A Barn of Her Own
By Riesa Lakin
For many, it is a dream to wake up at home and only have to go as far as right next door—literally a stone’s throw away—to see your favorite four-legged friends living their best lives in a beautiful, new barn. For United States rider, Adrienne Sternlicht, who won the gold medal for Team USA at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, this dream became a reality this year when she and her family built Starlight Farms right next to their home in Greenwich, CT. The 14-acre property is stunning from the inside out. The Sternlicht’s thought of everything when it came to designing the farm to accommodate Adrienne’s training program for her impressive string of horses.
Corro caught up with Adrienne right after she returned home from back-to-back wins in the $100,000 World Cup™ at HITS Thermal on November 9, and then the $100,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ at the Las Vegas National Horse Show on November 17. Not only is this beautiful farm conveniently located next door to her childhood home, but it has presented Adrienne with a unique opportunity to manage and run her own operations, gaining a new sense of independence and responsibility unlike anything she had experienced before.
Keep reading for an inside look at the farm and our interview with Adrienne on what it’s like to build and run the farm.
Tell us about building a barn and creating your own operation here at Starlight Farms?
Adrienne: I never thought I would have a barn. My family is not horse-oriented whatsoever. But I think at some point my parents realized it was not a fleeting passion of mine, and we’re very lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world and country that sort of caters to horse culture to some capacity. So, we purchased the land next to my house that I grew up in at the end of spring 2016, and then we built a farm here. It's really like my dream place! It's perfect for me and my horses. It's big enough that we have plenty of room for ourselves, but not so big that I feel obliged to rent out stalls or run a multi-rider operation within here.
We were able to very much lean on my staff, my grooms, in terms of the design so that everything was very logical. The way that we work, and I think that one thing that's been nice over the past few years is that, since I've been riding full-time, I've come to have a much better understanding of horsemanship. Riding was very much a hobby for me in high school and I only started prioritizing it when I went to college. So being engaged in the horses on daily basis, I've learned a ton and I continue to learn every day. I hope our barn is a reflection of that.
What’s your favorite part about this barn or just having a barn of your own?
Adrienne: Just being able to be by myself and try new things on my own. I've always been under someone’s supervision. I think McClain [Ward] was a bit nervous for me to be on my own and he thought I would go rogue, but I haven't. I feel like I'm at a point in my riding or I've got to a point where I had to have the opportunity to fail on my own a bit. I never grew up being able to spend time around horses other than the time I was there lessoning. So, for sure my favorite part is when I get home from a show, being able to come over and see the horses at night, and on a Monday, being able to take Cristalline in my backyard and graze her. When I first moved over here, being able to take the horses on a trail ride in my front yard was so amazing.
What has owning and running your own farm taught you about horse care?
Adrienne: I would say that riding, for me, has been this unbelievable process the past few years now that I've been riding full-time and learning a lot about myself. I just think it's a process of like coming into my own authenticity in this way of ‘this is what I'm doing.’ It may be very different than what you're doing. It doesn't make either of [the processes] right or wrong, it’s just different. And, you know, I have to own my own process.
I think the most important part [to ensure top-quality care for my horses] is having consistency—consistency among the people who care for the horses and among the way that they're looked after. We have a very diligent pre-show and post-show routine for each horse, and it's very important that whoever is working around them knows exactly what to do. Obviously there has to be a little bit of flexibility in there, so they know the horses and adapt to their needs on that particular day—just like people—we feel different every day.
We ask so much of the horses that you need to be able to see any changes in them on a day-to-day basis and adapt accordingly. I also take this McClain's program, but McClain really is never trying to reinvent the wheel, and our training, you know, whenever things seem to go astray, we always come back to the same fundamentals. I think that is the secret to his success and I hope to have any level of comparable success to him.
What's something you learned about the process of creating or operating this barn as your own program that you may not have learned otherwise?
Adrienne: I'd say that there really are no shortcuts to doing things the right way. I think as a junior I didn't get to spend much time at the barn. Even when I was stabled at McClain’s, I would sort of come and go a lot more than I do now. So just being around as much as I have been gives you sort of an even greater appreciation for the people around you and how crucial it is that you work as a team.