Horse shows like the Hampton Classic offer the thrills of intense competition and glory—not to mention prize money—for equestrians of all levels. While the illustrious Grand Prix riders and other professionals make the event world-famous and glamorous, it’s the amateur riders, people busy with careers or school (about 80 percent of the riders at the Hampton Classic are not professionals), who add so much of the human element that underlies some of the week’s biggest thrills and memorable moments.
Alexandra Cherubini competes in the amateur-owner jumper division, where horses face three-foot fences. This summer she won classes at two Longines FEI Global Champions Tour events at Chantilly, France, and at Valkenswaard in Holland, “something I will always treasure,” she said. She has two gray horses, Carlos and Navardo. “They look like twins, but they have totally different personalities! Navardo is the ‘cool guy’ in the barn—very macho and proud of himself. He’s a great jumper, and he knows it. Carlos is a total sweetheart, gentle and sensitive, like a sweet little boy next to his cool big brother. They think that I am one big treat machine, and they’re very spoiled, and whinny every time I walk into the barn.”
She started riding when she was 12, the first time she had been around horses, and started with the hunter division, moving on to jumpers at 16. Now, combining a demanding career at the company she started, EquiFit, which provides products for horses that compete, such as D-Teq line of boots and IceAir Cold Therapy Boots, she tries to ride at least five times a week in the winter, but at other times of the year she sometimes has to go months without any practice.
Local amateur-owner rider Barbara Borg of Amagansett is retired from her job as a shoe buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, and has been riding for almost 50 years. In fact, she used to be the babysitter of her current trainer, Jagger Topping of Swan Creek Farm in Bridgehampton. She thinks of her horse, Sun Phoenix, nicknamed “Sonny,” as a pet. “He is like a giant Labrador and would jump on your lap and eat your food if he could.”
Her biggest accomplishment as a rider is that “I can still ride and enjoy horses now as much as I did as a child.” She’s modest about discussing her big achievements, like winning the Zone 2 Championship last year, but emphasizes the fun it is to get ready for the show. “We prepare at home, on grass. Jagger sets up a new course on an unfamiliar field, so it’s a bit like going to a horse show, at home. When we enter the ring at the Classic, it is all over and you just have to ride your course and keep your focus on your job in the ring. Upon your exit, you hope to be smiling.”
Nineteen-year-old Rosemary Mullholland, a student at Bates College, also rides at Swan Creek. A horse she’s riding in an adult amateur division where riders don’t own the horse they’re showing is Samonti, whose barn name is Monty. “I got really lucky this year, because I didn’t have a horse to ride at first in the Hampton Classic,” she said, but then three weeks ago Monty became available at Swan Creek Farm. She’s shown him only twice in adult amateur classes. “He’s kind of like a puzzle that you have to figure out, so it has been fun to be able to learn new things, and it’s especially rewarding when I do well in the classes I show him in. When I first walk in the ring, my heart will race a little. However, once I start my course, I always forget my nerves because I’m concentrating more on the jumps and my horse than on the pressure of the horse show and the people-watching.”