Long before Benny’s Legacy was imported to the United States for Adrienne Sternlicht to ride, he was purchased by Ireland’s Benny Kuehnle as a foal from a German auction.
When Kuehnle died unexpectedly in 2008 at 20, his sister Jessica Kuehnle set out to develop the Oldenburg gelding (Lupicor—Acordia, Voltaire), and he remained with her until Irish rider Jenny Rankin took on the ride in 2016.
Sternlicht started her partnership with the gelding, now 12, in 2019, and they were quick to hit the ground running, earning victories in the $100,000 Longines FEI Thermal World Cup Qualifier (California) in November, and the $100,000 Longines FEI Las Vegas World Cup Qualifier the following week.
This spring they picked up second at the Palm Beach Masters CSI4*-W (Florida) in January and were third at the Live Oak International CSI3*-W (Florida) in March before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Get to know “Benny,” Sternlicht’s quirky but very capable ride.
• Sternlicht didn’t try Benny before purchasing him.
“[My trainer McLain Ward] had tried him earlier in the summer for a different client,” said Sternlicht. “Nothing came of that, and he approached me about the horse at the end of the summer. McLain really loved the horse when he sat on him and told me if he didn’t work for me, he would happily buy me out of him. So, in that sense, it seemed like a win-win situation for me, but I’m definitely not giving him back. He’s the most fun horse I’ve maybe ever ridden.
“He was gelded as an 8-year-old, so he can be a bit of a handful on the ground, but he absolutely loves attention, loves being around people,” added Sternlicht. “He definitely feels very connected to me and his two primary caregivers, Emma Chapman and Sean Kissane.”
• Benny may have his quirks, but he’s a dream ride for Sternlicht.
“He can take a bit of pressure and always wants a connection with the rider, which is how I like to ride,” said Sternlicht. “He has a massive stride. He’s incredibly careful, and he’s a horse that grows in confidence the more confidence you have as a rider. He’s surprised us all with the natural ability he’s shown thus far, and I think he’s a horse that jumps the five-star level with more ease than I anticipated.
“He’s the most suitable horse I have to my riding—a girl’s dream horse in terms of his style,” she added. “He is incredibly careful, maybe the most careful horse I have. He can be very quirky at home, something that I discovered this winter. I got him at the beginning of October  and immediately began showing, so he never had a big enough break for me to see his wild side. At home, I have to be incredibly alert and mindful of him at all times. At the show often, and walking around, he acts a bit like a foal, like he’s never been to a show before.”
• Amid COVID-19, Sternlicht is using the hiatus from sport to work on Benny’s relaxation.
“Benny is the most alert horse I’ve ever been around, so I always have to be very mindful of his environment, whether in the saddle or on the ground,” said Sternlicht. “During circuit we could only ride him in the ring, and I had to be supervised getting on and off. I’ve been using the downtime to get Benny to decompress a bit, working him on the field and hills, and he’s even trail riding. It’s a huge departure from the way we worked him during circuit, so I’m very happy with the direction he’s going in.”
• Benny isn’t a horse for a rider lacking confidence.
“He’s a bit quirky, so he takes a confident rider because he can surprise you, but I think at this stage in my career, I’m seasoned enough now that I can support him in the way he needs to be supported—most of the time,” said Sternlicht. “He’s definitely not a first grand prix horse for anyone, but he’s amazing to ride, and he’s so competitive, and truly you can go into any sort of class feeling competitive. Especially in an environment like Wellington [Florida], where there are so many good horse-and-rider combinations, that’s an even more important asset to have in your group of horses.”
• Show horse or not, Benny wants to keep his whiskers.
“At one point, we clipped his whiskers, and he was really unhappy about that,” said Sternlicht. “He’s the only horse in my barn with whiskers.”
• Skip the toys. Give Benny a banana.
“He really likes bananas,” said Sternlicht. “He’s not super picky, but he only likes the inside of the banana; he won’t eat the peel.
“I wanted to get him a little Superman toy, but I think it might scare him,” she added. “He’s afraid of everything, which is surprising because he’ll jump anything. In a prizegiving, I often wonder how he does what he does in the ring because he doesn’t ever give me a feeling that he doesn’t want to do it, and yet prizegivings can be scary, to say the least.”
• Benny is learning to be one with the paddock.
“We’ve tried to acclimate him a bit to turnout,” said Sternlicht. “He normally won’t stay out super long, but post-competition when he decompresses, he’s normally a bit better. We do hand-graze him, but I think it’s good for the horses to turn out, to be out by themselves if they can manage it.”
• It doesn’t take much to keep Benny fit.
“I ride him quite lightly,” said Sternlicht. “He’s pretty much wild every day at home, but he has so much natural adrenaline, and he stays very fit just from competing very regularly that I don’t focus on his fitness. I think when I first got him, I was focused on working him in a way that would strengthen his hind end, but his whole body has really muscled up from his supplement routine and nutrition here. So, he’s stayed pretty fit.”
• Benny’s favorite stablemate: Cristalline.
“He went to [Live Oak International] and definitely got attached to her, which is fine,” said Sternlicht. “She’s a very co-dependent horse; she gets attached to whoever she’s traveling with.”