by Annette Hinkle
After a flurry of construction activity which began late last year and continued through spring and into summer, there is a new horse farm set to debut on the East End.
Set on 40 rolling acres where Edge of Woods Road meets Deerfield Road, Bright Side Farm is an equestrian facility owned by Matt and Annette Lauer on the former site of Frankenbach’s Deerfield Nursery. The horse farm was built on land preserved in 2005 when Southampton Town purchased development rights to the nursery property. While some neighbors have objected to the size of the project and the number of buildings constructed to support it (including housing for staff), horse farms and their associated structures are allowed uses on agricultural reserve lands in New York State.
Now, with construction complete and staff ready to go, horses will start arriving at Bright Side Farm on September 9. Earlier this week, the farm’s strategic advisor John Nida and head trainer Mitchell Robinson took the opportunity to show off the amenities and details of the state-of the-art facility.
And those details are impressive. The main barn houses a tack room worthy of a Ralph Lauren shoot along with 36 stalls (each with individual hay chutes and running water) and an open area where clients can gather on couches to socialize or relax.
For the horses there are grass and dry paddocks, a 24,000 square foot heated indoor riding arena, two outdoor riding rings, a three acre derby field (designed by Grand Prix rider Eric Hasbrouck) and a 10 acre cross-country field as well as a covered horse walker for controlled training.
Nida, who comes to Bright Side Farm from Wölffer Estate Vineyards where he managed the winery and the stables, explained what makes this facility unique.
“From its inception, this has been a dream for the Lauers,” said Nida, noting that Annette Lauer rides, as does daughter, Romy. “It’s not unlike a lot of barns in the Hamptons which begin with a passion or a dream. But early on what the Lauers did was take that dream and make a clear decision that they wanted this to be a sustainable business.”
“It’s really important you approach the business with a clear direction, focus and a plan you really believe will work economically and stay proactive in your approach,” added Nida. “We want the right clients and we designed a specific approach on how to create the business. It’s important to keep this an enjoyable place for everybody.”
The business plan included the decision to create a boutique riding stable offering amenities of much larger facilities.
“The outdoor facilities are such that they could accommodate more stalls and other clients,” said Nida. “But we scaled down the horse count to have the feel of exclusivity.”
When asked how Bright Side Farm compares to Wölffer’s riding facilities, Nida notes, “This has its similarities to Wölffer — it has as much ring and derby field capacity, but it’s half the size of Wölffer in stall count with 50 percent fewer horses.”
Fewer horses means clients receive more personal service and that, notes Nida, is what makes Bright Side Farm a boutique facility. What it won’t be, however, is a riding academy with a collection of school horses for the general public.
Nida notes Bright Side Farm is also unique because of the quality of the amenities it offers.
“It’s the concentration of putting the money into areas that are more meaningful to riders, especially high end riders,” said Nida pointing to the dust-free footings used in the indoor riding arena.
“The footings are state of the art and the best there is,” he said. “If you’re a high level rider, your number one concern is the safety of your horse. This footing not only grips when a horse comes down on jumps, but provides a low impact surface. We’re also doing a derby field that is fully irrigated, which I think is rare in the Hamptons. Again, when we say irrigated, it’s keeping the turf at its best for the health of the horses — it’s not just about what it looks like.”
The Lauers themselves own five horses which will be kept at Bright Side Farm. The other stalls will be occupied by full service board clients and a few private individuals looking to house their horses for shorter periods of time.
“Our target is to house as many full service board clients as we can,” said Nida. “That’s the moving target.”
“It’s a slow progression, but we want the right growth,” continued Nida. “Filling up quickly is not the goal. We want the right clients that share the same culture we have in mind who are looking for an upscale riding experience.”
For their part, owning a horse farm may be uncharted territory, but both Lauers expressed excitement about this new family venture.
“So after all the stories I’ve done over the years on the trials and tribulations of owning a small business, I find myself entering that world myself,” said Matt Lauer. “It’s exciting, challenging and terrifying all at the same time. But we truly feel that this farm will be at the center of the next chapter of our lives.”
“Bright Side Farm was a true labor of love and now that it’s here I feel like the luckiest girl in the world,” added Annette Lauer. “I hope that our boarders will share the same sentiment.”
As a side note, Nida added that while Annette and Romy may be the riders in the family, Matt Lauer is the farmer.
“Matt’s a tractor guy and he owns the weekends,” laughed Nida. “He gets out there and drags the rings himself.”