- July 31, 2013
As her 8-year-old daughter Addie rode her horse toward the cross country arena Oct. 22 at the TerraNova Equestrian Center in Myakka City, Winter Park's Courtney Borton followed behind, wearing a smile that would not go away.
Besides the joy of seeing her daughter compete, Courtney Borton was enjoying all the amenities offered by Florida's newest equestrian facility, including the VIP Pavilion, six arenas and two barns (270 stalls).
"Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful," Borton said. "And the service is incredible."
But how does it compare to established equestrian centers in Wellington and Ocala?
"This kind of facility just doesn't exist," said Borton, who has seen what Florida has to offer in the sport. "It is unmatched."
Hosting an International Federation for Equestrian Sports event was the planned kickoff to sales in the TerraNova Equestrian Estates, a sprawling community of ranches that start at 5 acres and above.
The new community and the corresponding equestrian center is the brainchild of owners Natalee and Steve Herrig and their daughter Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter, who serves as the equestrian center's manager.
With show jumpers competing in the background at the center's VIP Pavilion Oct. 22, Steve Herrig was asked when they planned to begin selling the estates.
"Today," he said. "We still have work to do, but now we are ready. This is a community like none other."
Steve Herrig said he and Natalee bought some land off Fruitville Road about five years ago because Hannah was competing in equestrian events. He liked what he had purchased, so he went a littler farther east and bought another 100 acres, and then more. He now owns about 3,000 acres around the equestrian center, which is approximately 300 acres itself at 31625 Clay Gully Road. He said the ranch estates will take up another 1,500 to 2,000 acres and the rest of the property will mostly serve preserve type purposes with perhaps a conservation easement.
Natalee Herrig said the vision to build an equestrian center, which broke ground in 2019, and develop a community around it was cemented by the fact that southwest Florida had no such facility.
"It's midway between Ocala and Wellington," she said. "There wasn't anything in this part of the state. And then there was the land itself."
Steve Herrig, an entrepreneur and the CEO and chairman of the board of Bradenton-based Sunz Holdings, said they will push for buyers to purchase at least 10 acres and he anticipates a community of about 120 estates when all the land is sold.
Those who decide to build will be required to use B&D Builders, a Paradise, Pennsylvania company that has a Florida office in Cape Coral. The company specializes in horse barns and equestrian areas. Sales are being handled by Gailey Enterprises Real Estate.
TerraNova Equestrian Center hosted a major event a year ago, but the facility was only in the middle stages of construction. The Event at TerraNova Oct. 21-23 was a showcase for not just the sport in the area, but the facility.
Jaymie Klauber, who became the director of hospitality and logistics at TerraNova in May, is a former Polo Club resident in Lakewood Ranch with her husband Tommy and she agreed the concept is similar to the beginnings of that neighborhood. Build a first-class, sport-related facility, and the estates will fill in around it.
Since equestrian sports are the draw for TerraNova, event management expert Mike Belisle of Toronto was hired as a managing consultant. Belisle, who has 30 years of experience in the sport, went through the "tedious" process of gaining all the certifications necessary to have the event sanctioned by the top governing bodies.
"Obviously, the attraction is bringing people to the community," he said. "We can educate people about our sport."
He said the IFE sanction gave the event a "world draw" and noted that TerraNova has become one of the few show grounds in the world for the sport. The IFE runs the Olympic jumping, dressage and eventing competitions along with the FEI World Equestrian Games and the World Cup.
In the future, TerraNova will feature athletes who will be competing in those events.
However, those in the novice and beginner categories can develop at TerraNova as well. And the families who support those efforts won't have to travel far to watch them.
"When you live here, you can ride your horse to the show," he said.
The three-day Event at TerraNova was a kind of equestrian triathlon with riders and horses being judged in dressage, cross country and show jumping. Dressage measures the horse and rider's ability to perform intricate movements. Cross country is a test of speed, endurance and jumping ability. Show jumping is a test over 12 to 15 jumps in an enclosed arena.
More than 300 riders and their horses competed in the event. Klauber noted that she arranged 61 hotel rooms for just the officials who worked at the event.
The event also was about charity.
With approximately 75 volunteers working 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 each volunteer hour worked to the Florida Disaster Relief Fund.
The center's foundation also was donating money from each ride to Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee, the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy and Southeastern Guide Dogs. The total donation had not yet been calculated.