46th Hampton Classic Horse Show: Newly Improved & Highly Accessible

Five-time Olympian McLain Ward has won the Hampton Classic Grand Prix a record seven times.
Five-time Olympian McLain Ward has won the Hampton Classic Grand Prix a record seven times.
© Shawn McMillen

Longtime fans of the Hampton Classic Horse Show will undoubtedly notice some big changes at the 2022 event. With newly designated 5-star and 2-star status classes, the Grand Prix Ring’s new all-weather footing, premiere divisions and the inaugural Special Olympics New York Summer Series, it’s looking to be a fresh, but still familiar, show at the 46th annual Hampton Classic August 28–September 4.

“We try to do things that are new and fresh, but also, we keep the word ‘classic’ in our name and take it seriously, so we don’t want to lose the feel of the show,” says Shanette Barth Cohen, Hampton Classic executive director. “I think we’ve done a good job balancing that.

The first of the big 2022 changes is the upgrade to a Grand Prix arena with state-of-the-art, high-performance, all-weather footing. The decision to renovate the footing came quickly after the grass used last year proved less than reliable.

“Last year on opening day, the grass was just not holding up well,” Cohen explains. “We had to, during the show, pull up the grass and do a quick fix transformation by bringing in some sand and working the footing that was underneath the grass so that we got through the week. It was actually a great competition on the final Sunday — it all worked out well — but to put in all-weather footing, we wanted to make sure we had really excellent footing and not just Band-Aid footing.”

Shanette Barth Cohen and Ringmaster Alan Keeley at the Hampton Classic
Shanette Barth Cohen and Ringmaster Alan Keeley at the Hampton ClassicLenny Stucker Photography 2019/lennystucker.com

What the Hampton Classic organizers didn’t realize when first considering the switch was just how many other doors this decision would open.

“We don’t have to baby it the way we did the grass; we can have more competition, so there are more contests that are going to be in our Grand Prix Ring now,” Cohen continues. “Because we moved some things that were in Jumper 2 into the Grand Prix Ring, now we can move things that were elsewhere into Jumper 2 or add divisions. Everything has a domino effect, so that’s enabled us to have a lower height for the amateurs and children in the Jumpers and a lower height for the adult Hunters and the children Hunter horses … and some professional divisions at lower heights, as well, that we’ve not been able to do in the past. All of that really stems back to the footing in the Grand Prix Ring.”

The debut divisions — Low Adult and Children’s Hunters, Low Child/Adult Jumpers, and 3’3” and 3’6” Performance Hunters — have opened up the Hampton Classic to exhibitors who previously had no opportunity to ride in the event.

With the new footing and increase in divisions available to riders, the Classic has been able to increase its prize money pool to a total $1 million, with an impressive $410,000 being awarded to the winner of the now Grand Prix, qualifying it as a 5-star Fédération Equestre Internationale competition.

The jump from the Grand Prix’s former 4-star status to 5-star places it on par with the world’s most prestigious equestrian events, just below the Olympics’ tier, and it entices world-class international riders to compete, creating an increasingly competitive Grand Prix.

In total, the 46th annual Classic is hosting four 5-star FEI classes and three 2-star FEI classes.

Also new this year is the Special Olympics New York Summer Series, spotlighting riders with disabilities from Long Island, New York City and Hudson Valley. Special Olympics NY had approached the Hampton Classic, through the US Equestrian Federation, about using the Bridgehampton event as part of their pilot program to produce horse shows throughout New York.

This event for differently abled competitors will run in addition to the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities finals presented by Dime Bank, which Cohen helped start in 2006.

Daniel Bluman wins the Hampton Classic Grand Prix 2021
Daniel Bluman wins the Hampton Classic Grand Prix

“The LIHSSRD program, the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities, is one of the things I’m particularly proud of in my role as executive director,” she says. “I was approached about it, so we brought that in and it’s still doing well. That was 17 years ago, so that’s exciting for me.”

Cohen adds that LIHSSRD was first pitched to her as a non-competitive exhibition, but she saw the opportunity to give these riders a true competition of their own. “They’re also athletes, and they work hard at their sport at the level they’re able to participate at,” she says. Now adding a second competition for differently abled riders, the Hampton Classic is reaffirming their commitment to keeping horse competitions accessible to all.

Last on the new news front are the return of Kids Day from Thursday back to Saturday, fresh shops to explore in the Agneta Currey Boutique Garden and on Stable Row and infrastructure changes to keep the horse show “as safe as possible for horses and spectators alike.” The 2022 event is packed with over 200 competitions in six show rings, 70 boutique vendors and a wide selection of dining options.

Beyond all the exciting changes this year, the Hampton Classic remains a true Hamptons classic that’s accessible to horse enthusiasts of any background or status.

Daily admission to the Classic is only $20 cash per carload, with only the September 4 Grand Prix grandstand tickets costing an additional $55 for reserved seating.

Plus, there are several opportunities to get in for free: Admission is totally free on Monday, the Classic’s pet and horse adoption day; seniors and military get in free on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and anyone who brings three or more non-perishable food items for the Sag Harbor Food Pantry gets their car in free on Tuesday or Wednesday. And on Kids Day on Saturday, September 3, children under 12 are admitted free and receive a free pony ride.

“The Hampton Classic has something for everyone, because there’s so much going on and it’s so inexpensive to come,” Cohen says.

For event details, tickets, live webcast info and more, hamptonclassic.com.

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