Millennials. They’re a generation as often maligned for their over attachment to SmartPhones as they are envied for the inherent ease at which they adopt new technology. In this new monthly series, Equo is turning the spotlight on the young riders who will shape the future of horse sport and carry us all into the brave, new worldwide web of equestrianism.
First up, Connecticut-native Adrienne Sternlicht. She’s self-depreciating, she’s driven and she’s has a uniquely diverse skill set for a show jumper.
Equo: You had wildly successful pony career, then took a hiatus from horses to go to boarding school. Was that a difficult transition?
Adrienne Sternlicht: My parents always stressed having a balanced life, so even when I did the ponies I would only go down to Florida for about five weekends during the winter. So it wasn’t that big of a transition for me.
I always played other sports. I used to ski competitively. I played squash at a Varsity level in high school. My passion was always the riding before anything else. But what I think has made me so dedicated to this sport and driven within it now is that I did take that time off, so I’m hungry for it.
Equo: How did you end up convincing your parents to get behind your riding?
Sternlicht: My parents kept delaying it, wanting to support me at this level, which is completely understandable. I needed to prove that I wanted it as well. When I got early decision from Brown University that was sort of a starting point for my riding, for them to say, “Fine, if this is really what you want, we will support you.” I’m super fortunate.
There’s a really funny photo of me, my sassy nine-year-old self, and I’m striking a pose. I’d won some contest, I think. It’s like, “Silly parents, horses aren’t a phase.” I think my parents wish it may have been.
Equo: Do you think there are skills you picked up in skiing and squash that translate into your riding?
Sternlicht: I’m a very competitive person and I think I’ve learned a bit how to channel that in a productive way. Okay, skiing is an individual sport and, if you notice, there’s a trend here. Everything I do is an individual sport. I don’t like to really rely on other people. It was the same in school with class projects.
Competing at anything at a high level takes a certain amount of mental fortitude. I think being able to block everything out and compartmentalize and really focus on that one task has been something that I hope I can translate and have been able to do a bit from one sport to another.
Equo: What’s the biggest challenge you face at this stage in your career?
Sternlicht: I feel that I’ve come to a place in my riding where I feel confident in myself that I can actually do it. That was sort of the first barrier for me that I feel like I broke this fall. And now it’s not only knowing that I can jump a clear first round, but really coming to see myself as a competitor alongside my trainer, McLain [Ward], alongside all these Olympians and everything—that I am in the hunt. I think it’s that next step in belief in myself.
Equo: Every rider has their strengths in the saddle. What do you think yours are?
Sternlicht: I think I have a good feel. McLain sometimes jokes with my poor course walking ability that, “You must really have a good feel because you have no idea what you’re doing.”
Another strength, I guess, is my relationship with my horses. I’m super close with them. I spend a lot of time with them on the ground. I think that has really helped me, especially with some of my younger horses that I’ve brought along.
So, yeah, I would say those two things.
Equo: What’s something that you are currently working on?
Sternlicht: At this level, the most important thing is having the right mentality about it and being able to have an even temperament and that’s something that I’ve been working towards. And something that I’m proud that I’m starting to achieve this winter—consistency.
Equo: That’s interesting and something to which a lot of riders can relate. Do you work with a sports psychologist?
Sternlicht: I have a therapist (laughs). But not a sport psychologist. I’ve thought about it at times. I probably could use one! Everyone could actually.
Thank you, Adrienne! We can’t wait to see where your career takes you next.