Matt and Carly Sereni of Sterling View Farm

A Show Ring Romance Matt and Carly Sereni Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher.
A Show Ring Romance Matt and Carly Sereni  Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher.
Carly and Matt Sereni overlooking Sterling View Farm Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher. Y es, old fashioned romance does exist. Matt and Carly Sereni live a nonstop life, Matt as a trainer and Carly as amateur rider. Armed with an undeniable respect and love for each other, a passion for horses, has led them on an exciting journey. Matt 31 and Carly 30 knew of each other from an early age; as both were from Santa Clara County and grew up showing ponies and competing against each other. But As luck would have it a random mutual friend from high school initiated a meeting that would change the life of a then 16-year-old Matt. “I had gone to grade school with Brenden and he had a crush on one of Carly’s friends, and she said that she could hook him up with her friend if he could get Matt Sereni to come hang out with Carly and her friends.” Matt said. “That September / October 2016 all happened in high school….high school sweethearts.”Their story began at that day, thanks to Brenden and Carly’s deal. Matt was always surrounded by horses as the son of two professionals, however for Carly, it came as somewhat of a surprise. Carly lived in North Carolina until the age of five, then Texas and finally California. Yet again a twist of fate led her to her first riding lesson. “I actually took my first riding lesson because my neighbor was going to the Menlo Circus Club for a lesson and she was scared so her mom said why don’t you go with her?” Carly explained. “I said sure, that was the first time that I had a formal lesson.” “Katherine my cousin, was already riding there with Jill Hamilton, but beyond that I had no idea my that my extended www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com 59
Carly and Matt Sereni overlooking Sterling View Farm Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher.  Y  es, old fashioned romance does e...
family was into horses to the extent that they were. I knew my family had a ranch and rode Western, I had no idea that my family was into Show Jumping.” Carly explained. On Carly’s father’s side of the family five members were extremely competitive in the show ring. Little did young Carly know that her future marriage would join two multigeneration equestrian families deeply rooted in equestrian sport. On Matt’s side his father was a great Western rider and judge and his mother a Hunter/Jumper trainer. “My dad was into rodeo,” Matt told us. “He was into Steer Wrestling, and really big with the Cutting horses and then he was a judge and held five cards including Arabians, Morgans, Quarter Horses and Reining. My brother did roping horses and bareback broncs, but never got into this style. He always made fun of me and called it the ‘funny pants’.” “My grandpa, my mom’s dad, he was into horses, he was the one that exposed my mom to horses, and got the truck and trailer and took my mom and aunt up and down shows with Western and Quarter horses. So I give Grandpa credit on my moms side.” Matt said, “My parents met through horses too. I was always exposed to other things, I was really fast; so soccer I was good at, I was lead off batter, I really wanted to be a football player, but I never got bigger.”he laughed. My parents pushed me in other directions but I always preferred riding.” Matt had a exceedingly successful beginning Walk This Way (Ernie) and Carly. Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher. to his career as a Junior rider. In 2001 he gained Individual / B Team Gold Medal at the Junior Young Riders, riding horse who took care of him and taught Matt to come round Charon and in 2003 he won the ASPCA Maclay National the turn, not touch his mouth, soften his elbows, and to let go. Championship aboard Fare Niente. Fast forward to Matt the trainer based at Sterling View “I don’t want to belittle the Maclay Finals at all; but I think Farm, and letting go is still front and forward “It is one of the the Young Riders was a bigger deal, in the sense that you hardest things for me to teach. Looking back, as riders we want are responsible for your team, and there is that pressure that to come around the turn we try to be so perfect, and we want you don’t want to let your teammates down, your Zone, you to hold and wait until we see a distance, and it doesn’t work. So want to represent California. “Of course,” he continued, “the I remember that light bulb ‘ah ha’ moment, it happened to me Maclay was a big deal and a final accomplishment. I started at the Young Riders, coming round the corner in the warm up going back East when I was 13 and it took me until my last ring, as I was yelled at to Let Go.” Matt explained. “So that’s junior year to put it together.” where I learned to not hold and look for the distance, but to In the Maclay Matt felt that he had learned a great deal go forward and it will show itself.” and was finally now able to ride for himself without putting pressure on himself and not doing it for someone else such as a trainer. In the Young Riders Matt believed his success was due to riding the amazing little stallion, Charon, an amazing 60 Carly an amateur rider however, looks to other riders to be inspired, such as Jenny Karazissis and Mandy Porter, and believes that in this sport is really easy to get overwhelmed with and be drawn in by disappointments. For her, a realistic approach is essential to enjoy the sport. www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com September / October 2016
family was into horses to the extent that they were. I knew my family had a ranch and rode Western, I had no idea that my ...
Matt and Carly’s Wedding at Sterling View Farm. Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher. “As a Junior, I think I had a lot of unrealistic goals, and it could get discouraging. I found that I was working really hard and wanted it so bad, but that doesn’t mean what I was after was realistic. So after my Junior years, I wanted to ride for myself and have my own successes, so I set goals that were challenging – you are never guaranteed to win anything – but for myself, and to stay motivated.” “That keeps me working hard and much more focused. With Walk This Way (aka Ernie), I never anticipated doing anything that I’ve done with him. I just wanted to bring along my own horse, I wanted to figure out what it took to get a green horse in the ring and experienced, I wanted that for myself. I started setting little goals; from being consistent, to being champion at a horse show, to winning the Nor Cal Senior Medal Finals, to being year-end A/O Champion, then it was Devon and now the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals. I just kept upping the bar with the same horse.” Carly explained. it made sense to find a place to call home. Since she was a little girl, all Carly had wanted to do was be at the barn, to able to go out and see her horses whenever she wanted, and especially at night. That was an important goal to her, even if it was just to walk out and see the horses sleeping. Carly wanted to find somewhere that she could have peace of mind for herself and for everybody that may own horses on their premises. To be able to check on the horses and know that they would only be away from their eyes for just a short amount of time, is priceless to Carly. Matt on the other hand was used to living at the barn, since as a child that’s what he did. His dad was the manager of Fremont Hills Country Club for 41 years. As a younger person, he knew he could always go see his pony, but he has a different perspective about living on property. “I like getting to the barn early, finishing the day, and then going home. I like to turn it off, and have my personal time. One of Matt and Carly’s biggest challenges was to find their I love going out and seeing the horses all the time, but I’m a dream home and barn. The search for the perfect property little different than Carly. She can’t get enough of it by about began; as between them they had 16 horses, so to have to pay 8 pm at night I turn that off and recharge my batteries for board on that many horses was just not worth it. Financially, the next day.” Matt explained. Matt and Carly with their ponies, Coin Operated (L). June Bug (R) Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher. September / October 2016 www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com 61
Matt and Carly   s Wedding at Sterling View Farm. Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher.     As a Junior, I think I had a lot of...
“First thing in the morning I wake up, I turn on the news, I turn on the lights, I make coffee and look out at all the horses. That’s my Sterling View, When we were looking at property, our dream was to sit outside with our morning coffee and look out at the horses and look at the Sterling babies. The name Sterling View Farm came from Carly’s stallion Sterling – we just wanted to look out at all the Sterling babies.”Matt told us. With a wedding in their future they had their work cut out for them, Matt was set on having the wedding on the farm, to him it was a far more intimate setting and he wanted to look out at the property and to know that was where they got Lights Out (aka Sterling ), Sterling View Farms is named after the Sereni’s stallion. married. However the property had been While searching Matt and Carly knew that they did not in foreclosure and they needed to get some improvements want to go East, so they began looking within 45 minutes made before the big day. or and hour from the Woodside/Silicon Valley. Once Over Farm, an older thoroughbred facility, in Morgan Hill was a property that they passed on their travels, but alas out of their budget, so they told their realtor that they wanted something like that, just smaller. Some time later, after a fruitless search, they got a call that would change everything for them. The 120 acre Morgan Hill property was in foreclosure and it was not long after their dream home became a reality Sterling View Farm. Rockefeller (Manhattan Snow x Lights Out) at Sterling View Farm “We took thirteen 40 yard dumpsters out of there; it was just trash after trash. It was foreclosed on; they couldn’t afford to do anything to it. We are still chasing our tail, but it’s getting there.” Matt said. Their farm has two arenas, a half-mile racetrack, a big mountain to exercise the horses, and miles of beautiful trails to ride on. In addition to horses in training, there is also a fantastic retirement program at the farm. “It is beyond anything we were imagining,” Carly said. “I set the vision and foundation for the retirement farm and the restructuring when we reached a certain amount of horses at the property. Once it got established, in order to keep showing, the retirement horses need a full-time person, so we have an incredible barn manager that lives on site, she is there all the time, and knows them all so well. I can’t do it and be on the road, its a bonus when I am there, I just get to spoil them.” “Carly oversees the team caring for of all the retired horses, and I do all the training,” Matt explained. “Carly doesn’t ride any of the clients’ horses and rides her own as an amateur. I try to keep my business a little bit smaller, since the majority of all of my lessons are one-on-one privates. It’s just me no assistant and really I find that I am a better teacher one-on-one.The majority of my clients, with us being in Morgan Hill, come from quite a distance – my closest comes from Saratoga, which is a half an hour away – if my clients are showing that much of a commitment to me, I 62 www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com September / October 2016
   First thing in the morning I wake up, I turn on the news, I turn on the lights, I make coffee and look out at all the h...
want to honor that same commitment and give them one-on-one attention. It’s nothing against group lessons they are effective too. ” “If people can only come half as much, being able to ride only two or three times a week they still get the same out of their training with Matt.” Carly added. The future is bright for Matt and Carly. “I don’t want to speak out of turn.” Matt said, “Now that we are married and the goals aren’t as much about me anymore. I want to raise a family, and see the kids grow up at the farm and have little pony riders. I might be getting ahead of myself, honey,” Matt said to Carly, which thankfully brought laughter from both of them, “the farm, the family, turn them loose and have fun and go to Pony Finals.” “Of course I wanted to go to Grand Prix, and World Cup™ and the Olympics and all that,” he added. “It’s not about me as much anymore.” On a riding level Carly’s goals are clear too, she simply would like to be a familiar name, in going back East she recognizes all the names, she would like to one day be one of those names. And more importantly to her is being known as a good horseman. “I really love my horses, I don’t to just want to be a show rider, a pretty rider. I take a lot of pride in being associated with Walk This Way and the relationships I have with my horses, I never want to lose that, this is my goal.” Carly explained. On a personnel level Carly had concerns, for the time being, on her ability to be able to watch her future children learn to ride. “Beginners make me nervous,” Carly laughed. “I just want to see cute pictures, but I don’t want to watch. I’d be a nervous wreck!” Matt and Carly really have had a busy life in their almost 15 years together, a great story of equestrian related connection, both a new home and a wedding; but when it comes to their personal equestrian highlights each had their own. For Carly going to Devon was hers, especially when it was also their honeymoon. They chose to drive across the country with Walk This Way in tow on a two-and-half day trip there and back, each taking turn to sleep while the other drove. And for Matt going to the Young Riders and completing four clear rounds still remains his greatest moment. Again September / October 2016 Matt and Carly Sereni. Photograph by Josh Gruetzmacher. Carly highlighted the need to turn everything into a learning experience and an education to becoming a better horseman. On this year’s visit to Devon they traveled by air with Ernie, again something new to add to their bank of learning. The Pony Finals, a great life on the farm and growing the farm feature in their long-term goals. And Ernie (Walk This Way) has his part to play too; teaching their children to ride, winning lots of medal finals and sponsoring a perpetual trophy. Both Matt and Carly had some wise words for the next generation in the horse industry. “Work hard,” Matt said. “Don’t by any means think this sport is easy, it’s so humbling. Not that kids think it’s easy and you can just go get the right horse, but you better be prepared to go work your ass off !” “Be hands on, be a part of your horse, not only on top of it and in the show ring, be a part of their life,” Carly said. “Know your horse, not just the riding part of it, build a relationship with your horse. What they do for us is special, they deserve it!” Matt agreed. “Your horse will perform and work better for you, like Carly said. It might sound a little corny, but form that bond with your horse and when push comes to shove in the ring they will give you that little extra, I swear.” www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com 63
want to honor that same commitment and give them one-on-one attention. It   s nothing against group lessons they are effec...