It’s a quiet November morning when I drive down White Boulevard in Naples’ Golden Gate Estates to tour Shore Acres Farm. On a back road, asphalt turns to gravel and residential streets fade into farmland with trucks carting pallets of flowers from the teeming plots. Eventually, I see horses grazing beyond a palm-lined driveway that leads to the back of the farm. Co-owner Janie Yag waits at the gate’s entrance in a golf cart, which we use to traverse the 53-acre property she and her husband, Mike, transformed into a horse farm with stables for boarding around 50 horses, riding areas and training with elite equestrians.
“Watch this guy go—he’s 74 years old. And, he’s trained all over the world in his lifetime,” Janie says, gesturing to a gentleman smoothly coaxing a chocolate-brown Selle Français around the perimeter of the property’s 14,500-square-foot, covered arena the Yags outfitted with soft, hoof-safe and quick-draining sand footing. It’s one of many areas for the gentle giants to gallop throughout the sprawling greenspace, including a competition-size arena and a 5-acre open field for free-range riding.
The Yags recently bought a smaller barn in Wellington to keep their horses when they visit during the winter showing season. While Janie does not compete, she calls herself a “horse advocate,” cheering on professional riders from the Shore Acres team at shows throughout South Florida. The couple considered building the farm in Wellington but felt emotionally tied to Naples, where Mike’s dad lived for nearly 33 years. Determined to create something new for the area, they found a 22-acre plot (which they soon added onto) and built Shore Acres from the ground up.
Janie, a former real estate agent and interior designer, loved riding horses with her mom as a kid but didn’t return to the sport until 2018, shortly after her mother passed. Mike, who had recently lost his father, saw his wife struggling to cope and suggested she start riding again to cheer her up. After a few lessons, she was hooked. She dove into research and fell in love with French horses, known for their athletic builds and stellar jumping ability. She bought her first Selle Français, Quaker de Kreisker, from a breeder in France in 2018. “As I left the stable [the breeder] ran to me with a dusty photo, ‘This is Quaker’s mom, Stella,’ he said,” she says. “It set me on my French horse journey.” The man spoke almost no English, but she could see the love that ran through his veins for the athletic breed. And so her French equestrian obsession began.
More riders and trainers trot by on towering, muscular steeds as we make our way from the arena to the front of the farm. Since most of her horses are Selle Français, known to be larger and stronger than other breeds, handling them takes honed skill. Most of her clients, who can ride her 17 horses (and counting) while on the grounds, are advanced equestrians—a mix of retired pros looking for a leisurely ride, active international competitors seeking a plush practice arena and talented teens looking to train with Janie’s team. And all her trainers have come up through France’s equine circuit, where Janie says that riders, breeders and brokers live and breathe the equestrian lifestyle—it’s more than a sport or hobby. In 2011, UNESCO inscribed French equitation on its Intangible Heritage Representative List, which recognizes and promotes unique cultural traditions. “It’s their heritage,” Janie says. She and Mike also work with her trainer, Tony Cadet, to find and sell the best horses and ponies from farms in France.
Up front, visitors are greeted by hedges trimmed to spell out ‘S.A.F.’ Mike spearheads landscape upkeep, with a team of groundskeepers, while maintaining the head position at the brand-engagement company he founded nearly 40 years ago in Massachusetts. “I’m not trained to be an architect, or a landscape architect, or a civil engineer,” he jokes. Since opening in 2019, Janie and Mike have expanded Shore Acres beyond its equestrian roots. They recently hosted their first wedding, covering the sandy floor of the covered arena with Trex composite flooring and stringing bistro lights for a romantic reception area. And, in late November, they welcomed the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for equine search-and-rescue training, which Janie explains is a highly effective tool in Florida’s flat terrain.
Shore Acres is dreamy and intentional. Old Florida-style stables and arenas—constructed by Port Charlotte’s Morton Buildings to sustain a Category 5 hurricane—and a white-oak hot walker (like a treadmill, horses use the motorized machine for exercise) from Wellington’s respected manufacturer MK Horse Walkers live in harmony with the Yags’ contemporary home, which fronts the compound. Native palms and pines frame the acreage, with a private nature trail Mike built to loop through the wooded area and another just outside the facility. They worked with Naples’ Jukins Irrigation to install innovative irrigation systems throughout the property. Jukins is one of the only contractors they hire for upkeep; the rest they handle in-house with their tight-knit team. Sustainable measures naturally occur as the Yags attempt to keep the budget and workload in check: Onsite composting, recycled rubber tread used in the barns and self-watering stations in each paddock are part of the daily cycles.
Janie moves swiftly and efficiently, riding boots crunching on gravel as she leads me to the 18-stall main barn. My eyes are drawn to the modern farmhouse-style chandelier hanging from the peak of the vaulted ceiling. “People spend so much time here, so you’ve got to have the WiFi and the music,” she says. With competing riders and trainers flying in, accommodations were a must. She gestures to a suite that houses their newest trainer, Camille Francois, an elite rider from France who competes in jumping competitions for the farm. Industry veteran Jo Lourden has been on since the beginning, helping Janie tend to the animals and office needs. They also have a home on the compound for their lead groom, Jesus Arguello, so he can be on-call to care for the horses or transport them to a vet if the need arises, and they’re building a new barn with a two-bedroom apartment to board more trainers and competitors.
A rainbow of overlapping ribbons lines a wall of the farm-chic lounge Janie designed for riders to kick back and have a snack or cold drink. She met Tony, who she currently trains with, “on accident” when purchasing her second horse from Tony’s farm in Brittany, France. After a more than 20-year career riding and training young horses in France, it was a dream opportunity for Tony to ride and compete in Wellington (“It’s the mecca,” Janie says). He rides for Shore Acres in competitions and has built a fan base since his first season when he placed above Wellington greats, including Georgina Bloomberg and Jessica Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen’s daughter who competed for the U.S. in the 2022 Olympics in Tokyo. This year, he took home the first-place medal in the 1.40-meter category (an advanced height for jumps), placing above 90 other contestants, including other Olympians. “When our trucks pull up [in Wellington], you can hear everyone chanting for him,” Janie says. “They don’t care that Shore Acres is there; they just want to see Tony.”
We wrap our tour back at the covered arena, where the gentleman rider has moved on to practice jumps on the competition-size open arena nearby. As I’m about to leave, Janie pulls me back to the golf cart for one more stop. Back inside the barn, she grabs a letter pinned to the fridge. Former French Olympian Marcel Rozier wrote to petition for Tony’s U.S. visa. “This man is a legend, and he wrote this for Tony,” Janie says, kicking the credit back to her team. “We are so blessed here—no kudos to me.”