World Equestrian Games team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht had an incredible North American League season, finishing at the top of the standings for the Eastern League, which determines the riders who would’ve earned a ticket for the World Cup Final in Las Vegas this April, cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 27-year-old won back-to-back World Cup qualifiers—first at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Thermal, where she and Benny’s Legacy (whom she had only jumped at three events prior) took the top spot on the podium, and then a week later at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Las Vegas, again with Benny’s Legacy. She wrapped up the season at the final qualifier, the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Ocala finishing third with her WEG partner, Cristalline.
Learn more about the two very different sporthorse stars in Adrienne’s barn—Cristalline, or “Stella,” a 12-year-old Bavarian Warmblood and Benny’s Legacy, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding.
What was it about Cristalline that first attracted you to her?
She’s everything. I watched her jump at World Cup Finals as an 8-year-old, and I remember asking McLain about her and he said, ‘Yeah, you and everyone else in the sport of show jumping wants this horse.’ She’s my pipe dream. She’s the most intelligent animal I’ve ever been around and I think she showed that from a young age. She didn’t have any mileage really when she jumped at the World Cup Finals [where she finished 10th with Australia’s Chris Chugg]. Her result far surpassed where she was developmentally and I think that is evidence of her brilliance.
What’s she like to ride?
She is a ton of horse. She’s quite sensitive in every way and very strong. She has a neck on her like nothing I’ve ever felt so I work a lot on my leg-to-hand connection with her and keeping her listening to me because I let her be the boss far too often at home.
What’s she like back at the barn?
She’s pretty quiet in her stall. Oftentimes I go sit with her in her stall and I can have the door open and she won’t go anywhere. She’ll acknowledge that I’m there and come over and say “hi” once in awhile. But she’s funny on the cross-ties. She likes to lean all of her weight on you. She’s more than my other-half so I just enjoy any minute I get to spend with her.
What are her strengths?
Her unbelieve mind. She has a better mind than any horse I’ve ever been around myself or seen. She’s completely unparalleled. She has very natural ability and in a lot of ways her brilliance is that she’s so intelligent to train. She learns from her mistakes, and she sits with them—even though most of the mistakes we’ve had on course are my fault. I think she really internalizes it and she wants to better for me every day.
What kind of training do you do with her?
We don’t jump big, we don’t really jump courses. We do a lot of gymnastics; getting her to jump correctly through her body, make sure she’s not hollowing out. Because she is so talented I can get away with a lot on her that I maybe couldn’t with another horse, so just thinking a lot about the rideability and her form.
What’s your most memorable win with her?
I actually haven’t won that much on her. I would say the World Equestrian Games on Sunday [for the individual medal where the pair finished 11]. It was this very strange moment when I went in and had never seen jumps that big and I just felt like going for a Sunday morning stroll. I have all the world of confidence in her and I believe in the two of us together more than myself, absolutely.
Could you tell me a little bit about Benny’s Legacy?
Benny is a 12-year-old gelding by Lupicor. I purchased him mid-September so our partnership has come together very quickly. In so many ways he is my ideal-type of horse to ride because he allows you to use a bit of leg. As I’ve grown in confidence with him, he’s really stepped up to the plate somewhat simultaneously.
What’s he like at the barn personality-wise?
He’s very, very alert. Certainly the most alert horse that I’ve ever had. I have to be on it all the time. I love to trail ride and wander around with my horses, but that’s not something I can do with him. I make sure that I’m very disciplined in paying attention at all times because he notices everything and sometimes I think he sees things. I believe he was gelded as a 7 or 8 year old, so he sort of acts like a baby at home. He’s a little bit stallion-y, but in the sweetest way. We joke that he still thinks he’s a foal. But being at the horse show is his favorite thing. He’s a lot more interactive back at the barn when he’s at a show than he is when he’s at home, so it’s kind of interesting.
What are his strengths?
His strengths are his electric-carefulness and he’s actually quite brave, though he can produce a bit of funny business between the fences or be a bit of a spaz. He always wants to do the job for you, and he looks to his rider to support him. He’s brave, he’s careful, he’s got a lot of ability. He’s everything I could want.
What are some things you do to address any challenges you have with him?
At home we don’t jump very big. I do a lot of combinations. He can get a bit inverted at times, so at home I’m always working on his shape and as a rider I have to be very cognizant of that. We do mainly small exercises, always thinking about keeping him on his haunches, and then again, trying to get him to jump through his back as best as he can.
What’s been your most memorable win with him?
I would say Las Vegas was our most memorable win. It was a difficult track, and I was a bit apprehensive about bringing Benny indoors because I had heard it wasn’t the best type of venue for him and he performed unbelievably. It was also a pressure situation for me, because I had made it my goal to finish out the year qualified for the World Cup Finals, and I knew I needed a good result there to do it. Those moments when you believe there’s more at stake than the performance at hand, I think that really sticks with you.