Horses and riders at their peak performance showed the beauty of jumping over a series of rails more than 4 feet high in mere seconds Saturday at the 40th Hampton Classic.
The International Equestrian Federation horse show, which concludes Sunday with a $250,000 Grand Prix, includes 1,600 horses and more than 500 riders -- Olympians, amateurs, juniors up to age 18 and kids on ponies -- over eight days in Bridgehampton.
The two Grand Prix ring competitions Saturday were the $10,000 Sam Edelman Equitation Championship for riders up to age 18 and the $40,000 Longines Cup.
Victoria Colvin, 17, of Loxahatchee, Florida, won the equitation championship, which included a combination of equitation -- in which the rider is judged on their style, form and command over the horse -- and jumping.
"I've been second in this class twice," said Colvin, adding that it felt good to come in first with her horse, Avalanche. Her final round strategy? "My attitude was just go in and do as best as you can, go as tight as you can and as quick as you can."
Marty Bauman, chief press officer for the event, says the ring is unique from others across the country, most notably with the rare component of having grass, as well as its size, permanent obstacles, tents, flags and bleachers.
Riders are permitted to see the ring for the first time only on the day of the event and can walk it to plot their strategy about 45 minutes before their class.
"The first time the horse sees the course is when he enters the ring for competition," Bauman said. "There is never, ever a practice ride over the course and every day the course is different."
In the first round of the Longines Cup, 79 seconds were allotted for horse and rider to jump over each of the 13 fences -- a total of 16 jumps -- without earning penalties for knocking down rails, refusing to jump or exceeding the allotted time. Those who successfully advanced to the second round were timed on a shortened course, and the fastest penalty-free ride won.
Paul O'Shea, originally from Limerick, Ireland, won the cup with chestnut stallion Skara Glen's Dolphin with a time of 41.52 seconds and no penalties.
Haley Barnhill, of Collierville, Tennessee, placed second with a time of 42.51 and Molly Ashe-Cawley of Wellington, Florida, placed third with a time of 43.86.
O'Shea, a professional rider for about 20 years, said the bond between the rider and horse was very important. "He's a great horse. He really helped me out on the fourth jump," O'Shea said.
"We slipped in the corner and then we were very far away and he really gave me everything," O'Shea said. "We should have knocked that jump, but it was clearly him giving me 100 percent to jump it. When a horse does that for you, it's lovely. . . . I'm really grateful to him for that."
After competing and jumping down from Crown 5 and giving the gray gelding a kiss on his neck, Georgina Bloomberg -- daughter of ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who was among the top five finishers for the cup, said it was her first Grand Prix event with the horse.
"We've been sort of working up to this level, so it was a big step up for him, and I was really happy with how he went," she said. "This is a horse that I really enjoy riding and have been working really hard with."
Sunday's event includes elite riders and plenty of celebs. Past attendees include Jon Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Billy Joel and Jerry Seinfeld. "It is the best riders, on their best horses," Bauman said. "This is one they all want to win."