Parade of Nations

The City of Ocala held a formal welcome ceremony Wednesday for riders that will compete in this year's Nations Cup event Friday. Winners of the Marion County event will use their points to try and qualify for the FEI Nations Cup Finals later this year in Barcelona, Spain.

More than 400 people braved wind and threat of rain Wednesday evening in downtown Ocala to officially welcome riders who will compete in this week's international FEI Nations Cup.

The Friday event is hosted by the Horse Shows in the Sun, or HITS. The event will be held at the HITS Post Time Farm at 13710 US 27, west of Ocala.

The FEI Nations Cup, in which horse and rider jump several wooden fences and water obstacles, offers $100,000 in prize money. The riders are coming from throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Ireland, Venezuela and Columbia.

The winning team will use its earned points to try and qualify for the FEI Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona, Spain later this year. The Ocala leg of the Nations Cup will be followed by other qualifying events throughout the world.

Residents packed themselves along Southeast Broadway and along Southeast First Avenue as nearly 25 horses of various breeds popular in Marion County were paraded by spectators as part of the welcome ceremony.

Many of the spectators arrived more than an hour for the 90-minute long event, dubbed the Parade of Nations.

By Fred Hiers