Seems like America’s heartland is breeding some great young Dressage talent and we’re not just talking horses. 25-year-old Adam Steffens is returning to The Lamplight Equestrian Center in St Charles, Illinois, not far from his home state of Minnesota where he got his start taking dressage lessons at age 9. By the time he was in his early teens he was working with young horses at Brandywine Farms, in Hamel Minnesota, under the tutelage of FEI "S" judge William Solyntjes .
When Natalie Hamilton-Hinneman (daughter in law to Jo Hinneman) moved back to Minnesota from Europe she took Steffens under her wing. It is Hinneman’s home bred 4-year-old Oldenberg mare, Benettona , owned by Gretchen Guender the young professional now based in Wellington Florida will be bringing north to compete with the best at the National Championships.
Steffens and Benettona (by Benetton Dream out of Pow Wow by Pik Solo) earned the scores needed to keep him in the top 12 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and at the Welcome Back to White Fences show in Loxahatchee where they tied for highest individual score with an 8.58. They were invited to the Young Horse Training sessions with the new incoming USEF Young Horse coach, Christine Traurig. “It was an amazing experience, “ said Steffens. I believe the young horse program in America is growing and going to new places with the coaches USEF has given us, especially with Christine.”
This will be Steffens second trip to the Young Horse Championships. At 21-year-old he qualified a sales horse at the last minute, Holeandra (Hotline x Don Bosco in the FEI four year old division and finished 8th on a 75.8%
"The Young Horse Program is my passion,” added the young trainer who is thriving in Florida after many a long and cold winter in the great white north. He has worked with some of the best in Wellington including Olympian Dottie Morkis “who could train a mule to Grand Prix.” And Oded Shimoni who taught him “all aspects of the business from sales, training as well as having Oded's eyes on the ground.” His long time trainer Julie Julian, from Illinois “keeps me guided down the right path and gives me so much confidence.”
Without owners like Gretchen Guender this opportunity would not be possible for me.” Said Steffens. “She has entrusted me with this wonderful horse and gave me every opportunity to succeed with her. I also have a strong support team at home in Florida with Stacey MacLeod who assists me on a daily basis, my sister Jenna Steffens who also is a huge help and my amazing groom Marcel who keeps all our horses in top form. I would also like to thank my parents for their amazing support over my whole riding career. They inspire me daily to work hard and stay grounded. It really does take a village.” and I hope to have many horses in this program in the future. I recently relocated my business to Wellington, FL to be able to grow my business with young horses.
I grew up riding as a young child in the front of my mothers western saddle before she started my sister and I in dressage lessons at the age of 9 with a wonderful local trainer, Barb Anderson of Caille Farm. She ran a barn full of kids and laughter and threw me on as many horses as I wanted to ride. It was the perfect place to start. At the age of 14 we had the wonderful opportunity to move to Brandywine Farm, home to FEI "S" judge William Solyntjes and Lloyd Landkramer. What a wonderful opportunity it was. Bill and Lloyd have a barn full of wonderfully bred and trained horses and are incredible trainers. Bill took me from training level to competing third and fourth level in less than a year on my old school mate purchased from them Jalaper. During this time I started helping with some of their young horses.
Bill and Lloyd are really inspirational people and I really admire them. During this time Natalie Hamilton-Hinneman (daughter in law to Jo Hinneman) moved back to Brandywine from Europe and took me under her wing when I was 15. I worked with her during the summers after my first winter season in Florida for the next 6 years. In 2006 I believe I rode in a clinic with Tuny Page and found out about Wellington, FL and became obsessed with finding a way to go to Florida.
In 2007 I accepted a working student position for Olympian Dottie Morkis at Stillpoint Farm. Coming from the Midwest to Stillpoint was a shell shock for me! Being around some of the best riders and horses day in and day out and making connections at the top of the sport was life changing. Dottie is a superb trainer and could train a mule to the Grand Prix. I learned a lot from her. In November of 2008 I went to be a working student for Oded Shimoni for the next two Florida seasons at Stillpoint Farm. This was the experience of a life time. I learned all aspects of the business from sales, training and also Oded's Eye. He sees everything and we all learned his ways working from him. He is an incredible horseman and still helps me with my horses from time to time when I can afford him.
In 2009 I acquired an incredible Danish Warmblood gelding named Rubicon Ask from the Harris Family. I was able to learn all the GP movements on him and compete him through intermediare 1. We had top 10 finishes in Wellington CDI's in the young rider divisions and national shows in Chicago and Florida. In 2010 I worked in California where I was able to compete in the Del Mar CDI with a top 10 finish in the Young Riders Classes. We also had a winning Prix St. George in Indio, CA.
In 2011 I moved back to Wayzata, MN and started my own business AJS Dressage Horses. During this time I focused mostly on developing my own riding and teaching a barn full of students. An eventer named Isabelle Olson called me about a horse she wanted me to sell named Holeandra (Hotline x Don Bosco). I ended up qualifing Holeandra last minute for the 2011 Markel/USEF Young Horse national championships in the FEI four year old division where we finished 8th on a 75.8% 2012-2013 I focused on teaching students, importing horses and working on progressing my own riding.
In September of 2014. I was horseless and called Oak Hill Ranch on a filly they had for sale and ended up acquiring a 18hand Danish Gelding Romulus from them. Romulus relit my flame and enstilled a desire to move back to Florida. I put my historic home that I just finished restoring up for rent, closed my barn down over the next few months and in January me and a handful of my clients made the journey down to Florida. I hoping Romulus will be a candidate for the developing horse championships next year. I also have Susan Thomas' black stallion Patriot who I hope to have in the CDI ring this coming season. Patriot is the son of Safir who Michael Barsione was the alternate to the Olympics with.
Moving to Florida has been great for me. I have been able to expand my education down here tremendously which is more important to me than anything else. I am always dying to learn. My passion is in the young horse program and I hope to develop horses through the levels with correct basics and continue to be apart of this program. I'm hoping to develop a young horse and sales program here in Florida and I'm really trying to make a go of it. The horse community here in incredible and extremely supportive. I am so blessed. I think the young horse program is going into amazing new directions under the leadership of Christine Traurig and Robert Dover. How lucky are we to have such an amazing support system guiding the U.S. To new levels.
History on Benettona Benny's owner Gretchen Guender originally called me to list a mare she had for sale. This mare was a lovely painted Oldenburg mate who I had known since it was a 3 year old being broke by Natalie Hinneman. This mate was also the mother to Benettona. We took a peak at Benetonna in the field and she began to break her herself over the fall. Gretchen was very pleased with the changes in her other mare who I was selling Varden and decided to move Benny over to my facility in Minnesota once Varden sold. I started riding benny in negative degree temperatures in my non-heated arena in December and shortly after she made the trek to Florida and has totally blown us away. Julie Julian my mentor helped me with her all winter and she kept getting better and better each day. Career highlights with Benettona Global 10-7.42 Global 10- 7.54 Welcome back to white fences- 8.58 Invited to and participated in the USEF young horse training sessions with Christine traurig.