Horse enthusiasts on the East End of Long Island have a lot of options. From beginners just getting their feet wet in the sport to seasoned veterans intent on competing at the highest levels, riders have any number of barns and show stables that could potentially suit their needs. Finding that perfect fit, however, can still be a challenge.
Mitchell Robinson and John Nida are hoping to answer the call for many equestrians who are searching for a place both they and their horses can call home—and they believe that Annette and Matt Lauer’s Bright Side Farm can be that place.
Robinson is the head trainer and barn manager, and Nida the strategic advisor, of the new 40-acre hunter/jumper facility in Water Mill, owned by the Lauers, which officially opened on September 1. The year-round facility includes state-of-the art—or, as Nida and Robinson like to say, “state-of-the-stable”—amenities that characterize top-notch barns: 36 large stalls, 10 grass paddocks and four dry paddocks, a 24,000-square-foot heated indoor riding arena with a dust-free/low impact riding surface, two 140-foot-by-240-foot outdoor riding rings with premium footing, a 3-acre derby field, a 10-acre cross country field with hacking trails, and a covered horse walker.
Both Nida and Robinson say the barn will put an emphasis on creating a “boutique” experience for horse and rider, meaning that special attention to detail and an eye toward creating the best individualized experience for every client will be a top priority.
Nida explained it this way: “The riders are going to have some feeling of exclusivity. You won’t have overcrowding in the rings. And the model is designed to cater to the year-round rider. We’re targeting the year-round client who takes lessons routinely during the week, wants to advance his or her skill set, and is after a really unique riding experience.”
According to Robinson and Nida, Bright Side won’t focus solely on a specific niche in the equestrian world. While some barns cater exclusively to adults, others mainly to children, others only to serious show competitors, Bright Side will give each horse and rider the specific attention they desire. Riders will have the opportunity to compete in regional shows but won’t be expected to show if they don’t want to. The rider who is happy to simply take lessons on the flat and hack around the trails or Grand Prix ring will receive the same attention and level of care as those who want to travel to regional shows like HITS in Saugerties, as well as more local shows like Winner’s Circle.
“I think we’ll fill a niche for the hobby rider who doesn’t necessarily want to be in a show barn but doesn’t want to be in a backyard operation either,” Robinson said. “They want ‘A’ circuit care but don’t want to be pressured to show every weekend. You’ll get quality lessons, and your horse will look amazing—but we won’t force you to go to Florida.”
Nida and Robinson also pointed out that Bright Side will be both adult- and kid-friendly, particularly since both Ms. Lauer and their young daughter are avid riders. They plan to create a summer program specifically for kids, teaching them horsemanship as well as improving their riding skills.
“I like a white glove facility, and I like the horses to look gleaming at all times, but the kids who come to ride here will know which bridle is theirs, and they’ll know the parts of the horse, and how to turn a horse out,” Robinson said. “Even our grooms are family-friendly guys who are good with kids. We all kind of work together.”
Robinson comes to Bright Side after a lifetime of experience in the equestrian world. He grew up riding in New York, showing ponies on the local circuit, and competed in shows through his teen years before getting into three-day eventing, which combines the disciplines of dressage, cross country jumping and show jumping. Eventually, Robinson focused more specifically on show jumping, competing up to 1.40M show jumpers from Spruce Meadow in Canada to Wellington, Florida.
Robinson was introduced to the Lauers through mutual friends in equestrian circles, and the timing was perfect.
“I was transitioning and wanting to be local and stay around here, and not be on the circuit,” he said. “I’d been doing it forever, traveling and living out of a suitcase. I was trying to be home and get some roots. I saw this facility and thought it could be really great.”
Robinson said his training philosophies are simple.
“I’m not really into a lot of tricks and gimmicks,” he said. “I think it’s about having an appropriate horse for the rider. I think that’s a common mistake, not having the appropriate animal, and then it’s given to the trainer and they say, ‘Here, fix this—teach me how to ride this horse.’ I’m also a big fan of flatwork. If you can’t canter a 20-meter circle, then you can’t be expected to jump a course.”
Robinson added that he wants the training process to be a mutual give-and-take between trainer and client.
“It will be personalized,” he said. “I’ll ask people, ‘What do you want to get out of this?’ I love to jump, but they might not want to jump, and that’s okay.”
In keeping with the theme of individualized attention, Robinson said riders can expect detailed care in every aspect of the experience. “It’s a big barn, but it will be a boutique-type business,” he said. “You won’t see me giving a group lesson to a bunch of kids. Maybe there will be two or three kids out there, but it’s a personalized experience.”
For now, Robinson is the only trainer at the barn, which will not lease stalls to other horses and trainers not under the umbrella of Bright Side. Robinson and Nida said that as clients and horses filter in, they may add additional assistant trainers to the staff.
For now, as the crush of summer subsides, Robinson, Nida, the Lauers and the staff at Bright Side will continue to focus on building the clientele and helping them achieve their equestrian goals. According to Nida, the Lauers are committed to that vision, and they’ve found the perfect person to help implement it in Robinson.
“We want to make sure that [the client’s] riding levels mirror their goals,” Nida said. “That the goals they set aren’t quantum leaps, and that they become developed through the training program so they make progress incrementally. We found somebody with the right skill set who also comes with an incredible personality, the right patience and the right integrity.”
For more information on Bright Side Farm, visit brightsidefarmny.com.