As her 8-year-old daughter, Addie, rode her way to the cross-country arena Oct. 22 at the TerraNova Equestrian Center in Myakka City, Courtney Borton of Winter Park followed behind, sporting a smile that wouldn’t go away.

Besides the joy of seeing her daughter compete, Courtney Borton enjoyed all the amenities offered by Florida’s newest equestrian center, including the VIP clubhouse, six arenas and two barns (270 stalls).

“Oh my God, it’s so beautiful,” Borton says. “And the service is amazing.”

But how does it compare to established equestrian centers in Wellington and Ocala? The latter, in particular, along with the World Equestrian Center in horse-rich Ocala, is a multimillion-dollar facility with multiple bells and whistles spread across a 375-acre complex. This includes a 248-room hotel with rooms and suites that overlook the large open-air stadium for watching events and competitions.

Borton, who has seen what Florida has to offer in sports, is quick to praise TerraNova. “That kind of establishment just doesn’t exist,” she says. “It’s unmatched.”

Presentation of the community

Beyond the horses, the project includes a significant residential real estate component. The International Equestrian Federation event in late October, which Borton attended, kicked off sales at the equestrian estates of TerraNova, a sprawling community of ranches that start at 5+ acres.

The new community and corresponding equestrian center is the brainchild of owners Natalee and Steve Herrig and their daughter Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter, who is the manager of the equestrian center. Steve Herrig, 61, is a prominent entrepreneur and commercial real estate investor from Bradenton, having started and sold several businesses, primarily in the insurance industry and Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs).

Now CEO and chairman of Bradenton-based insurance firm Sunz Holdings, which makes about $400 million a year in revenue, Herrig has spent at least $5 million buying property in downtown town of Bradenton in recent years. In previous interviews with the Business ObserverHerrig said the cost of TerraNova, including land purchases, was over $30 million.

Runners compete in a recent event at TerraNova in eastern Manatee County. (Photo by Jay Heater)

With riders competing in the background at the center’s VIP pavilion on October 22, Herrig was asked when they planned to start selling the properties. “Today,” he said. “We still have work to do, but now we are ready. This is a community like no other.”

Steve Herrig says he and Natalee bought land near Fruitville Road about five years ago because Hannah was competing in equestrian competitions.

He liked what he bought, so he went a little further east and bought 100 more acres, and more. He now owns about 3,000 acres in Manatee County around the equestrian center, which is about 300 acres itself at 31625 Clay Gully Road. He says the ranch estates will still occupy 1,500 to 2,000 acres and the rest of the property will be used primarily for preservation-type purposes with perhaps a conservation easement. Herrig paid about $12 million for the TerraNova land, both the estate lots and the horse facility, in a series of agreements, according to Manatee property records.

Natalee Herrig says the vision to build an equestrian center, which began in 2019, and develop a community around it was cemented knowing that Southwest Florida had no other such facility. (Fox Lea Farms in Venice, founded in 1983, hosts around 40 horse and equestrian events a year.)

“It’s halfway between Ocala and Wellington,” she says. “There was nothing in that part of the state. And then there was the land itself.”

Steve Herrig says the strategy is to push buyers to buy at least 10 acres and he foresees a community of around 120 estates when all the land is sold.

Those who decide to build will need to hire B&D Builders, a Paradise, Pennsylvania company with a Florida office in Cape Coral. B&D, who built the state-of-the-art TerraNova barn, specializes in stables and equestrian areas. Sales are handled by Gailey Enterprises Real Estate.

The TerraNova Equestrian Center hosted a major event a year ago, but the facility was only in the middle of construction. The event at TerraNova October 21-23 was a showcase not only for the sport in the region, but also for the facility. (TerraNova is named after a horse Herrig Ketelboeter, 27, had when she was a young girl Tara, and nova, Latin for new.)

Jaymie Klauber, who became director of hospitality and logistics at TerraNova in May, is a former resident of the Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch with her husband Tommy and she agreed the concept is similar to the early days of that neighborhood. Build a first-class sports facility, and estates will fill up around it.

Steve Herrig and their daughter Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter at TerraNova in late 2021. (File photo.)

Aligned with the best

On the first-class facilities front, Steve Herrig previously said he always told his daughter to dream big and aim high with TerraNova. Mike Belisle of Toronto, who has 30 years of experience in the sport, was hired as a management consultant and to help with this strategy. He went through the “tedious” process of obtaining all the necessary certifications for the event to be sanctioned by the highest governing bodies.

“Obviously the attraction brings people into the community,” he says. “We can educate people about our sport.”

He says the IFE sanction has given the event “global appeal” and notes that TerraNova has become one of the world’s few showgrounds for the sport. The IFE organizes the Olympic competitions in show jumping, dressage and eventing as well as the FEI World Equestrian Games and the World Cup.

Going forward, TerraNova will feature athletes competing in these events.

However, those in the Novice and Beginner categories can also grow at TerraNova. And the families who support these efforts won’t have to travel far to see them.

The facility includes a gym, living room with kitchen, laundry room and full bathroom for boarding guests; six outdoor and covered rides; rubber paver walkways throughout the barn; spacious stalls and tack/equipment rooms; and 1,300 acres available for horseback riding.

big event

The three-day event at TerraNova was a sort of equestrian triathlon with riders and horses judged in dressage, cross country and show jumping. Dressage measures the horse and rider’s ability to perform complex movements. Cross-country is a test of speed, endurance and jumping ability. Show jumping is a test of 12 to 15 jumps in a closed arena.

Over 300 riders and their horses participated in the event. Klauber notes that she arranged 61 hotel rooms for the officials alone who worked at the event.

The event was also about charity.

With approximately 75 volunteers working on the three-day event (actually comprised of two separate events, the event at TerraNova and TerraNova Dressage II), the TerraNova Equestrian Center was donating $20 per hour for every volunteer hour worked at the Florida Disaster Relief Fund.

The center’s foundation also donated money from each ride to Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee, the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy and Guide Dogs Southeast. Southeastern Guide Dogs received $30,000, SMART received $23,000, and Meals on Wheels received $17,000.