Which is better year round: Aiken vs Ocala

Hey Everyone! :slight_smile:

tl;dr: exactly what the title says!

More details!: With the pandemic this past year I’ve been working 100% remote for almost a year now, and I’m considering asking my job if I can make that permanent (they keep saying we’ll come back at least part-time once COVID is in the past…). With this in mind, I started thinking - if I could live anywhere, where would I live? I don’t currently have a horse, but my goal for the last couple of years since I sold my last horse has been to buy one this year… and I’d love to be able to live, ride, etc. easily for fewer $$ than I would around here (just outside ATL where board is typically $850ish avg)

So my question is - if you could live anywhere year-round, where would you go? Aiken, Ocala, or somewhere else? I’d love to know where you would go, and why you would choose that location! Thanks for your insight and enabling my plot/daydream!

I’ve done both. I prefer Ocala.

The weather is better in Ocala year round. It gets just as hot in Aiken in the summer, but it doesn’t rain as much there so the ground ends up quite hard sometimes. In winter, Ocala has significantly fewer cold days.

The standard of care and quality of horses is much better in Ocala year round. When I last lived in Aiken (5? years ago) you couldn’t even have a colic cut in the state I think there is at least a surgeon in the upstate now, a bit over an hour away. In Ocala, I could have a surgical colic on the table within an hour. Even if I had to call Brookledge for a van ride.

There are schooling shows and things to do pretty much year round in Ocala and more and more professionals are staying year round. In Aiken, the bigger names tend to come down in January and leave in April.

If you have any specific questions about either place, lmk. I’ve spent several years in both places.

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I have no idea about the quality of service but I’m pretty sure Performance Equine Vets has a surgical center on site in Aiken and have for a few years now.

There’s a fair number of smaller BNTs there year round–there are more big names year round in Ocala.

Aiken’s COL is also better than Ocala, but there is way less non-horsey stuff to do, options for employment, school options, etc. if you have a family or end up with one.

I have in-laws in Florida though so I would choose Aiken any day–I admit my bias! :sweat_smile:

There are 2 hospitals in town with surgical suites. And no boarded surgeons.

One was visiting Performance Equine occasionally. Which left him unavailable for emergency surgery. I’m pretty sure he’s stopped going to Aiken at all anymore.

Thank you both! I really appreciate the responses. Any favorite parts of Ocala or Aiken specifically? I have looked up event locations and some boarding barns on a map, but I don’t know much else about where it would be good to live, etc. The other super important thing is I would 100% need good internet for my job!! I think I live in Zoom nowadays.

Depends on what is important to you.

Aiken is great. Weather is great, it does get colder than Ocala in the winter. There are a ton of stuff to do whether horsey related or not, almost to the point to where you can’t do it all. Columbia / Augusta is not far. I think hay is less expensive in aiken. There are trainers here year round, but yes, many big name trainers are only here January through April. But we do have event trainers, dressage trainers, sj trainers and lots of clinics. Lots of events, show jumping, dressage, trails, fox hunting, etc.beach isn’t far and either are the mountains.

Southern Equine Is building a huge surgery center in aiken with many diagnostics and machines too. They will be able to do colic surgery. Otherwise, yes performance equine does have a surgery center, but most people head to UGA for colic surgery until Southern Equine is up and running.

Aiken is sandy soil, so doesn’t really get hard ground here. The sand drains well after tons of rain. . lots of schooling and show venues here.

I’ve never lived in Ocala- so just an aiken perspective. When it’s freezing here ( the few days) I do wonder about becoming a SJ in Wellington.

There are many areas to live and multiple boarding options. If you live in town, internet shouldn’t be a problem. If you live outside of aiken city limits, it depends on where to get good internet.

Just make sure you contact the cable company yourself. I lived way out of town in a new subdivision. I only had cable/internet through satellite dishes at the beginning. Then about four years later, I could get the city cable/internet.
Some of the people on streets behind where I lived never had real internet, just satellite. The local real estate agents told people that we were going to have a Walmart neighborhood store, or a regular Walmart with in two years. That was never going to happen. They also were happy to tell prospective buyers that the regular cable would be installed very soon (I was there seven years, that never happened for the neighboring streets either).

We never had decent cell reception, so test that at the actual house site yourself. Also, check zoning yourself, for the number of animals you want to have, and if you’re going to have any kind of business, see if it’s allowed too.

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That will be awesome if Southern Equine builds a bigger OR and puts in a better MRI. Aiken really does need that.

Hopefully, they will hire a boarded surgeon, too. The non-boarded, ‘regular’ vets currently perform their arthroscopies and tie backs.

Aiken over Ocala to live year-round. I LOVE Ocala. But the rain/storm every damn day at 2 -3 PM in the summer - it’s miserable for me and my guy in the summer. But I much prefer it overall.

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Ocala is lovely. I ride every day, year round.
Make sure you look carefully at internet availability. We have Century Link in our neighborhood, and it is slow. The next neighborhood over has terrific, high speed, internet.
Make sure you pick an area with good soil and good pasture. Our pastures are terrific. Some areas have very fine sugar sand soil that doesn’t make good pastures. Some areas are swampy. Others are rocky.
Ocala is close to Gainesville where you can go to the huge performing arts center, get top quality health and vet care and eat any kind of food that you want.

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We just made this move exactly one year ago today! We had visited both and picked Aiken.

Our reasons:
Aiken is a wonderful town. Lovely downtown. Big enough but still a small town vibe. People are very nice. There’s a lot to do. Summer is hot be we did fine and so did the horses. Spring and Fall are to die for. Winter has some cool days but nothing terrible and horses can go out every day. Pours sometimes but the ground takes it. Close to lots of cool towns.

I didn’t like all the skin funks and other stuff the horses had to deal with in florida. Ocala less of a nice town. Florida’s weird factor wasn’t my fave. I like 4 seasons and Florida doesn’t.

If you do want to move to Aiken, I highly recommend our side (Montmorenci/302). It’s been nearly all the competition venues, except stable view, footing is great, and so many places to school. Good luck!