Born to artist parents Bob Strini and Linda Wachtmeister, Lucia and Benita grew up in idyllic Scottsville, Virginia on a farm they are still to this day amazed to call home. Their love of horses grew from early ages with the help of wonderful ponies like Mountain Glenn, Fudge Marble Cake, Papa, Roany Pony and Natty Bumpo. Lucia and Benita were hooked and when Linda and Bob moved their family to Plain Dealing Farm history was set in motion when in 1996 Linda hired a green but promising Kim Severson (then Vinoski) as an instructor for her children and manager of the farm. From a young age the girls were able to learn from Kim, and their desire to compete was fueled by being submersed in a world class operation as Kim grew to be one of the Worlds top Eventers. Kim took Plain Dealing Farm’s horses to the Olympics and World Equestrian Games, as well as many other International competitions and these experiences ignited Lucia and Benita’s desires to one day represent their country, just like Kim. Kim has since moved on from Plain Dealing and formed her own business but Lucia and Benita give all the credit to Kim for getting them started in the sport and they thank their parents for supporting their dreams.
Lucia’s first horse Stella, who had competed through the Advanced level prior with Courtney Cooper, took Lucia from her first Training level event, to her first Intermediate. Along the way, Lucia and Stella represented Area II on the CCI* team at the 2002 North American Young Riders Championships where their team finished in the bronze medal position and Lucia and Stella placed 4th in the Junior division.
Lucia then began producing her own horses from a young age and in 2004 won the CCI* division at Morven Park after leading from start to finish on her gelding Addis Abba, whom she had trained from the novice level herself. In 2005 Lucia and Addis Abba placed 5th in the CCI** at the Radnor Hunt International Two Star Championships, additionally winning the Top Young Horse (“Gabby” was 7 at the time), Top Young Rider (Lucia was 18) and Best Conditioned Horse trophies. These results earned Lucia and “Gabby” a spot on the United States Equestrian Team Developing Riders List with a scholarship in 2006.
Lucia attended College while continuing to ride and in 2010 she graduated with honors and a BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Art Department. Upon graduation, Lucia decided to focus her efforts on her horses. She was based out of Califon, NJ for a brief time where she was able to train with Betsy Steiner and Anne Kursinski, and over the years Lucia has been lucky enough to train with and learn from many of the best in the sport, including Phillip Dutton, Jan Byyny, Boyd Martin, Will Coleman and of course Kim Severson.
In 2011 Lucia relocated back to her families’ home at Plain Dealing Farm and in 2013, along with her sister Benita, Lucia “re”-formed Plain Dealing Farm Eventing. Their goals are to focus on producing and competing talented horses with the hope representing the Untied States on the international stage.
Lucia specializes in developing young horses and takes a slow and methodical route to ensure each horse reaches their maximum potential. Their business has begun to thrive thanks to the talented string of horses that Lucia and Benita have in the barn and the future is looking bright for Plain Dealing Farm Eventing. Their talented and thoughtful staff make sure that the most important members of the team, the horses, get the best care and Lucia’s parents continue to be wonderfully supportive of their daughters’ ambitions. Lucia is thankful to have her sister by her side day in and day out, both working to learn and improve together and to bring success to Plain Dealing Farm.
Following in her sister’s footsteps from the very beginning, Benita starting riding as a child and, like Lucia, benefited from having Kim at Plain Dealing. Both she and Lucia were members of Mountain Skyline Pony Club and enjoyed competing together at USPC Rallys. Benita learned the ropes of eventing after inheriting Lucia’s pony, Natty Bumpo. Together, Benita and Natty Bumpo,dominated the Ross’s Summer and Fall Schooling Shows taking home every blue ribbon along the way and competed to the Beginner Novice level. Natty unfortunately passed away, so that following winter a white, fluffy, angelic Connemara pony came into Benita’s life.
Elphin Odin, or Cody as he was called, was probably the best pony a girl could hope for. Cody took Benita from Beginner Novice through Training level, and along the way they competed at the American Eventing Championships as well as a Training level 3 Day. When it was time to move up, it was only fitting as a now a fervent lover of Connemaras, Benita would choose a feisty Connemara/TB cross named Cameron Creek to be her Preliminary mount. Cameron and Benita made the move up to Preliminary together, and they completed their first CCI* at Morven Park in 2007 winning the Best Presented Prize (a prize Benita has taken home on more than one occasion since). In 2008 Benita and Cameron were selected to represent Area II on the Junior CCI* Team at that years NAJYRC. They won the dressage but had problems on cross country. However, on the final day, they show jumped one of the few clear rounds, and Benita was awarded the “Eventing Style Award” for her positive attitude and sportsmanship. When Benita was ready to make the jump to Intermediate, Cameron didn’t want to go any higher,so he moved on to another young rider. Cameron has since represented Area II again at the NAJYRC with his new rider.
The horse that would take Benita from preliminary to the CCI2* level would be found through her coach at the time,Will Coleman. Carlingford Merlot or “Murry” is a big Irish gentleman with a back you “could feed a family off of”. Murry took her to her first Intermediate event and then to their first CCI2* at Jersey Fresh where they completed with a clear cross country run. On the back of these results they were selected to represent Area II at the 2011 NAJYRC as a member of the two star team. Their Championship weekend didn’t go as planned, but Benita once again won the “Eventing Style Award” for her sportsmanship. Murry has since retired from upper level competition but remains at Plain Dealing Farm where Linda enjoys foxhunting and hacking him often.
Benita later started a successful partnership with Sammy Jo, a beautiful mare purchased from Kelli Temple, with whom she won the CCI* Young Rider division at the 2012 Virginia Horse Trials. This result led to them claiming a top spot on the USEA leaderboard as the 2012 USEA Preliminary Young Rider of the Year. In 2013 Benita moved Sammy Jo successfully up to Intermediate. At the same time, she successfully campaigned Little Swift, “Ellis”, at the same level and a successful year resulted in Benita being the USEA’s 4th placed Intermediate Adult Amateur Rider.
While balancing a competitive eventing career, Benita was also accepted to the University of Richmond and in 2013 graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies. For her final thesis Benita researched ways to make farms, Plain Dealing Farm specifically, more environmentally sustainable. She hopes to one day use her knowledge to help make the Eventing sport as a whole more environmentally friendly. Since graduating, Benita has moved her horses home to Plain Dealing Farm and, along with Lucia, has helped to re-form Plain Dealing Farm Eventing. In the Summer of 2014 Benita was offered a great opportunity to travel abroad and work with Dassett Eventing based in Banbury, England and run by Kate Rocher. Benita hopes to gain valuable knowledge and form important relationships while abroad that will be of great use once she returns home to Plain Dealing in the winter. Benita has begun new partnerships with some talented young horses that have been sourced while in England, and she looks forward to returning home with them and continuing to pursue her dream of competing internationally alongside her sister.
Looking Forward to the Future