Five-star eventer. USEA Governor’s Award Winner. Grand Prix show jumper. Sara Kozumplik is one of those highly experienced riders who has been there and done that. A life-long horse woman, Sara has been wintering in Ocala since 1999, when she was a teenager. After renting facilities for a number of years, she got the opportunity to create Overlook South, the sister farm to her Virginia facility, Overlook Farm, thanks to her long-time owner Edith Rameika.
I caught up with Sara to talk about her farm shopping journey and to get a bit of a barn tour through her top-notch facility. Bonus: she lets us in on her number one farm management secret.
Everyone has different goals when it comes to looking for their dream farm. Sara had a list of goals for her long-time friends and owners of Ocala Horse Properties, Chris and Rob Desino and Matt Varney. “The number one thing was a good property for the horses, a peaceful property, not on a busy road,” Sara said. “And I needed an area with enough hacking for my horses, as I do a lot of training on different surfaces.”
Sara was also looking for a farm with a good grass area for riding, plenty of turnout, and possibly a road that was suitable for hacking. Besides a peaceful location, Sara’s penultimate priority for the property was a concrete barn. “I didn’t want to have to build a barn. I wanted to be able to get into the situation without a whole lot of extra stress and hassle. So for me, that was really important. I wanted to be able to have the horse side of it as turnkey as possible,” Sara said. “I prefer concrete barns in Florida. Concrete barns are cooler and wood barns don’t last as long, thanks to all the heat and humidity.”
Because Edith, or “Edy,” was going to be investing in the property, Sara wanted to make sure it would be a good investment. To that end, she wanted it close to the World Equestrian Center and the University of Florida. She and Edy chose to work with Ocala Horse Properties to find the perfect property – and it wasn’t just because Sara has had a close relationship with Chris and Rob since they first started their business nearly two decades ago.
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According to Sara, the Ocala Horse Properties team knows Ocala and the surrounding area better than anyone else. “I use the best farriers and vets and trainers. Of course I’m going to use the best realtors, too,” Sara said. “They know exactly what I need as a sport horse rider, they know exactly what I’m interested in investment wise, and I don’t have to mess around.”
“Those guys have ridden and they’ve been athletes to the highest level of rowing,” Sara said. “So that makes them unique in the fact that they have a real understanding of upper level sport and equestrian sport.”
In the end, Sara purchased Overlook South because it checked the boxes on almost her entire checklist. Overlook South is located half a mile down a private road, which gives Sara the road hacking access she wanted. Covering 60 acres, Sara’s horses have plenty of room for both turnout and hacking. While it originally came with the gorgeous 18-stall concrete barn Sara wanted, she did install a large ring with top-notch Wordley-Martin footing and laid out her own pastures for turnout. The property also has a beautiful pond with a bridge that you cross to get back to Sara’s house, which she describes as “a heck of a lot nicer than I need.”
Overlook South covers 60 acres, but a third of it is heavily wooded. While this started off as a negative aspect of the property, it quickly became her favorite. “I thought well, that’s a lot of land that we’re not using, so that was a negative tick for me. But it ended up being the most positive aspect of the farm,” Sara said. “And the reason being is it’s provided us with peace and quiet. We’re a half mile from route 27, but I can’t hear anything. You can walk to HITS from where I am, but unless the wind is perfect, you can’t hear anything. My horses love it here because it’s so quiet.”
Creating a peaceful environment for her horses is hugely important to Sara — and her realtors were keen to prioritize that for her, too.
“Matt knew that I would love this property and I needed to come see it and he knows how much I like peace and he knows how much I want my horses to feel calm,” Sara said. “When there’s a lot of farms and a lot of stuff going on right next door, that energy can transfer over and stress everyone out. And I just didn’t want to deal with that. Matt said, ‘No, you need to come to see this property because I promise you you’re gonna love it.’ And he was right.”
Sara has managed to maintain a peaceful environment for her horses, but also host clinics, a schooling show series, and camps, like the 2023 EA21 National Camp, thanks to the unique layout of the property and a house that’s perfect for entertaining. When you drive down the road to Overlook South, the main boarding and training barn is off to one side, while the competition/riding area is on the other. “The horse shows and clinics and the like are quite aways from the house and the turnout for the horses, but it’s close to the arena and some of the barn,” Sara described. “It’s plenty of room, but it’s also quite a consolidated area on one section of the farm, where the clinics and the horse shows and stuff like that are held. So, they don’t go all over everything and that makes it a little bit more peaceful by nature.”
While she’s all about keeping a peaceful environment, Sara is not going to shelter her horses either. “It’s not a bad thing for horses. Like, they can have peace most of the time,” She said. “But sometimes they’ve got things going on with their lives. They don’t always get peace, but that makes them a little bit more used to a big environment. Then when the day is over, everybody’s gone, and everyone gets to have a breath. And it still turns right back into that quiet home very quickly.”
[Side note here about the Winter Schooling Series I mentioned: if you’re in the Ocala area, I highly recommend you take advantage of this series. Here’s what Sara had to say about it: “It’s essentially just so that we have a place to practice over professionally designed courses with proper footing and proper jumps. It’s nice to be able to go and do a $40 round over a quality course as well and not have to break the bank every week. So we’ve been doing that for about seven years.”
You cannot beat a professionally designed course on great footing for $40 a round. Okay, back to business!]
Of course, it’s not just a facility that creates a peaceful environment for your horses. How you manage that property makes a massive difference in the happiness of the horses as well. When I asked Sara what her number one farm management tip was, she said, “The biggest secret to success is having the right people in the barn. You can have the most amazing facility going and you can still have very miserable horses if you don’t have the right people in the barn.”
For Sara, consistency is key. “Having new people show up every six months is not a good thing. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had the same team for a long time. But it’s also a two way street – the happiness of the workers has to be a priority.”
Because Sara travels often, she needs a team that she feels comfortable leaving unsupervised with her horses. “I also have to be on the road a lot in order to make enough money to keep everything going. So my main thing is that I have to trust people. I have to trust everybody that I have on my team, that they’re going to do what I asked them to do with my horses.”
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Once you have the right team in your barn, then Sara suggests having your horses outside as much as possible. “That is so, so, so important, right? Horses need to be able to get out and move around. It keeps them sound and keeps them happier,” Sara said. “They 100 percent have to have something to eat in front of them all of the time. Sometimes you have to have a Jenny Craig paddock so they don’t blow up like a balloon, but they still need something to pick at.”
Sara also had a tip that applies to all riders, not just farm owners. To put it simply: give your horse some downtime after you ride. “Horses need a second to have an opportunity to catch their breath, have a pee, and a drink,” Sara said. “You know, I’ve seen situations where people were riding their horses for an hour or even longer. Then they come back into the barn and they go straight to the wash stall. That drives me mental, like that horse is going to colic or something.”
“Our primary goal has to be a happy environment for the horses, and happy people create a happy environment,” Sara said. “The reason we work so hard is for them to be content, because they don’t ask for this life, you know?”
This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties, the number one in Ocala farm sales for 15 years and counting. Find your dream farm, just like Sara Kozumplik. Start by browsing their listings here.