Skip to content

Born and raised at Florida’s oldest stud farm: a horse named Erskine

From left, Joseph M. O’Farrell ’99 and John David O’Farrell ’03
Joe O’Farrell as an Erskine College senior

If you graduated from a certain 185-year-old college in Due West, South Carolina, you love horses, you live in the “Horse Capital of the World,” and your family’s livelihood depends on horses, there might come a day when you decide to call one of your homebred colts “Erskine.” That day came just a couple of years ago for John David O’Farrell ’03 and his brother Joseph M. O’Farrell III ’99.

“I’ve always wanted to name one of our horses after my alma mater,” says John David O’Farrell, who goes by “David” and lives in Ocala, Florida—the Horse Capital of the World. The Ocala area is home to more than 400 thoroughbred farms and training centers, which play a significant role in Florida’s economy.

David O’Farrell as an Erskine College senior

The Erskine namesake was born and raised at Ocala Stud Thoroughbred Stallion Farm, the O’Farrell family business—founded in 1956 by the brothers’ grandfather and now the oldest active thoroughbred operation in Florida. David describes the horse as “an efficient and very fluid mover with a great personality.”

Asked about his alma mater, David says he chose Erskine “because I wanted to attend a small Christian college outside of my home state of Florida.”

Both David and Joe look back happily on their Erskine days. “I met so many great friends, including my beautiful wife Allison Johnstone O’Farrell ’04,” David says.

Allison Johnstone O’Farrell as an Erskine College senior

David serves as farm manager and his brother Joe serves as accountant at Ocala Stud, which consists of three farms totaling 500 acres in Marion County, Florida.

Horses in training at Ocala Stud Farm: Erskine's rider is wearing a blue shirt.
Horses in training at Ocala Stud Farm: Erskine’s rider is wearing a blue shirt.

Joe and David chose freely to become part of the family business, and they are glad they did. “I always knew that I wanted to carry on my family’s legacy and work on the family farm,” David says. “My brother Joe and I feel fortunate to work with beautiful horses in an industry that we are very passionate about.”

On Ocala Stud’s website, the following statement is posted: The Farm never races, and never holds back promising juveniles. Yet year after year, runners bred, raised, and sold by Ocala Stud rank among the best of their divisions in the U.S. and abroad.

“Integrity is very important to our family business,” David explains. “We strive for long-lasting client relationships and repeat buyers at horse auctions. Buyers can bid with confidence, knowing that our horses are raised in an environment that has a proven track record of success and a reputation you can trust.”

Citing some key aspects of his family’s thoroughbred business, David says, “We provide early training to many owners that race, and we offer our own two-year-old crop of approximately 40 Ocala Stud homebreds each year at the Ocala Breeders’ Two-Year-Olds-in-Training sales in March, April, and June.”

The thoroughbred business is not easy, and there’s not much downtime at Ocala Stud. “The hard work starts well before dawn on the farm. This spring, we anticipate 70 newborn foals,” David says, and notes that the training center is full, with 175 two-year-olds in training.

Ocala Stud, located in an area of central Florida that includes the Ocala National Forest, offers an idyllic setting for the horses as well as for everyone who works with the animals.

“I love watching the newborn foals grow and develop into athletes in the spring of their two-year-old year,” David says. “Horses will teach you responsibility and patience more than anything. They are very routine creatures and they like things to be consistent day in and day out.”

The O’Farrell family business has sent some winners into the world. David lists some standouts from different decades. “Ocala Stud has been fortunate to have given early training to three past Kentucky Derby winners—Carry Back in 1961, Unbridled in 1990, and Street Sense in 2007.”

In 2024, David reports, “We are excited about this year’s three-year-old colt crop. We trained a handful of Derby prospects, including Hades, who is a homebred by our stallion Awesome Slew, and training grads Fierceness (a 2023 National Two-Year-Old Champion Colt), Locked, and Agate Road.”

Recently, that beautiful horse named Erskine was sold by Ocala Stud “to a very good client,” David says.

It’s not just the horses that the brothers enjoy. “I also love the people in our business,” David says. “Winston Churchill said it best—‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’”

Postscript: Shortly before publication, David O’Farrell kindly provided an update on Fierceness, one of Ocala Stud’s “training grads.” Winner of the Florida Derby (by more than 13 lengths), this horse is likely to be in the news as the day of this year’s Kentucky Derby, May 4, draws closer. “We are excited about Fierceness’s chances in the Derby,” David told us. “We gave him his early training for owner Mike Repole. He came to us in September of his yearling year for training. We saddled him for the first time and taught him how to be a racehorse. He became a national Two-Year-Old Champion last year and he might go to post the favorite in the Derby.”

Pictured at top: Beth Boyd, a member of Erskine’s Advancement and Alumni team, with “Erskine”



Erskine and Due West Skyline

Interested in Erskine?

Erskine College admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

Back To Top