By Lauren Mauldin
What goes into running a successful farm? Some of it is obvious. You need talent to develop horse lovers into equestrian athletes. A sharp eye that can pluck a promising show horse from a field of green prospects. Communication that can flex from the nuanced body language of horses to talking down anxious clients at their first show. The list of requirements is neither short nor simple.
When asked what keeps Monroe, Connecticut based Stony Lane thriving, partners Lisa Tomaselli Beffert and Katherine Weber boil their success down to three main tenets: horsemanship, organization and honesty. These pillars are foundational for everything at Stony Lane from competing at the most competitive circuits in the country to enjoying the simple pleasure of being around horses.
Basics Built in Horsemanship
For both Lisa and Katherine, the focus on horsemanship started at a young age. Born as many of us are, a horse lover in a non-horsey family, Lisa took beginner lessons before stumbling into Eamonn Hughes’ program at Drumnacross Farm. There, Hughes knew how to identify a determined junior and provided opportunities for those who worked for it. “I wasn’t the most talented, but I was the one who was always around,” Lisa explained. “He taught me that you can make opportunities for yourself by working hard, and to this day it’s the best thing I took away from my time there.”
Lisa credits those lessons she learned from Hughes for many of the opportunities she’s built for herself in the industry. She attended Virginia Tech where she received degrees in animal science and biology. She also competed on the IHSA team in the open division and rode outside of her college team with Carol Gwin. Lisa later started her teaching career at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. Subsequently she served as the head coach for Pace University, was Program Director at New Canaan Mounted Troop and head coach of Fairfield University before branching out to open her own business, Stony Lane, in 2011.
Katherine too learned the value of hard work at a young age. Although for her, her first equestrian role model was her mother who had ridden in Germany as a working student for some of the top European dressage riders. “I spent most of my junior career as a working student catch riding, grooming and doing what I could to get more hours in the saddle,” she said. When it came time to choose a career, Katherine brought the work ethic she learned in the barn to Cornell and majored in Economics. “I thought if I wanted to keep horses in my life that I should find some gainful employment,” she laughed. Working for Lehman Brothers & Barclays in foreign exchange for nine years, Katherine competed in the A/O jumpers. However, being able to only ride on the weekends was tough on her psyche. Slowly, she began investing in jumper prospects and was fortunate enough to be able to buy a farm with her husband in 2012. By 2016, she dove into the sales and import business and turned to horses full time.
Lisa and Katherine, despite their different paths to a professional life with horses, began a harmonious partnership in 2018. The two met while Katherine worked at Pavillion Farms, and instantly got along. Bonded through their commitment to horsemanship and finding themselves at a similar crossroads, Lisa invited Katherine to lunch one day to discuss a “hair brained” scheme. “I told her about this beautiful farm in Connecticut for rent, and that was really big,” Lisa laughed. Taking a leap of faith together, the two signed a lease and moved into the property with ten horses. “We now have a 30 stall facility, and have 29 horses in our care as of today,” Katherine stated. “The rate of growth has been pretty crazy, but it’s a lot of fun. We’re wrapping up our first year here, and saying cool—now what?”
Though the two pros’ stellar working relationship is an asset to the farm, it’s simple, hard work that has built their business to this point. “Hard work is what truly defines a horse person, and horsemanship is the person who just loves being at the barn,” Katherine said.
Being at the barn, caring for the horses, it all feeds into the philosophy behind Stony Lane. “You can be a good horse person, and also be a good trainer that produces results,” Lisa stated simply. Their commitment to proper horsemanship means no short cuts, no gimmicks. Simply put—patience. “Trust the process. We say that a lot, but in reality I spend a lot of time in the barn really getting to know the horses,” Katherine explained. “I’m very hands-on trying to understand what makes them tick. If a horse finds a certain situation challenging I think about how I can make them feel better in a way that’s constructive,” she added.
Organization Makes for Happy Horses and Clients
Someone who has worked behind the scenes in any business knows how important organization is to keeping things together, and a barn is no different. In that regard, Katherine’s background in finance is unique to many in the industry. “Being in the horse business means you’re an entrepreneur and a small business owner,” she stated. “Having some grounding in finance and being able to approach day to day challenges in a way that’s organized and rational has been really important.”
This foundational knowledge is just one of the many ways Katherine and Lisa make a great team. By having different skill sets and strengths, the partners complement each other to create overall success. Lisa, a self-admitted people person, loves to help talk clients through different problems. “I joked when we first got here that I should make a flow chart, and it should say ‘Do you have a question about your feelings? If the answer is yes, talk to Lisa’” Katherine laughed. Jokes aside, being so in tune with clients various emotions makes Lisa an excellent matchmaker when it comes to finding the perfect horse. “She’s incredibly smart about matching horses and riders,” Katherine said. “Lisa is better than anyone I know at working with the clients on setting goals that make people feel confident, optimistic and excited about what they’re doing.”
Lisa takes these skills on the road with clients who show winters in Florida and other large circuits outside of Connecticut, while Katherine enjoys staying at home to manage their large facility and teach riders who prefer to stay local. “Katherine is so organized. She’s a great planner and appointment keeper, so it makes my job easier to go to the shows and know the facility and the finances are being handled properly,” Lisa said, applauding her teammate.
Keeping the large property at peak condition for horses and riders is no easy task. Situated on sixteen acres of excellent grass, the farm features an outdoor ring with sand footing, indoor arena with dust-free Travel Rite footing, multiple barns, a treadmill and all sorts of paddock configurations. These amenities mean that every horse can be happy at Stony Lane, even if they have needs that might be difficult for some show barns to satisfy. “We’re able to structure a routine for pretty much any kind of horse where they’re active, engaged, and appropriately socialized,” Lisa explained. “We find that a lot of horses that might be a little bit high strung in other settings are really happy here.”
This commitment to the property is about more than keeping the rings looking nice. For Stony Lane, it’s a promise to the horse itself. “There are a lot of older horses to consider, and I want to keep them happy happy happy,” Katherine said. “By the time they get to a certain age, they’re a genius at their job. It’s our responsibility to keep them able to perform.”
Honesty Above All Else
From representing horses to show prep, honesty can be hard to find in this industry. Stony Lane maintains that winning a blue ribbon doesn’t mean anything if it’s accomplished through nefarious actions. “The two of us care that we can sleep at night and feel good about what we’ve accomplished at the end of the day,” Katherine said. It’s something that’s especially personal to her, who has seen many different sides of the sport through her years showing as an amateur. “If you look at what happens on the ground, doing the right thing gets lost a lot,” Katherine explained. “I am sensitive to that because I was a client and know how it feels when you’re trying to protect yourself in an industry that’s known for not being nice to horses and clients. We don’t ever compromise ethics.”
To Stony Lane, being honest is about more than just telling the truth. It’s about offering their clients personal, individualized goals that are both affordable and achievable. “I think a lot of trainers will push clients to make suboptimal decisions because they benefit trainers financially, but I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t conduct myself in the way that I wanted to be treated when I was an amateur,” Katherine said. This means that both she and Lisa are always thinking outside the box for the benefit of the clients and their horses. “We will work within any reasonable set of constraints we can to make the sport accessible,” Katherine added. The mantra around the barn is “Love All, Serve All,” and it results in a wide client base that ranges from beginner leadline lessons to amateurs enjoying their horses at home to top juniors competing in equitation finals. “We only have two requirements to ride here,” Katherine stated. “You have to be nice, and you have to really like the horses.”
Because at the end of the day, it’s about the horses for Lisa and Katherine. The horses are the reason Lisa wakes up every day thinking about ways for her riders to excel in the show ring without compromising horsemanship. The horses are the reason Katherine walked away from a career in finance to be in the barn all day. “You’ll never hear either of us say ‘Go lunge it to death’ because that is so antithetical to what we feel,” Katherine said.
Lisa quickly added, “If I’m ever asked to explain why I don’t do something that someone else might, I usually say ‘Well, I like horses so…’” she laughed.
Liking horses that much and being honest with the clients can sometimes make for a slower path, but it is the correct one. It’s the path to long-term success for Stony Lane and its riders. “Learning to ride and be a good horseman is a process and a journey,” Lisa explained. “If my students are looking towards ribbons or finals, I always encourage them to enjoy the progression of lessons. We’re here to enjoy the journey, love the sport and the horses.”
At Stony Lane, riders can follow their equestrian journey with the peace of mind knowing that the trainers are looking out for their and their horses’ best interests. With a barn full of happy animals and comprehensive support from Lisa and Katherine, any journey there is bound to be a successful one.
Find out more at www.stonylane.net
Photos © ESI Photography, Flashpoint, Sportfot & Andrew Ryback Photography.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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