Leaps and Bounds
The formal horse show that strives for mass appeal
photograph by Reflections Photography
On a perfect June day, you’ve driving down Long Lots Road and pass the Fairfield County Hunt Club and notice snappy white tents, cars of all pedigree parked neatly row by row, and a traditional horse show. The riders are smartly dressed in dark blazers and pale-colored riding pants; their eyes fixed on the next jump like a hunting dog tracking his prey. The horses, with their manes and tails formally braided and tied, are majestic. This is display, tradition, and competition at its finest. You might assume it is a private event or that you will have to part with your wallet to pass the gates and motor down the country lane of an entrance. And yet the Fairfield County Hunt Club June Benefit Horse Show, a benefit for the EQUUS Foundation, is open to the public and free of charge—a rarity in the county.
Riders enter competition at all levels—from seemingly knee-high saplings to fit adult athletes—across more than 250 classes. The five-day show features not only competition but also exhibition of skill set mastery. Riders pour into town from all over, but you can also spot local riders, many of whom compete on a national level. Rated “AA,” the top rating, the horse show is regarded as one of the most prestigious in the country. It’s also a crowd-pleaser.
“The show has evolved over the past twenty years,” says Head Trainer Jenny Martin-Rudaz.“We have redirected our efforts to focus on the Jumper Divisions. The $25,000 Fairfield Grand Prix is a perfect example of this. While the jumpers are exciting and easier for spectators to follow by measuring time and knockdowns, the Hunter Divisions are beautiful to watch with their emphasis on form and style.”
The 1923 club serves as a handsome backdrop to several activity tents. The EQUUS Benefit Luncheon is held on Saturday ($250, in advance); the VIP tent is open to pass holders ($20) from Tuesday through Friday. The Paddock Boutique offers the chance to stroll a makeshift lane of shops outfitted for the equestrian-minded and those who simply delight in the summer lifestyle: totes, dresses, headbands, riding boots, and more. Family Fun Day includes pony rides, face painting, arts and crafts.
Mark Your Datebook
174 Long Lots Road, Westport