By Gavin Menu
Growing up locally—going to school and working during the summer months—does not always provide much time for horse riding. So last February, Sag Harbor native Bailey Briggs went south and immersed herself in the equestrian world of Florida’s winter circuit.
With the help of Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols and her teachers, Briggs spent the month working for and training with Darragh Kenny, an Irish-born Grand Prix rider who will compete for big money at the Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton this week. She took tests online and completed homework assignments supplied by her teachers before returning to Sag Harbor in March.
“I’ve been able to find time to ride by somehow finding times of the day that are not too busy,” Briggs said this week, taking a break from the Hampton Classic Horse Show, which is ongoing in Bridgehampton.
Briggs graduated from Pierson in June and was accepted to Villanova University, but has decided to take a gap year to work full time with Kenny and his team. She will spend the next year traveling to horse shows across the country and riding some of the best horses in the world.
And how is her own riding coming along?
Briggs, 18, took home two first-place blue ribbons at the Hampton Classic on Sunday in Child’s Equitation High Fences classes aboard her horse Lennox, who is owned by Vanessa Stevenson from Sharing Grounds Farm in Bridgehampton.
Briggs also took home separate third- and fourth-place ribbons to cap a hugely successful week for the local rider.
“He was relaxed, and it just felt good the whole time around,” Briggs said of her horse. “This is my last junior year, so I won’t be able to ride in this class again, so I’m happy.”
Stevenson faired pretty well herself on Sunday, coming away with 5th and 8th place finishes in her classes aboard Lennox.
“It was pretty good,” she said. “This is a pretty imposing ring, you know, and [Lennox] can actually get a little bit worried, but he was pretty confident. One of my students, Bailey Briggs, got him set up for me.”
Local rider Isabel Culver received a 3rd Place ribbon in the Child Equitation Low Fences class.
“It was good,” she said. “It’s sort of fun because everybody’s cheering you on.”
The big event of opening day was won by Victoria Press, of New York City, who rode her horse Mayfair to victory in the $50,000 Hampton Classic Hunter Derby, presented by Meadow View Farms. Press — at 14 the youngest rider in the 42-horse starting field —confidently guided Mayfair to the best score of the second round to claim the blue ribbon and the $15,000 prize.
Locals Day is a longtime tradition at the Hampton Classic, with horses stabled on Long Island competing in the five local hunter divisions. Savannah, ridden by Ashley Raynes and owned by Patricia Raynes, was the day’s biggest star, earning the Grand Local Hunter Championship after winning the Local Junior Hunter Championship. Windchime, ridden by Hannah Benhamo, was reserve champion in the Local Junior Hunter Division, in which 31 horses showed.
Worthy, owned and ridden by Taylor Sassa, claimed The Chronicle of the Horse Local Hunter Championship, for non-professional riders. Arriana Boardman rode Red Carpet to the reserve championship.
A total of 46 horses competed in the two Professional Local Hunter sections, with Saratoga, owned by Patricia Raynes and ridden by Hayley Barnhill, winning section A, and Marvelous, owned by Mary Kate Olsen and ridden by James Anderson, winning section B.
Scarlett James earned the championship in the popular leadline division for ages five to seven, and Cady Ryan took the division for ages two to four. Joe Fargis, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, judged all the leadline classes while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the show grounds with show president Dennis Suskind.
For the eighth consecutive year on Monday, the Hampton Classic also hosted the championship finals for the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities, with riders in three divisions competing for year-end titles.
Bridgehampton National Bank sponsored the day, and Kevin O’Connor, the bank’s CEO and president, handed out the ribbons and trophies.
Winner of the Advanced Equitation Spotter/Independent class was Joe Penzel, of Huntington, riding Connect The Dots. Tied for reserve champion were Tyler Havlicek and Steven Snyder.
Meaghan McAdam of Northport won the Beginner Equitation Spotter/Independent class, riding To The Max. Victoria Russo was the reserve champion.
Emily McGowan of Melville rode Pippa to a win in the Equitation With Aids class, while Joshua Gootnick was the reserve champion.
The competitions are open to all riders with a documented disability. Riders compete for points at each show to qualify for the Series Finals at the Hampton Classic.
“We’re proud to highlight these championships as part of the Hampton Classic schedule,” said Shanette Cohen, the Hampton Classic executive director.
The series, founded by Katie McGowan of HorseAbility, Inc., was created to provide riders with disabilities the same competitive experience that other equestrians enjoy. Riders are judged on equitation, and demonstration and knowledge of riding skills. Her grand-daughter, Emily McGowan, won the Equitation With Aids championship.
The Classic this week will feature an FEI-recognized Grand Prix on three consecutive days — the $50,000 Spy Coast Farm/Young Horse Show Series Grand Prix Qualifier Presented by Longines on Friday, the $40,000 Longines Cup on Saturday, and the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup Qualifier on Sunday.
The world-class field of riders will also be looking to win the new Longines Rider Challenge that awards $30,000 to the rider who accumulates the most points in the horse show’s Open Jumper division.