All Eyes on Leadliners at the Hampton Classic

“They learn everything about horsemanship in pony camp — it’s not just about riding.”
Last-minute currying before going into the Grand Prix ring. Craig Macnaughton

The weather was balmy, and cute beribboned kids, surrounded by enthusiastic clutches of cooing, photo-snapping parents and relatives, abounded Sunday morning as trainers readied them for the 2-to-4 and 5-to-7-year-old leadline classes, the first of the weeklong Hampton Classic Horse Show’s competitions in the Grand Prix ring.

East End Stables in East Hampton, owned by Andre and Christine de Leyer, had seven kids there, led by Jen Santacroce, their trainer.

One of them, Layla Weinstein, 8, had won a leadline class here four years ago. Two others, Hannah Hilton and Isla Moskowitz, 6-year-olds, said, when questioned before going on, that they were excited. This writer said he hoped, when it came to naming the various parts of a horse, that they knew what a fetlock was, for he didn’t. 

“They were practicing posting yesterday,” said Hannah’s mother, Pamela. Both, she said, were to ride China, a pony whom they loved caring for.

“They learn everything about horsemanship in pony camp — it’s not just about riding,” Pamela Hilton said, “but about creating relationships with the horses. They brush them, bathe them. . . .”

Marisa Bush, who had brought eight kids from Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, said the ponies, Darla, Pumpkin, Oscar, Snickers, and Wiz, who’s 30, loved their jobs. 

Stony Hill’s owner, Wick Hotchkiss, an award-winning dressage rider, had stayed behind to give lessons, she said. When asked why the Classic didn’t have any dressage competition — there was to be a dressage demo by Stephanie Brown Beamer of East Hampton later that day in the Grand Prix ring — Bush said, “I don’t know, it would be nice.”

“The fourth generation,” Harriet de Leyer said with a smile after she had led her 3-year-old granddaughter, Addison Bixler, around the ring under the watchful eye of Joe Fargis, a gold-medal-winning Olympian who has been judging the leadline classes for years. 

De Leyer, who when she was a kid named her father’s Hall of Fame jumper, Snowman, teaches at the Topping Riding Club, where Addison rides, and at Wolffer Estate Stables.

One of her adult students, having borrowed this writer’s notebook for a moment, wrote in it: “Harriet is the best trainer ever,” praise that was to be borne out later that morning when de Leyer received the Long Island Sportsmanship Award from the Classic’s president, Dennis Suskind, and from its vice president, Emily Aspinall.

 They said that as the longtime president of the Long Island Professional Horsemen’s Association she had “touched the lives of countless Long Island horse people.”

“What’s a rugby player doing here?” Gordon Trotter, who had stepped out of a spectator tent, was asked. “My daughters,” he said, with a broad smile. 

The younger one, Zoey, who is 5, rides at Firefly Farm in Bridgehampton, where 20-goal polo used to be played. Her mother, Dana, who was to have begun riding in amateur-owner classes Tuesday, was getting her ready, as the Trotters’ 9-year-old daughter, Reese, a short stirrup competitor, looked on.

“It’s really fun,” Reese said, when asked about riding. “I love to hang out with the horses.” She had done little jumps, but wanted to jump the big ones some day, she added.

Zoey and Reese’s father once rode too, as a kid growing up in New Zealand, though it was more of a hands-on endeavor there — “a lot of work,” he said — than was often the case in the Hamptons.

As for jumping, which he did “long ago,” when they were first married, “it’s a thrilling experience,” he said.

By the same token, Dana was not thrilled when Zoey’s pony stepped on her. “No shoes, thank goodness.”

How long had Zoey been riding? Since before she was born? “Basically,” her mother said.

So, what were the odds on Zoey’s winning, Gordon Trotter was asked.

“Who knows?” he said, adding, with a smile, that “everyone gets a blue ribbon.”

The leadline place-winners, it was later announced, were, in the 2-to-4 class, Vivienne Van Lith of Brooklyn, with Thumbalina, Ian Luca Roman of Wellington, Fla., with Buttons & Bows, and Mariela D’Agostino of New York City, with Ledinjedon Exclusively Dun. 

And, in the 5-7 class: Isabelle Perkins of New York City, with Strawberry Smoothie, Ava Patino of Bridgehampton, with Longacre Red Rhapsody, and Olivia Levine of Bridgehampton, with Cocoa Caliente. 

Georgina Bloomberg, topping a field of 42 entries, won the day’s major event, the $30,000 Boar’s Head Open Jumper Challenge, on Paola 233, in a jump-off. Mario Deslauriers, on Cherrypop, was second, and Molly Ashe Crawley, on Picobello Choppin PC, was third.

Hemingway with Sandra Ferrell aboard won the $10,000 Marders Local Hunter Derby, and O. Edward ridden by Holly Orlando won two East Hampton Star-sponsored Local Hunter Pro sections, and Bonaparte, also ridden by Orlando, won a third.

Zoey Trotter, 5, left, whose parents are Dana and Gordon Trotter, and Emory Prado, 5, the granddaughter of Debbie and Alex Walter, all of East Hampton, were among Sunday’s leadline participants. Craig Macnaughton Photos