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A Day At The Hampton Classic

The Hampton Classic is one of the most prestigious horse shows on the East Coast, held in beautiful Bridgehampton every August. It has become a peaceful stop for its celebrity attendees, and top Olympic-quality horseback riders since its inception in 1982. Hamptons Real Estate Showcase spoke with Elizabeth MacWilliam to get a rider’s perspective.

It might be easy for riders to distinguish what division a horse is competing in by looking at their confirmation, or what their rider is wearing. Understanding the various types of classes and etiquette surrounding showing horses may make the Hampton Classic experience more enjoyable for spectators.

Equitation classes are judged on the rider; how they look and work through the course of ten to twenty jumps with their horse. Missy Clark, one of the top equitation trainers in the US, spoke about the qualities of equitation. “Equitation is the blending of the rider’s abilities and style with their horse. It is a stepping stone in the formative junior years that requires a rider to learn good horsemanship and correct fundamentals of riding.” Missy has generated champion equitation and show jumping riders for many years with her husband, John Brennan.

In jumpers classes, there are only two rules: don’t knock down rails, and jump the course in the time allowed. Riders and horses can look and dress as they desire, and there are no judges that pick the final place order in this division. The jumps can span any height. There are two different kinds of jumper classes; power and speed. The Grand Prix is a jumper class that usually occurs at the end of the show on Sunday. The jumps are high and wide, and the class has a large, encouraging money prize.

Hunter classes are judged on the way horses move and jump. Their courses are straightforward and generally have eight to ten jumps extending from simple cross-rails in pony divisions to four feet high in professional divisions. Susie Schoellkopf, director of SBS Farms, a USEF “R” rated judge, and owner of the 2012 Horse of the Year, took time to talk about hunter derbies. “The USHJA Hunter Derbies are an important part of our industry, as they have provided a ‘Grand Prix’ for our top hunters, with over $100,000 in award money at finals. Now, we have a new program for young horses; the USHJA Pre green program, with prize money over $120,000.”

The Hampton Classic isn’t just for adults. For many young riders, the Hampton Classic is the first major show in their life. There are even children pony hunters for those students who are not quite tall enough to fit on a horse.

Laura Beth Secari, owner and head trainer of Laurel Crown Farms in East Quogue, starts many of these child riders in their horseback-riding career. “Young junior classes are the foundation of this sport. The good basics, on or off the horse, are something every rider no matter what their age, should know and practice. ”

National sponsors such as Land Rover, Sotheby’s International Realty, and local sponsors like Strong’s Marine are known for their Corporate Sponsorship at the Classic. The Hampton Classic also partners with the community for charity; their largest beneficiary is Southampton Hospital.

Walking out of the ring with a ribbon at this show is a huge accomplishment; it is a representation of all the time and effort a rider has worked for years to achieve. So grab your camera, bring a sun-hat, and buy a bottle of water; take a trip to watch the only sport in the world that includes both humans and animals working together.