big or small it is.

The Equine Hospital is specifically designed for the care and health of competitors at WEC.
Equine veterinary specialists are there for the riders to consult about their horse’s health and well-being, and they’re well-equipped to focus on sports medicine. The facility is equipped with the best diagnostic imaging technology, rehabilitation facilities, and regenerative therapies including salt therapy, a cold water spa, underwater treadmill, vibration therapy and a solarium. It’s a thoroughly modern space with a focused, clear mission towards making both horses and riders feel safe and secure.

Upper Echelon Academy

Upper Echelon Academy offers young equestrians the opportunity to work and train for competitive sport while also maintaining their academic credentials. Based in Wellington, the program has facilities and students across the US and Europe and just opened their newest location at WEC.

Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, UEA will provide on-site academic services at WEC, allowing students from Kindergarten all the way up through college to keep up with their education while in training at the same time. This allows them to be in a completely immersive environment without sacrificing either their equestrian passions or their academic excellence.

A young equestrian leads her horse.

The Chapel

Beautiful wedding bouquet in bride's hand
Anyone wishing to celebrate the Sabbath, have a quiet place for reflection and contemplation, or to share fellowship with the WEC Community can join worship at The Chapel. The charming, New England-style building sits nestled in a quiet, tree-lined little glen right out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, complete with a bell tower and flagstone walk. The oak canopy garden is also a popular venue for intimate weddings.  It’s open to everyone to come for the 20-minute services with Chaplain Edwin at various times during the day. There is no dress code, and parking is available at nearby Barns E and F.


Equestrian Events and Training

There is a dizzying array of equestrian events happening year-round: Dressage, hunter/jumper, Paso Fino, the Morgan and Saddlebred Horse Show, the Ocala International Horse Show, Keystone Horse Show, Winter Spectacular Show Series, Longines League of Nations, the American Ranch Horse Association World Show, and the Region XII Arabian and Half-Arabian Show, to name just a few (if we tried to list all of them, we’d have a blog the equivalent size of War and Peace, and like that legendary tome, nobody would ever really read it).

Competitions are frequently free and open to the public, but check the facility’s event schedule for all the pertinent details.  There’s also plenty of parking available, as well as restaurants on-site, which we’ll get into a bit later.

Conventions and Expos

If your interests lie in perusing vendors and getting a look at swag, tech gadgets, and other innovations, WEC is host to a vibrant and busy schedule of different expos and conventions throughout the year. Some are focused on the equine industry, but the complex is fast becoming the go-to place for people outside the horse persuasion. Things really kick off with the Festival of Speed and Ocala Comic-Con in September, and the following months include the Super Garage Sale, the Ocala Holiday Craft Show, the Ocala Bridal and Wedding Expo, the All for the Horses Equine Expo, the Great Florida Bigfoot Conference (yep), and Spookala.
The Showcase booth at the Equine expo

Sports & Athletics

One of the great things about Central Florida is the fact that we have so much natural beauty around us – great hiking and biking trails, rock and mountain climbing, and all manner of water sports imaginable. Consequently, there are a lot of physically active people living here who really like a good marathon or 5K, like WEC’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Tinsel Trot 5K Run and Walk. WEC has also played host to great competitive tournaments such as the Taekwondo Christmas Championship and the First In Show Volleyball Tournament, with some truly stunning athletes showing their mettle.

Canine Events

little black dog on agility jumps over a circle at sunset
Horses aren’t the only four-legged competitors here; dogs are a big deal, too. WEC offers opportunities such as dog training seminars, where participants can learn from one of the best in the business and get some great advice. WEC also hosts major canine competitions, offering audiences amazing demonstrations of obedience, training, and agility.

Special Events

There’s no shortage of events and celebrations that the whole community can enjoy at WEC, which features a popular Grand Prix Dining Experience and a Wine Series sponsored by Wheels Up. During the holiday season, it’s also a fun place to be for Oktoberfest and the Halloween Celebration, the annual Ocala Food and Wine Festival, and the month-long Winter Wonderland extravaganza that starts at the end of each November until Christmas Eve.


Equestrian Hotel

Arguably one of the big jewels in WEC’s crown is this beautiful hotel, with 248 luxury rooms and suites overlooking the main plaza and Grand Arena on one side, and on the other the expansive grounds of the complex. You don’t even have to leave the building to eat and shop; the Equestrian has no less than four unique dining spots right in-house, plus retails shops (we’ll tell you about those below), and guests can pamper themselves in the full-service Calluma Spa and Salon with a variety of spa packages that include massage, mani-pedis, and hairstyling. Other amenities at the AAA-rated hotel are high-speed Wifi, dry cleaning service, business and meeting facilities, valet and complimentary parking.
The Equestrian Hotel entrance


In addition to the hotel, there are rental properties available if you’re looking for something more private. Just a 5-minute drive from the main property are WEC’s 95 Home Away From Home units. All pet-friendly and fully equipped with modern appliances, flatscreens, wifi and Cable – with housekeeping included! – you can book weekly or monthly and stay close to all the fun. For long-term visits, you should check out Crownwood at Golden Hills; they’re perfect if you’re going to be here for a few months or longer. Fully furnished, with two and three-bedroom units and modern amenities including high-speed wifi, trash pickup, and linen refresh service, you have all the comforts of home plus a little pampering. There’s also a community pool and tennis court for you to enjoy.

RV Park

Yep, there’s an RV park. Two of them, actually, with a total of 300 parking slips with full hookups, water and power services. Amenities include a gas station, general store, dog park, high-speed wifi and a 24-hour laundromat with hot showers – which, as any veteran RV’er knows, is the Holy Grail of road-tripping goodies. Guests can also rent a golf cart for easy traveling on the property.

Shopping and Dining


the bar at the yellow pony pub
Inside the Equestrian hotel you’ll find Stirrups restaurant overlooking the Grand Arena, the Yellow Pony Pub and Garden, with its signature cocktails, laid-back atmosphere and live music on weekends, and the to-die-for Emma’s Patisserie, where you can indulge your sweet tooth on scrumptious French pastries and European-inspired desserts created by Executive Chef Yohann Le Bescond. You can also hang out in the refreshing Horse to Water Pool and Bar (open April-October) and either cool off in the water, the splash pad, or with a refreshing drink while you watch the kids play on the splash pad.
Outside of the hotel, you’ll find other great eateries dotted around the main plaza, including Filo’s Mexican Cantina with their scrumptious tacos, burritos, and quesadillas made in authentic style, while Miss Tilly’s Lollipops is a whimsical, colorful sweet shop featuring treats ranging from ice cream and fudge to chocolate, coffee, and yes, lollipops. Ralph’s Burger and Sandwich Shop offers a tuck-in of indulgent magnitude and a diner-style menu of signature burgers, sandwiches, salads, and old-fashioned milkshakes, and and Dot’s Italian Kitchen is resplendent in pasta masterpieces and homemade classic pizzas that are so good, you’ll think you’re in Naples.

Trust us, you won’t go hungry here.

Retail Therapy

There’s a lot to be said for prowling shops in search of the perfect dress, bag, shoes, or accompanying accessories to brighten your day as well as your wardrobe – and there is a cornucopia of options at WEC – and more are coming. Offering world-class wares from over 30 retailers, you can browse items from prestige designer brands of fashion, decor, accessories, and hats in styles from modern to western wear, boots and shoes, hats and jewelry.

Some, like Lugano Diamonds, Mr. Pickles and Sailor Bear Toy Shoppe, and the Debonair Collection are located inside the Equestrian Hotel, while others can be found throughout the property and in the Arenas, such as Chi Rio Ranch, Exceptional Equestrian, Haala Denim, and Everleigh Collection.

Lugano diamonds at WEC

Calendar & Livestream

You can easily find scheduled events, tournaments, competitions, festivals and live music, expos and conventions and everything in between right on WEC’s incredibly user-friendly calendar. Just choose the month and year you’re interested in, click, and it’s all right in front of you, complete with links and information about the when, where, and what you need to do.

If you can’t make it for a visit, you can watch all the action happening on their Livestream when available by clicking on any of the boxes linked. You can watch the competition currently under way on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and check the calendar for a full detail of daily activities in the arenas and rings.

Note: some events may not be live streamed.  A subscription is required with Clip My Horse to view full screen, which you can access on the Livestream page.