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I’m going to tell you a secret. If you want to know the difference between a “horse show,” and a really special “equestrian event,” check the dust on your shoes. The accumulation of dust on feet is directly related to the level of fancy at any given event with horse show in its name.
The lack of dust on my toes is one small reason that my head is still in the Hamptons two days after the Classic ended. It took me 30 years to make it to this –yes- event that is the crownpiece of the East Coast summer show season, and now that I’ve seen if for myself it’s hard to believe that I survived so many summers without the Hampton Classic Horse Show in my life.
I’ve been to about as many horse shows that one can get to this year without actually being a rider (a sad and hopefully changing fact), and among all the mega-watt shows I’ve been lucky enough to hang around, my little trip up to the Hamptons last weekend was unquestionaby a high point.
At the Olympics last month, the press were regularly chastised, restricted, made to run here and there and back again, and handed an ever-changing set of rules that we always seemed to be breaking. No, I’m not complaining about being live and in person at the Olympic Games. Not that much.
Thank you Olympics, you big important crowning moment of an event, for making the reception upon arrival at the Hampton Classic that much sweeter. I could get close to the arena again, walk freely to the warmup ring rail and hang out for a while. Approaching the riders was possible again. And the canvas logo bag gifted to all VIPS and credentialed press was a very, very nice touch.
But back to the dust. As mentioned, I wasn’t a rider, a trainer or a groom for that matter, so needless to say I didn’t spend much time in the barns. But as a working spectator walking to and fro from arena to pony ring to vendors to frozen lemonade stand, and back again, and back again, the path was always laid with green grass. The lovely grass rings extended to the paths in between the rings and through the “Boutique Garden.” The general admission stands were high above ground. And naturally, there was no direct earth-to-shoe contact in the VIP area(s).
Of course it wasn’t only about the ground one walked upon at the Hampton Classic that gave the event an atmosphere of special, but that was certainly where it began. For once, the level of elegance between horse and rider inside the ring was matched by the elegance of the surroundings. You may think you’ve been to a
horse show equestrian event like this before, but I assure you, you haven’t.
Only 344 days until The Hampton Classic Horse Show begins again!
The A/O Under Saddle - hunters gliding on lush green grass. Le sigh.
There were no less than six different sections of leadline. Everyone, of course, tied for 1st or 2nd.
Celebrity spotting in the VIP tent.
Ready and waiting for some very important occupants
Every table had a differently themed decoration scheme
It soon became clear that a chief deciding factor in a woman's Sunday hat choice was the number of heads it was expected to turn. This one was a definite winner.
Stylish suits and very stylish men . . . if only I knew his name
A few notes to open every class
What it was all about - the horses! Shane Sweetnam rides Amaretto d'Arco
McLain Ward and Antares flying
Winners - Kent Farrington and Voyeur
Schyler Riley piloted Carney Haugh Manx to the YJC 7/8 year old championship
Think of all horse show shopping experiences you've ever had, double the fancy and triple the size. Hello Hampton Classic
For the future riders
Hey kids, when you grow up, set your sights on being an equestrian journalist. It's not such a bad gig.