By Britney Grover
Stephanie Lightner grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where she fell in love with riding. After college, she moved to California. “I thought I would just be moving there for a few years, but I started working with Robert Ridland at Showpark of San Diego and never stopped,” she said. “That was 1993.”
Stephanie was looking for a public relations job at the time, outside of the horse show world. “Robert asked if I would stay on and help him with the shows part time,” she said. “I did that and I filled in with some work at the Del Mar National Horse Show, as well as the winter horse shows in Tuscon. Ultimately the Showpark shows grew so that I was doing those full time.”
Since Stephanie began helping out in the horse show office in 1993, Blenheim EquiSports has grown to produce about 20 shows a year, and Stephanie’s career has grown with it. She has managed shows for Blenheim primarily in California but also including helping to put on the Las Vegas National Horse Show, two Olympic selection trials and five World Cup Jumping Finals. She also manages the National Horse Show, the jumper portion of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show and the Hampton Classic.
Stephanie has served as an FEI steward around the world, including the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Now, Stephanie lives in Wellington, Florida, where she dabbles in real estate and enjoys time with her wife, Sue, who also has an equestrian career as a judge and clinician. “We have two corgis and two rag doll cats,” Stephanie said of her family. “I am also blessed to have both of my parents. I have one older sister, a brother-in-law and their super great kids who are both in college.”
What are your best early memories of riding or with horses?
When I was 10 my parents gave me Park District riding lessons for Christmas. The program was run out of Northwestern Stables in Morton Grove. That’s where it all started!
Any favorite horses over the years?
My favorite horse of all time was a black pony named Coal Miner’s Daughter. She was just a cool soul. I think she’s my favorite because she taught me how to ride.
What is your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
My favorite thing about the horse world is that is has led me to meet so many different and interesting people from all over the world.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
I always wanted to work for a professional sports organization. My first choice would have been an NFL team, but I would have been thrilled to work for any professional sports team.
If you could tell every rider one thing, what would it be?
Be kind, first to your horses then to your people.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Travel—first choice Africa, second choice a beach somewhere.
Where is your favorite place you have been? Where would you like to go but haven’t?
I think South Africa is my favorite place in the world, with New Zealand a close second. Iceland and Australia are two places I’d like to go.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
One step at a time.
Have you had a funny horse moment that still makes you laugh?
I always chuckle when I think back to my childhood when we would ride down the trail to McDonald’s for caramel sundaes. One of us would hold the horses and the other one would run across the street for the sundaes. I don’t know why, but it always makes me smile when I think about it.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who stands up for the rights of others
What talents do you feel you have?
Empathy. Being able to look at a situation from someone else’s point of view is not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s very helpful in all aspects of life.
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
Jean shorts and flip flops
What’s your favorite meal?
A perfectly cooked steak (medium rare)
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I like to play golf when I have time (which is not often).
What would be the best gift in the world?
World peace—no, financial freedom.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to make everybody happy. Sounds cheesy, but wouldn’t that be great?
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Going on safari
Photo by Carlos Molejon