Thankfully, Ocala and Marion County weathered the big storm that was Ian, for which we’re all very grateful, and the subsequent mild Autumn weather has been really lovely after such a hot, humid summer.

This is the time of year when Central Florida really starts revving up its event schedule, and we’re kicking ours off with the Florida Thoroughbred Charities Golf Tournament this Friday, October 8, at Stone Creek Golf Club, which Showcase is happy to help sponsor.

The FTC is the charitable branch of the FTBOA, focusing on raising money for thoroughbred retirement, youth education, industry, and community projects and organizations. For the past 22 years, a key project is the Second Chances Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which is a farm on the grounds of the Lowell Correctional Institution that offers the female inmates an opportunity to learn skills in the equine industry so they can qualify for jobs once they’re paroled. It is the only female inmate program that partners with retired thoroughbreds in the country.

“We’ve actually had our model used down in the Virgin Islands; they’re trying to do the same thing down there. They have retired thoroughbreds there with a juvenile program and do the same thing,” says Tammy Gantt, Executive Director at FTC. “It makes such a huge difference in the lives of the participants and gives them real, viable tools to create something new for themselves.”

The women are taught a diverse curriculum of equine care, including grooming and braiding, exercise training and riding, harness and carriage, and animal husbandry. Not only does the program give them marketable skills in a region called “The Horse Capital of the World” – it also gives them a real sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

“Horses can feel your heartbeat from twelve feet away,” Tammy points out. “They know when you’re nervous or upset, or if you’re having a bad day. They’re extremely good judges of character and of human behavior. Once these women feel comfortable with the horses, cleaning their feet and riding them, they know they’ve gained the trust of an animal who is extremely discerning. There’s a new confidence there.”

Even more affirming is when sponsors and advocates come to visit the facility – after careful vetting – to observe the results of their donations in practice. It’s an eye-opening revelation of what their money goes towards and pioneers when they talk to the inmates and see how much the program does to foster the women’s future possibilities.

“We really want to raise as much as we can for the projects the FTC works with so that they can keep going as successfully as they have. So we’re hoping to see a lot of people!”

– Valerie Dailey, FTBOA president, FTC social and charity committee chair, and Showcase owner/broker

“They start talking to the women and they realize what a life-changing experience it is for them. They gain life experience with the horses that really gives them tools they can use to build a new life,” Gantt says. “Some of the inmates have been given jobs as a direct result of sponsor and donor support. This program has a real impact on people’s lives.”

This year’s golf tournament starts off with a luncheon hosted by the Florida Thoroughbred Fillies ladies friendship club and FTC. An educational mini-seminar series – sponsored by FTC, the Florida Thoroughbred Farm Managers and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association – will also take place that morning at breakfast with topics of interest to equine businesses.

FTBOA president, Florida Thoroughbred Charities social and charity committee chair, and Showcase owner/broker Valerie Dailey hopes the addition of other events on the same day will bring in a larger audience to bid on the auction items.

“We really want to raise as much as we can for the projects the FTC works with so that they can keep going as successfully as they have,” she says. “So we’re hoping to see a lot of people!”

Florida Thoroughbred Charities has raised more than $3.5 million for charitable organizations within the thoroughbred industry, the city of Ocala, Marion County and the state of Florida. The FTC auction is sponsored by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association and media partners Horse Capital Television and Florida Equine Communications.

If you would like to get tickets and attend any of the events, or would like to bid on an auction item, or are interested in making a donation, please contact golf chair Donna Delahunty at 352-274-415