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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 8 months ago

Father-daughter duo target best-in-class equestrian facility

Go big or go home mantra paces Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter and Steve Herrig.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

At was six years old, Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter, like a lot of young girls might, asked her mom and dad for a horse.

“My parents thought I would outgrow it,” she recalls, “so they said I could get one when I turned 10. When I turned 10 I hadn’t outgrown it."                                                     

When Hannah turned 10 she got her horse, Skip, courtesy of her parents Steve and Natalee Herrig. Skip has remained a big part of Herrig Ketelboeter’s life as she’s climbed the ranks in national horse competitions, known as eventing, and is now more than a childhood dream come true. Skip is also part of an ambitious plan to turn a large plot of rural land in east Manatee County into an world-class equestrian and riding center and horse-based estate housing community. It’s a spare-no-expense project with an estimated cost of at least $30 million.

Dubbed TerraNova — named for another horse Herrig Ketelboeter had, Tara, and nova, Latin for new  — Herrig Ketelboeter, 26, is overseeing the project with her husband, Zach Ketelboeter, 32, and her dad. “This is something that will become a world class show facility,” Steve Herrig says.

Steve Herrig, 60, is one of more prolific entrepreneurs in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, having started, run and sold multiple companies, many in or connected to insurance and human resources. He’s currently chair and CEO of Bradenton-based Sunz Insurance, which does more than $400 million a year in revenue and, in late 2020, received a significant capital investment from Wall Street titan Blackstone.

Mark Wemple. Steve Herrig and his daughter Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter are building TerraNova Equestrian Center and TerraNova Estates on more than 1,200 acres in east Manatee County.

The project is spilt into two parts: TerraNova Equestrian Center and TerraNova Estates. The property is in Myakka City, south of State Road 70 and about 25 miles east of Interstate 75. The equestrian site is on about 225 acres, which Herrig, under TerraNova Estates LLC, acquired for around $2 million in a series of transactions in March 2018, Manatee County property records show. Several of the plots are on Chukker Court — a Chukker is a period of play in horse polo.

New plans

The idea for TerraNova Estates came after the family moved ahead on the equestrian center. Steve Herrig says the land for the estate community, 1,064 acres adjacent to the equestrian site, was available after another project there never materialized. He paid $10.5 million for that site, according to property records. “It’s really incredible,” he says, “because we have all this land and none of it is compromised.”

Herrig says TerraNova Estates will sell lots starting at five acres for buyers to custom build homes. The gated community will also include a clubhouse with a fitness center and resort-style pool, riding trails, streetlights on winding roads, underground electric and fiber optic cabling and a water cascade and life-size horse sculpture.   

“Some facilities only focus on the spectators and some facilities only focus on the competitors. We want to focus on the competitors, spectators and the horses." Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter

Herrig says TerraNova Estates will eventually be where he recoups the best return on the investment. But TerraNova Equestrian Center is where the bulk of the focus is right now. Herrig Ketelboeter and Zach Ketelboeter, also a competitive eventer, started out small with their plans, focusing on a barn to maybe sell horses and do some training. But on advice from Steve Herrig to dream bigger and outdo the competition, plans quickly grew. (Fox Lea Farm in Venice, a horse show facility founded in 1983, is the closest and biggest competitor to land events and clients.)  

Courtesy. The RIngling Bridge obstacle is part of the course ar TerraNova.

First they hired an Amish firm based in Pennsylvania, B&D Builders, that only constructs barns. That phase started in January 2020 and the barn was built in October 2020. The Ketelboeters, having competed for years, say they wanted to create a detail-rich equestrian training and event center that could be a go-to spot for both humans and horses. While the couple got some inspiration from equestrian hotspots in Wellington, on Florida’s east coast, they wanted TerraNova to have a more welcoming vibe. That includes building a place where both beginners and elite competitors could feel comfortable.

“Some facilities only focus on the spectators and some facilities only focus on the competitors,” Herrig Ketelboeter says. “We want to focus on the competitors, spectators and the horses.”

The end result is a center that includes a gym, lounge with a kitchen, laundry room and full bathroom for boarding clients; six outdoor and covered riding arenas; rubber paver pathways throughout the barn; spacious stalls and tack/equipment rooms; and 1,300 acres available for riding. The facility also offers lessons and training for budding competitors and sells a variety of horses.  

Courtesy. Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter and Zach Ketelboeter have big plans for the TerraNova Equestrian Center.

On the competition side, they got off to a first-rate start, hiring British Olympic gold-medalist Mark Phillips, a legend in the equestrian world, to design the cross-country course. Other prominent equestrian professionals have worked on the project as well, including consultant Sara Kozumplik-Murphy, a five-star competitor, and Eric Bull, with ETB Equine Construction.

Big dreams

One overarching goal is to turn TerraNova into a leading contender for events from the sport’s governing bodies, including the United States Equestrian Federation and Olympic style events. The first big one, The Event at TerraNova, was held Oct. 22-24 and hosted about 150 competitors. Herrig Ketelboeter says while the event was a big success, winning future events remains a core challenge, in terms of navigating the requirements. “It’s really a long process,” she says.

Courtesy. The TerraNova team hired several equestrian experts to help build out the facility.

Another challenge, Herrig Ketelboeter has learned over the past two years or so, is to maintain focus in such a wide-ranging entrepreneurial venture. “My parents have always told me to dream big,” she says, “which can be great but can also be overwhelming at times to keep up with everything.”

Steve Herrig, meanwhile, marvels at the entrepreneur-in-the making he sees in Hannah, one of three children he’s raised with Natalee. He quips that he has the money to help her, but, with his varied business interests, not the time. “I threw her into the back end of the pool and really let her sink or swim,” he says. “She’s proven she really knows what she’s doing. She’s been very smart about her decisions.”

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