Annual Horse Show
When first organized in the early 1900s, the annual Horse Show in Southampton took place on Lake Agawam. The event was suspended during WWI and picked up again during the Roaring 20s! During the next decade or so, riding and the Horse Show flourished in the Hamptons; and the Southampton Riding and Hunt Club formed in 1922. For a few years after that, between the Great Depression and WWII, the luster seemed to be lacking from the event, and so it was forgotten.
Luckily in 1959, Mrs. Morris Scott Wadley helped to reorganize the Show as a fundraiser for Southampton’s Parrish Art Museum, which lead to the Southampton Horse Show. For several years, the Southampton Horse Show and the Horse Show Ball were major social events of the summer. It still is!! Through the early years, athletic competition was not really a concern for many who just came out to see and be seen! Horse Shows in those days were primarily social gatherings and judging was very informal. Through the sixties and seventies, shows became more competitive in nature and show jumping was growing in popularity.
This is when something strange started to happen. It seemed that the Classic was cursed by bad weather!! The first time, in 1976, a hurricane struck, and horse show workers, tent crews, and volunteers all pitched in to resurrect the show–it opened only one and a half days behind schedule. The 1976 Southampton Horse Show has been remembered ever since as the horse show that survived the hurricane!! In 1982, the show was moved to its present location, the 60-acre Hampton Classic Showgrounds on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton, and that same year a freak tornado ripped through the newly built grounds just seven days before the show- but miraculously the show began on schedule!! In 1985, a single day before festivities began, torrential rainstorm showered the showgrounds. They called this “The Year of the Mud”. Incredibly, the show grounds were dried out in time for Grand Prix Sunday, and the sun shone on a record crowd of onlookers. But this wasn’t the last disaster!! The Hampton Classic was hit in 1991 by Hurricane Bob just days before the horses arrived. In 1997 once again saw Mother Nature wreaking havoc just three days before the show began when hurricane like winds blew down the Grand Prix tent and uprooted some of the smaller tents. The start of the 2011 Hampton Classic Horse Show was delayed three days due to Hurricane Irene. Despite this, it proved to be one of the most successful Hampton Classics ever! In short, nothing can stop the Hamptons Classic from happening!
Symbol of the Season
I have been fortunate enough to attend this event almost 20 years in a row now. As one of the largest outdoor horse shows in the United States, it’s a premier destination for horse people, and a signal of the end of summer. Usually this falls the Sunday before Labor Day. Now well into its third successful decade, The Hampton Classic Horse Show is in a class all its own, both in the minds of spectators and horse people alike.
In 2009, the Hampton Classic became only the second horse show ever to receive the status of Heritage Competition by the United States Equestrian Federation. This prestigious award is reserved for competitions that have been in existence for at least 25 years and have contributed to their communities as well as the horse community.
Events and Events
There are many events to see at this week long event- there are competitions for junior jumpers, top jumpers from around the world, and every horse in between. There’s no shortage of competition in the four grass rings! The riding competition is fierce with the best riders in the country and there are horses jumping over a staggering course with many hurdles without knocking over any posts.