About Us

Michele Sakurai


Michele rode and competed with hunters, jumpers and Arabians during her teen years in Colorado. After a hiatus for college at Middlebury College and in Paris, France, graduate school at Georgetown University, career-building in Washington,DC, and joining the United Nations in New York City, she returned to the horse world as an adult competing in eventing up to and including the Preliminary level. Ultimately finding it impossible to reconcile the demands of her UN career and travel schedule with those of her horses, she reluctantly left the horse world in the early '80s. 


Makoto Sakurai


Makoto and Michele married in 1985.  His own life story as Mitsubishi CEO and "East Point" graduate gives Sakura Hill Farm a constant source of sanity, stability and serenity. Their daughter Monica was born in 1986 and the world of horses reappeared when, at age 6, Monica made it clear that competitive figure skating did not have the same appeal to her as the horses. 



Monica Sakurai


Monica was employed part-time as an equine veterinary technician by New England Equine Practice for three years before graduating from Bronxville High School, Bronxville (Westchester County), NY. Prior to her career in the "Big Equitation", she rode in the Short Stirrup division and in the Hunter Pony division with excellent results on her ponies, Hillcrest Sandpiper and Field of Dreams. She moved up to the Children's Hunter Horse and Children's Equitation divisions with a mare named Step Aside. During her Junior riding career, she rode in the"Big Equitation" on the Northeast show circuits with her 17.3h Hanoverian gelding, Cat Burglar. When Monica was 13, the pair were Grand Champion and Grand Reserve Champion of the Fairfield-Westchester Cos. Professional Horsemen's Association Mini- Medal and the Mini- Maclay year-end finals respectively. The following year, they competed in all of the East Coast "Big Equitation" national finals including the Maclay, USEF Medal finals in Harrisburg, PA, USET East Coast Talent Search in Gladstone, NJ and the CHJA Junior Medal finals in Fairfield, CT (placing 6th) and qualified for New England Junior Medal Finals.After retiring her equitation horse, Monica continued riding as a catch rider on an array of horses including a newly imported 5-year old warmblood in the Pre-green Hunters at Ocala HITS in 2003. Beginning in 2005, Monica competed on Tisolde VDL, a 2000 KWPN mare imported by Sakura Hill Farm, LLC, at the Level 5 and eventually Level 6 Junior Jumpers with excellent results.


Monica graduated in May, 2009, from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts as a Biology major vet with a minor in Russian. At Mount Holyoke, Monica competed in the Intercollegiate Open Division on the Hunt Seat Equitation team and consistently went to the Zone 4 Regionals.


Since graduation from Mount Holyoke College, Monica has been focusing on the jumpers, starting and educating young horses with a strong focus on flatwork and rideability. After having worked with United Kingdom Nations Cup rider John Brown over the summer of 2009, she began working with United Kingdom show jumper rider and Olympian Tim Stockdale in Northampton, England in the fall of 2009. She returned to Florida in 2010 to continue training with John Brown and has been training, riding, and competing Sakura Hill Farmhorses (her mother's farm in Gainesville, FL) and helping others with their young horses on a very selective basis. In 2013, she began training for a private farm as their Hunter/Jumper rider and trainer for both outside horses and clients and continues to produce Sakura Hill Farm's horses. She has become adept as an equine photographer and as a website designer and social media marketer for Sakura Hill Farm as well as for her own business, The Equine Media Project. 


In 2014 she has expanded the business to include her own farm Ryu Equestrian in Osteen, FL, where she will focus on boarding, breeding and the training of her own performance horses and youngsters as well as out horses. 



Robert Smith


Robert Smith of Stride by Stride Training resides at Sakura Hill Farm South as our in house young horse handler and starter. He works with our youngsters to ensure that they receive the best foundation to their future careers in sport. Robert offers results through an individualized training program focused on establishing a vocabulary between horse and rider. He utilizes a patient and kind technique without drilling to develop a trustworthy and productive horse for results that will last after the horse returns home from his program.


Robert has worked with all ages of horses and disciplines, specializing in foals to four year olds (including starting young horses under saddle) as well as problem horses at any stage of training. 


Robert is available to train outside clients' horses both on farm as well as off property. 


For moreinformation, please visit: www.YoungHorseTrainer.com