As summer begins to end, it is once again time for an annual event, one which was established over 100 years ago. In that time, it has relocated, taken brief respites, changed names and basically waxed and waned. But it is still going strong. People travel from near and far to enjoy this event, especially equestrians!
Yes, the Hampton Classic is being hosted this week.
Originally begun as the Southampton Horse Show, not surprisingly held in Southampton, this event eventually morphed into today’s Hampton Classic. One can find numerous announcements of the “New” Southampton Horse Show – every decade or so.
1899 touts the news that the Southampton Horse Show would be held on the estate of T, Gaillard Thomas, Interlaken, at the corner of Old Town Road and The Gin (we assume this was near Old Town Pond). Dr. Thomas was a well known gynecologist and is credited as the founder of the Summer Colony – and seemingly the host of the first Horse Show.
From our modern perspective horses are horses, but there were just as many different classes of horses as there are cars today. Roadsters, carriage horses, four-in-hands, tandems, saddle horses and jumpers were featured at this do. The entrance fee was $2 and horses had to be from Suffolk County and shown by amateurs. A few years later, in 1903, this was carefully worded as “amateurs residing on Long Island for the summer.” A year later they ditched the show and just had a racing meet.
In 1936, at the 8th annual Southampton Horse Show, the big news of the Show was that “The Debs” would be modeling $100,000 worth of fall and winter clothing by Sraeel & Jabaly. Quite a handsome sum during this era. Not surprisingly, the name meant nothing to us, but trusty Google, the Keeper of All Knowledge, tells us that you can buy some of these clothes on Ebay today.
This was stated to be the first time that two rings were used and, interestingly, there was a Gay 90’s exhibit of “old time vehicle in costumes to match their time period.” Featured were 33 equestrian classes (up from 26 in 1930) including saddle horses, jumpers, ponies, hunters and general horsemanship. Equestians vied for a total of $3,000 in prizes. Contrast this to 2021, when the rider who accumulates the most points in the jumper class takes home a cool $30,000. Times have changed!
Through the years of the horse show, you will see many familiar names in the reports as sponsors and participants. Francis Robbins is one, Henry E. Coe and family, owner of The Appletrees on First Neck Lane in Southampton. Interestingly, you can probably find more information on The Appletrees than you can on the Coe family due to its memorable gardens. And then of course, the Bouvier name (we can’t forget Grey Gardens!) pops up often. You may remember that little Jacqueline Bouvier was often a participant. Yes, that Jackie Bouvier! We wonder if she wore the hat that our favorite milliner created for her.
Politicians have always frequented our area – since, as you know, fundraising in Brentwood is nowhere near as fruitful – and they often show at the Show. Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of Mayor Bloomberg, serves on the board of directors, as well as being an accomplished equestrian who is participating in this year’s event. So too is Mary-Kate Olsen.
So, if the weather holds and you enjoy the sight of exquisite horseflesh – along with some riders in the same category – why not grab your favorite hat and hoof over to this Classic bit of history? If you can stand the traffic!