Adrienne Sternlicht, 27, vaulted into the international show jumping spotlight in a big way when she helped the U.S. team win gold at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) aboard Cristalline.
Sternlicht, Greenwich, Connecticut, turned professional in 2016 after graduating from Brown University (Rhode Island) with a public policy degree.
In 2020, she’s campaigned a variety of mounts at the Fédération Equestre Internationale level and won a Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida, in February aboard Just A Gamble. On Oct. 17, Sternlicht and Benny’s Legacy finished fourth in the $137,000 Grand Prix CSI3*, held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Below, she walks through the day as it unfolded.
6:30 a.m. Wake up, morning run and meditation. Right now, I’m in Tryon, North Carolina, competing in the CSI3* here this week. Regardless of where I am, I always like to run on grand prix day. I find it’s a really nice way to start the day and clear my mind.
I love to run, and last year I started running longer distances while training for my first half marathon. I don’t have great knees, so at the moment I only run two days a week: typically, one longer run (5+ miles) and then a shorter run (3-4 miles). I’ve always been very into fitness but never had much organization to my training routine. Recently, I started working with Nina Hammarstrom (@AthletEq_fitness_nutrition) to hone my routine, as we want to put together an equestrian-specific training regimen that takes the guesswork out of fitness!
It’s been pretty chilly here in the mornings, but I absolutely love the fall; it’s so beautiful! After my run, I take a three-minute freezing shower. (Yes, I time it!) It’s definitely trying for the first 30 seconds, but it leaves me feeling so energized, especially after a workout.
I don’t meditate every morning, but if I can carve out the time to sit for 10 minutes, it makes a huge difference in my day. I started using the Ten Percent Happier meditation app this summer. I think it’s the best one I’ve found. The app offers guided single meditations and courses from a range of teachers. My favorite teachers are Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. I read Dan Harris’ book “10% Happier” this summer (highly recommend!) and was totally hooked.
I’m not a big breakfast eater, and I intermittent fast a few days a week. However, most days I have coffee with collagen creamer for a little bit of protein first thing and then a bar mid-morning. I recently discovered the Atlas Bar—a clean protein bar—and I’ve been eating those on the go.
8 a.m. Begin riding. Since we are here for three weeks, I brought all of my horses. I have those not competing laying over at a nearby farm. I have six FEI horses in my string at the moment. I don’t like to show the horses more than two weeks in a row, and I wanted to have a little bit of flexibility during my three weeks of competing. This morning I start with my 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion “Marshall” (Shadowfax 111) and give him a small jump school before he shows next week. After, I take “Justy” (Just A Gamble), my 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, for a trail ride and light work. She’ll be my main horse in the CSI4* at Tryon.
During my time here, I’m competing five horses. Benny’s Legacy and Just A Gamble are my top horses at the moment. With them, each week’s plan is centered around setting them up in the best possible way for the grand prix. With so many horses in the qualifiers here, I’ve used those classes to ensure I was qualified for the grand prix, but I was less focused on achieving a certain result.
I have a new horse—Lafayette Van Overis, a 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, so I am using the competition for us to get to know each other. I also have my 11-year-old Zangersheide mare Cadans Z here; she’s a competitive mare that jumps anywhere from speed classes to CSI3* grand prixs. Finally, I am stepping up my young horse Shadowfax 111 this fall; he jumped clear in his first 1.50 meter in the $37,000 Welcome Stake CSI3* on Oct. 8.
10:30 a.m. I head to the show to ride and give “Benny” a light flat before he jumps the $137,000 Grand Prix CSI3* this afternoon. Afterward, I flat Cadans Z, who jumps the national $25,000 Grand Prix on Sunday. (We finished second.)
12:15 p.m. Walk the course and get ready to show. I always have my headphones in when I’m walking, less to get in the zone, and more to keep myself from overthinking! I listen to a wide range of audiobooks and podcasts, but right now I’m loving the “Broken Brain” podcast with Dhru Purohit.
1 p.m. Benny goes fifth in the order, so I get on early, and we end up as the second clear. He jumped so well; I was so happy with him! We had a while to wait; there were 50 starters in the class and nine clear rounds. The jump-off didn’t go exactly as planned, but we finished fourth with a double clear. He couldn’t have tried harder and now gets a very well-deserved rest!
5 p.m. Jump school with “Stella” (Cristalline), my 12-year-old Bavarian mare, and my coach McLain [Ward]. My very favorite time of the day! She is so wild these days; I can’t wait to get her back in the show ring soon. With the cancellation of the FEI World Cup Final (Las Vegas) and then the Olympics (Tokyo), all of my major goals for Cristalline were put on hold. So, knowing that I wouldn’t be competing in any FEI events over the summer, we gave her the entire summer off from showing. She’ll begin in a few weeks when we get to Florida to get her ready for the upcoming season.
7:30 p.m. It’s McLain’s birthday, so I head to Lillie Keenan and the McKeevers’ house in Tryon for a group dinner. Ericka McKeever made a delicious chicken pot pie for dinner, McLain’s favorite! McLain’s stable really operates as a giant family; it’s always nice when we get together. Ever cautious of COVID-19, McLain decides to fan his birthday candles out with a card rather than blow on the cake itself. (Ha!)
9:30 p.m. Reading in bed. This fall, I started a part-time master’s program in human rights at Columbia University (New York). I’ve always been very academic, and I have a real passion for social justice. Since graduating from Brown University (Rhode Island) in 2016, I have engaged in criminal justice [reform] work in bits and pieces but wanted to further my education in a more holistic sense.
I am fortunate to have an amazing team around me that makes it possible for me to be highly invested in both aspects of my career. That being said, I have a lot going on at the moment! I really do believe there is enough time in the day to do both at the level I aspire to. While competition days are all about horses, having the extra load of schoolwork is teaching me to be increasingly intentional with my time. I love being busy, so, so far, it is going well.
The pandemic has, in many ways, meant a complete realignment of my short-term goals. My long-term goals remain the same, but I’ve had to change my outlook on competing a bit this year. Since WEG, I’ve used my next big goal to frame my competition mindset, and I quickly realized that way of thinking maybe wouldn’t serve me as well during 2020. Of course, as riders, we always want to compete and do well, but I’ve had to take the pressure off my near-term performances a bit.
10:30 p.m. Bedtime! I never go to bed past 11 p.m., usually earlier. Today was a busy day, but a good one!