Converging on 65 verdant acres of the Hampton Classic’s established Bridgehampton show grounds during the final days of August and first of September each year, it’s here that riders and their equine counterparts travel from nearby barns and far-flung farms from destinations across the globe to compete for their day in the sun. And, of course, for some considerable purses as well.
The annual event, held this time around from Sunday, August 27, through Sunday, September 3, is the highlight of the year for many equestrians. Now in its third decade, The Hampton Classic—which began in the early 1900s as the Horse Show in Southampton and was revived in 1971 in the general format as we know it today—is the place for horse people of all skills to show their stuff. From the beginners’ pony Leadline on opening Sunday—judged this year by Olympic Gold medalist Joe Fargis—to the $300,000 Grand Prix finale for the pros a week later, there’s bound to be something to please every rider and visitor who makes their way to the Classic.
In addition to the competition within the four rings—viewable from the grandstands, tents and chichi chalets—The Hampton Classic grounds is also host to an array of temporary tack rooms and stable space, as well as a variety of charity events, play areas and a petting zoo for the kids, animal adoptions, gourmet food vendors and even world-class shopping. Every single one of these areas of the Classic’s grounds has its vibe, and its own particular flavor of haute.
Even outside of the competition, every day here brings a spectacular show. The horses themselves are creatures of such great beauty, with particular care going towards making sure that each of the specimens shows to their best traits and abilities. Special attention is paid to manes and tails, which are brushed and braided to perfection.
Inside the barns, built for practicality and temporary equine housing, it’s a horse-lovers’ wonderland. The tack, the trunks, the artfully stacked bales of hay are all quite pleasing to the eye. And the riders are equally decked out in their fanciest finery as well.
But for those who enjoy a great spectacle beyond the ring, there is no day better than Grand Prix Sunday. There’s a reason (many actually) that this annual show-closing event draws the biggest crowd of the weeklong competition. Some come for the exquisite equines. The fashionable crowd glories in the opportunity to don their highfalutin’ hats. Others seek out the beauty of the tantalizing tablescapes competing for top design honors under the Grand Prix and Hunter tents. And of course, there are the “see-and-be-seen” and celebrity spotting factors—each practically their own sporting events.
Regardless of why one ventures to the Hampton Classic, it’s clear that this longstanding tradition, synonymous with the end of the season, is beloved. And it’s just as evident that’s it’s one of the hautest spots around, at least for one special week of the year here on the East End.
Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton