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Hold onto your hats: the 41st annual Hampton Classic Horse Show will kick off August 28 with more than 200 classes for hunters, jumpers, and equitation riders at its stunning 60-acre show grounds in Bridgehampton, N.Y. The “Hampton Classic” is one of the largest outdoor horse shows in the country and one of the few to receive the United States Equestrian Federation “Heritage Competition” status. Riders of all levels and abilities from leadline to Grand Prix to classes for disabled riders will be featured over eight days in six beautifully manicured and landscaped show rings. The highlight of the show — Grand Prix Sunday with the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix Bridgehampton — will wrap up the action on September 4 in grass Grand Prix ring.
A Social History
This horse show was first held in the early 1900s as an annual event in Southampton in a rather casual setting in open fields near Lake Agawam. The show was discontinued during World War I but was revived when equestrian enthusiasts founded the Southampton Riding and Hunt Club in 1922. During the Roaring Twenties, wealthy equestrians and socialites helped establish the tradition of ending the Hamptons summer social season by flocking to the horse show. The club eventually built a clubhouse on 20 acres and held horse shows there until World War II. The show was revived briefly in the 1950s, held at the tony Stanley Howard Estate in North Sea, along with a local charity event, Horse Show Ball, which became a social “must attend” for Hamptonites. By the mid-1960s the show once again went dormant.
Finally, in 1971 the sporting event was reinvented as the Southampton Horse Show, held at the Topping Riding Club in Sagaponack as a one-day local horse show. Mainly as a social gathering, the competition wasn’t yet as keen as today. By 1976 it went to a five-day “A” rated show and by 1977 it became the “Hampton Classic” then being held at the Dune Alpine Farm in East Hampton. By 1982, with growth of entries to more than a 1,400 horses, today’s permanent venue on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton was secured.
Giving Back to Local Charities
The Hampton Classic’s mission has always included supporting local and equestrian-related charities. New this year is the Jump for Charity presented by Noelle Floyd.com.
Ten riders have been paired randomly with ten select charities. The charity matched with the rider who has the best finish in the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier presented by Longines on Friday, September 2 will receive 100 percent of the proceeds raised from the sale of autographed Jump for Charity baseball hats. The fundraiser includes 30 uniquely designed caps for each charity/rider team that will feature the Hampton Classic logo, the charity name, and the rider name and signature.
If all of the hats sell, a total of $30,000 will be raised, which will be awarded to the winning charity. Hats are being underwritten by Hampton Classic staff and the presenting sponsor Noelle Floyd.com. To learn more about each charity, their cause, and how to purchase a hat, visit the Jump for Charity page at hamptonclassic.com/jump-for-charity.
You Can Go or Stream Live
Beyond the celebrity sightings, dressing up for the main event — Grand Prix Sunday — is part of the social scene fun. Spectators don fancy hats and summer outfits with a nod to the gentler yet jazzier 1920s. The dress code for the horse show is considered “country casual” for the “casual, country, daytime, outdoor event.” Organizers remind spectators that most of the footing (for the humans, not the horses) consists of grass or gravel paths that call for comfortable walking shoes. So, ladies leave the heels at home. And bring plenty of sunscreen as the grandstand seating, as well as most of the venue, has no shade.
As the popularity of the Hamptons has reached an all-time high; so too has the traffic volume. Frequent visitors to the horse show know to plan accordingly. The best time to get to the show is early, during precommuter weekday traffic if possible, which will get you to the show midmorning to enjoy most of the classes. The Boutique Garden filled with 80 vendors brings you the best shopping and dining experiences. A Farmer’s Market and the Exhibition Area Kids’ Tent round out the highlights. To help you find your way around show, visit the spectators section at hamptonclassic.com/homepage/spectators where you can see the timetable of horse show classes, ticket info, kids’ events, directions, and accommodations. Daily admission is $10 per person (kids under 6 free) or $20 per carload. Monday admission is free, seniors are free Tuesday-Thursday, and kids are free on Saturday. Reserved seats for Grand Prix Sunday are $25 per person for bench seats in the grandstands or $35 per person for premium center-section grandstand seating (in addition to $10/person or $20/carload admission). Parking for the show is free.
For those who can’t make it to the show grounds, a complimentary live webcast of all Grand Prix ring classes will air on the Hampton Classic website, produced by ShowNet and courtesy of Longines. In addition, WVVH-TV, the official Long Island television station of the Hampton Classic, broadcasts up to five hours of competition and highlights each day during the Classic. These broadcasts can also be seen online at wvvh.tv. Most of the Classic’s other classes will also be available on shownet.biz.
Lisa Peterson — lifelong equestrian, dog show judge and award-winning podcaster, communications professional and journalist — writes about horses, hounds and history at lisaunleashed.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.