Annual horse show benefits charity

The top riders in the country gathered in the spirit of philanthropy as well as competition at the Fairfield County Hunt Club June 17-21 for the annual benefit horse show.

Mclain Ward, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Castle Hill Farm in Brewster, N.Y., won the Grand Prix Class aboard HH Fleur, owned by Hunter Harrison of Double H Farm in Ridgefield and Wellington, Fla.

“Fleur is an exciting up-and-coming Grand Prix horse and I was very pleased with her performance Saturday,” Ward said.

The show boasts a “Premier” rating, the highest given by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), and for the past few years was voted number one in its zone by the members of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA). It is one of only 17 shows in the country honored as a USEF Heritage Competition, thanks to its dedication to competitive excellence, philanthropy and community involvement.

The show has been operating since 1924 and is the highlight of equestrian activities at the Fairfield County Hunt Club. It is open to the public free of charge. Fans watched more than 250 classes, sponsored by individuals or local businesses, to benefit the Equus Foundation, a national charitable foundation dedicated solely to horse welfare and to fostering the horse and human bond.

“We are thrilled to be associated with this wonderful show. Being recognized by exhibitors as their favorite is a testament to the club’s commitment to ensuring the highest standards for the competition and its facility, personnel and hospitality,” said Catherine Herman, Equus Foundation board member who, with Michele Ippolito and Sean Hogan, served as chairmen of the show.

Multiple riding rings hosted competitive classes all day each day, ranging from short-stirrup to Grand Prix.

Thursday afternoon guests watched the $7,500 Poland Spring Welcome Jumper Stake with a meet-and- greet after the riders finale. There was also a special presentation by award-winning equestrian architect John Blackburn, author of Healthy Stables by Design, who has built state-of-the-art equestrian facilities for polo, racing, dressage, hunters and jumpers, and quarter horses in a variety of climates and evolving site conditions, and introduces the concepts of aerodynamic ventilation, strategic natural light, and passive heating and cooling into his stable designs.

Thursday also featured the annual Pet Parade, presented by Earth Animal.

Saturday was Family Fun Day, presented by Nestle Waters North America. Activities included free pony rides, Horse Play by Equestrian Neightion, arts and crafts by the Giggling Pig with Mr. Bungles, and treats from Sweet Rexies treats, as guests awaited the grand finale: the $25,000 Grand Prix show jumping class.

World-class equestrians and their champion horses soared over five- to six-foot-tall fences that were two-to- three feet wide.

Fairfield County Hunt Club’s Cassandra Herman of Southport competed in the Grand Prix aboard Whisper, an 11-year-old gelding out of Orpen Show Stables.

“The course designer, JP [Stoddard], did a fantastic job with the technicality of the course,” Herman said. “Fairfield had the biggest turnout we’ve had in years this year, and we look forward to its continued growth.”

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