by Diana Kronenberg
The Hampton Classic recently brought equestrian enthusiasts and a plethora of media attention to Long Island. Last week Bridgehampton played host to one of the biggest and most prestigious horse competitions in the country. I had always heard about the Classic, but never actually attended any of the contests. It’s the largest equestrian event in the region, so I’m lucky to live nearby.
I was one of the thousands that descended onto the tiny Hamptons community to see the competition in person. Even though it takes place in one of the poshest areas of Long Island, attendance wasn’t very expensive. It was $10 per person or $20 per carload for an entire day of events.
The Hampton Classic Horse Show features jumpers, hunters, short stirrup, “equitation,” where the rider’s mount and posture on the horse is evaluated, and “leadline,” young children ride horses led by an adult. The first day is unofficially known as “Local Day” and features riders from Long Island. Had I realized this sooner, I’d have tried to make it to see some of these events. For some reason, it’s always more fun when you’re cheering for someone who’s from places you’ve been to. I’ll have to go next year.
I attended the Short Stirrup competitions, on Wednesday, with my mom. She’s an avid horse lover and was captain of her college’s equestrian team, so she was able to explain all of the technical things to me. The riders we saw were all 9 years old or under, and there were three different categories: W-T (walk, trot), W-T-C (walk, trot, canter) and O/F (over fences).
You don’t really need an equestrian-English translator to enjoy the event though. I was incredibly impressed by the poise and ability of the young riders. I certainly wasn’t coordinated enough to do that when I was their age, or even now. I’m still kind of afraid of horses, they’re just so enormous, and to see children able to exercise such control over them is very impressive.
The Classic’s big finale is its three Grand Prix competitions, which include internationally acclaimed riders. Even though what I saw wasn’t the biggest draw of the event, it was still very exciting to see and be a part of. As I watched those horses jumping, I felt as though I was right there with them, my heart pounding every time they approached a jump and the joyous relief when they landed on the other side.
The Hampton Classic provides something unique to Long Island. The competitors range vastly in age and level of skill. They’re the best of the best, and all come to Long Island. It’s the perfect way to end the summer for any equestrian fan or any Long Islander, especially this one.