McLain Ward, a three-time Olympic medalist, is flanked by sisters...

McLain Ward, a three-time Olympic medalist, is flanked by sisters Evangeline Wasser, left, and Annabelle Wasser of East Quogue. Credit: Jesse Wasser

When you see Evangeline and Annabelle Wasser compete in this year’s Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton, where they will each compete for the first time Aug 27, know that it all started when an equestrian superstar McLain Ward used his hat and his heart to inspire them, the 12-year-olds' family says.

For the uninitiated, Ward is a three-time Olympic medalist who, like others in his field, have taken part every year in the Hamptons Classic, one of the largest equestrian events in the United States.

It was after the 2017 competition that Evangeline first crossed paths with Ward. “I asked McLain what he does to inspire the youth,” says father Jesse Wasser, who was at a post-event news conference with Evangeline, then only 10. "Ward started to give an answer, and then stopped and said, ‘Can I try that again?’ and then got up and gave his cap to Evangeline while saying, ‘Here’s what I do to inspire young people.’”

He placed his cap on her head, pushing her, she says, from being enthusiastic about riding to obsessed with it.

The sisters, who are indentical twins, will compete for the first time at the Classic in the same category of competition: the Short Stirrups, which involves walking, trotting and cantering before doing jumping over rails. “It’s my first big show,” says Annabelle, “and I’m nervous, but really excited, too.”

If it sounds like the sisters are going to be battling against each other, that’s not the case, says Patty Messina, their trainer at Skye Acres Equestrian Center in East Patchogue.

They are both competing in the section for children ages 10 to 12, but while they are in the same class, they will be separated into A and B groups, she says, adding, "So both have a chance to win.”

As it turns out, Ward also played a direct role in Annabelle’s desire to ride, the family says. The Wassers attended last year’s Hampton Classic, and made sure to greet him.

“We asked him the same question a year later," says Jesse Wasser, 61, a wine industry consultant and podcaster who will be attending again this year with wife, Irene Patar, 45, a dress designer. “I mentioned that after Evangeline got his hat, she went on to win at two competitions. And this time after answering, he gave Annabelle his satchel.”

“If I see him, I’ll tell him thank you for inspiring me to go above and beyond,” says Evangeline.

“I’ll tell him he really inspired me,” says Annabelle, who adds, “and if I do good or bad, it won’t be about winning but just to have a successful day.”


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