For most people, Labor Day marks the end of summer. For a former equestrian, it’s the Hampton Classic Horse Show that happens every year for one week at the end of August (and every other year when it ends on Labor Day Weekend). Fortunately, this year, Labor Day Weekend and the final days of the Hampton Classic were one and the same.
Even though I’ve been out of the saddle for a while, the Hampton Classic always brings back the best memories. I remember those early horse show mornings well—arriving at a quiet barn and finding your horse snoozing in the stall (as you pray they are still well groomed from the night before and haven’t rubbed too many of their braids out overnight). Then the real fun begins. You load your horse on the trailer and then yourself into a packed car that will have all of the necessities (and then some) for the long day ahead. You arrive at the show grounds, and find your temporary stall, your trainer, and the ring you will be showing in. You get your horse (then yourself) ready and make your way over to the warm-up ring—where you then wait for your moment in the spotlight. All of the months of hard work and training come down to those precious minutes in the ring. Some days you’re on and others not so much. But at the end of the day, you and your horse are a team, and whether you come home with the blue ribbon or scrap the class completely, the bond between horse and rider is what truly makes the sport so incredible.
So, while my horse show days may be behind me, I still appreciate spending a day on the show grounds. I’ve made going out to the event somewhat of an annual end of summer tradition, where I get to catch up with people I used to ride with and practice my photography skills.
When I left home on Saturday morning and started on the hour plus trek to Bridgehampton, it was raining. To add to that, our recent heat wave had just ended and it instantly felt like fall. I was nervous that I would be freezing all day and contemplated heading back home. But I couldn’t imagine missing out on something that I had been looking forward to since the beginning of August, so I continued on my journey. Once I arrived in the Hamptons, the weather had significantly improved. It was still overcast and cool, but reports were predicting some late morning sun would warm things up.
The first class of the day started at 8 am and was the $10,000 Equitation Championship in the Grand Prix ring. I watched about an hour of that class before making my way over to the jumper ring. With my Nikon in tow, I got in some good shots, but the overcast sky was not conducive to great captures. I put the camera away for a while and just sat and watched the class—as I would have, if I were actually the one showing. I watched as the riders walked the course and counted strides in between fences with their trainers. I watched as the ring crew dragged the footing. And I watched as the next round of clear riders made their way into the jump-off.
Next up, was the hunter ring, where the confirmation of the horse is judged more than the rider. By this time, the sun was starting to peek out and the flowers that decorated the jumps looked like they were glowing. It was time to take the Nikon out again before I moved on to do some shopping.
Even if horses aren’t your thing, the Hampton Classic is the place to see and be seen. And, if you have shopping on your mind, it’s the perfect place to be. This year, I discovered some new vendors and got to see some familiar faces.
After a quick shopping break (and second iced latte of the day from the Hampton Coffee truck at the show), it was time to watch the $70,000 Longines Cup in the Grand Prix ring—the main event of the day. The stands quickly filled up mere minutes before the 2 pm start time.
I watched as 35 top riders walked the course and awaited their turn in the ring. Right on the hour, the first horse and rider walked into the Grand Prix ring and as soon as the bell sounded, they were off, racing against the clock and trying to have a clear round.
I made it halfway through the class before I needed to start the drive home (or else I would probably still be sitting in Hamptons traffic). Despite a slow start to the morning with the weather, I had a wonderful day out at the horse show and got some great shots.
But what kind of blogger would I be, if I didn’t share what I wore? I had a different outfit planned (when I thought that it would actually feel like summer), but I decided that I wanted to be somewhat comfortable this year and went for a black maxi dress from Banana Republic and my LOFT denim jacket, which has been on major repeat since I got it. It was the perfect look for a day at a horse show.
Until next year, Hampton Classic!