As the dew settles on the freshly mowed grass and the tractors finish dragging the sand rings, I mount my horse, still rubbing the sleep from my eyes. It’s 6:15 in the morning, an ungodly hour to most, but the opportune time for me to stretch my horse’s legs before competition. The show grounds are still quiet and untouched, but not for long. There is a warm feeling that runs through me whenever I compete at the Hampton Classic, and I get this feeling as I mount up. As my horse reaches down to chase a fly, I snap my chinstrap, take a deep breath and begin to walk out toward those familiar
Considering I am a Hamptons native, I feel that the Hampton Classic is my “home-turf,” and all the other competitors are just visitors here to play the game. I travel all year round, state to state, but no horse show feels quite like the Hampton Classic. The Classic combines a level of prestige and class. Only the best of the best of the equestrian world come to compete, and still limited entries are granted. Unfortunately this is not a show for everyone, because the level of competition is high, and the degree of sportsmanship needs to be even higher. With only 12 ribbons awarded in a class, the majority of riders leave the horse show with no satin ribbon to hang on the wall.
I have worked very hard to compete at the level I do. I have missed countless school dances, family functions and social events to be successful at riding, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Some of my fondest riding memories are from the Hampton Classic. The first time I competed at the beautiful grounds located on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton was in 1996, when I was six years old. I competed in the ever-exciting Leadline Division. For those who do not know, Leadline is a class where young children get to compete at the walk and trot, guided by a trainer, friend or family member whose job is to hold on to the pony or horse as the rider shows off. I remember the day perfectly. My mother held on to my pony, named Onion, as I put my heels down and exaggerated my position. With a smile plastered on my face, I rode around in light blue bows my mother had tied to the ends of my braids. Ever since that memorable day where I received my very first ribbon, I have been hooked.
My mother’s advice to parents whose kids wish to take up riding is “Buy them a tennis racket,” and I think she wishes she had followed her own advice. My family loves horses and the thrill of the sport, but it’s a sport that soaks up a lot of finances. The bills and responsibility never stop, however, my selfless parents pay the price for the love of these unpredictable beasts in hopes that we will have our time to shine in the winner’s circle.
Having ridden for 12 years, winning hundreds of ribbons, I can honestly say my favorite ribbon is when I won a jumping class at the Hampton Classic in 2007 on my favorite horse, Drama Queen. I still own Drama Queen today, and the medals from her wins at the Classic are displayed proudly on her stall. I remember this day perfectly too. I was so sure I couldn’t possibly win a class at the Hampton Classic that I nearly missed the presentation. My friend called to inform me of my victory and I remember angrily telling her to “stop lying.” The sensation I got while I stood in front of the crowd holding my blue ribbon is indescribable. As the photographers snapped pictures, and my parents beamed from the sidelines, I wrapped my arms around my horse’s neck and cried tears of joy. These tears of joy make all the hard work and sacrifices worth it.
With the 2012 Hampton Classic now approaching, I look forward to stepping back on to those both inviting and intimidating grounds in hopes of creating more fond memories!