Hampton Classic Horse Show

The last week of August is the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, a stellar week-long equestrian event held in Bridgehampton. It is one of the great entertainment values out here — every day except the final Sunday (Grand Prix), attendance for a whole carload costs only $20. (By contrast, parking at Cooper’s Beach costs twice that. Which is why we offer shuttle service to the beach! –but I digress…) I haven’t been able to attend the Classic for probably ten years now, but this year I was determined to go at least once, to see my favorite equestrian.

Zach, his mom, and often his father and grandmother have been guests at A Butler’s Manor every Classic week since we opened in 2002, and I look forward to their visit every year. When we first met, Zach was a few days shy of 12 years old, a serious little guy with a shy smile and a big appreciation for my breakfasts. (I always plan a menu that includes Southwest Souffle, Banana French Toast and blueberry muffins during his visit.) He’ll turn 18 next week, and every year, I’ve wanted to go see him compete. Yesterday I finally got a chance to do so.

The Classic has grown in scope since the last time I attended. Yesterday, I counted 2 (3?) show rings besides the Grand Prix ring, plus a couple of training rings and practice areas. It is a joy just to watch the riders warming up their mounts. The show rings are gorgeous…reminiscent of a beautifully-landscaped backyard that just happens to have fences to jump. The boutique arcade has nearly as many shopping stalls as Bridgehampton has shops. And there is a good-sized food arcade, tents with exhibits, pony rides for the kids, and lots more –kind of like a small scale country fair with an emphasis on horses. What is really impressive are the horse stalls, which are under huge tents on either side of the grounds. Some of the stalls have little rooms adjacent to the horse enclosures where the owners, trainers, riders can hang out in between competitions. Some of these stalls look like outdoor living rooms and have real furniture, and even rugs on the ground…and some of the tack trunks are so gorgeous, I’d like one for our living room!

I didn’t know where or even when Zach would be competing — two or three competitions per show ring are listed starting at 8 AM, the length of the event determined by the size of the class. I found the High Junior Jumper Class in the Grand Prix ring, and amazingly, it was just about to start when I found a seat in the bleachers.

Watching a jumping event is awesome — the synchronicity of horse and rider as they approach and take the jumps is incredible to behold. The polish of these young riders belies their age. They sit astride their horses with such grace, and of course, in full dress, they are beyond elegant. And oh, the horses. Sleek and groomed, manes braided or beribboned, every piece of brass or silver polished to a high shine…The first few riders took down a fence or two during their round. I think the field of some 24 riders was nearly a third of the way through before a rider was “clear” — no fences, no faults. From that point, the tension really builds, as to place, the riders must complete the circuit in the shortest amount of time without toppling a fence.

Zach was announced approximately 2/3 through the field. By this time, I had alerted everyone sitting around me, so we were all collectively holding our breath as he urged his glossy chestnut horse over the fences. The triple jump was closest to me — three fences close together. Seven people I’d never before met were all counting aloud one…two…three! as he cleared each of the bars. Across the ring, over a double, then two last fences and…he was clear! And he was in fourth place on the leader board! (The blurry picture of him jumping the gate, above, was taken with hands as nervous –and proud!– as I know his mother Deborah was as well!)

The second to last contender had a fantastic circuit that catapulted her into the lead, so Zach finished fifth…but the first six places are ribboned, and get to participate in a victory canter around the ring. That’s him riding up to collect his ribbon. I feel like a proud parent!!

Only drawback for Zack: The better he does, the earlier his trainer wants him at the show! — so he misses out on our hot breakfast entree! (Consolation prize: a daily care package with muffins, fresh fruit, breakfast bars and bottles of water.) But the swimming pool sure feels great in the late afternoons after a hot day on the back of a horse…

Quote of the Day: A horse can lend its rider the speed and strength he or she lacks, but the rider who is wise remembers it is no more than a loan. —Pam Brown

Dance Like No One’s Watching

The fireflies seem to have found their mates and wandered away, and in the hot August nights we have instead the entertainment of cicadas in the trees. Soon their calls — rather like a stick drawn quickly down a thin wooden fence — will be joined, then supplanted by, the chirp of crickets in the darkness. Ah, the sounds of a summer night.

It’s high season, the weather is sultry and warm. People are out in droves, eager to squeeze the last drop of “summer” into their summer, preferably with a few good beach days and some memorable time away from home. Maybe it’s the effect of the economy this year, or this need many of us feel to pull every bit of life from our few stolen moments away, but sometimes in the almost frenetic air to experience it all, have it all (and now!), it reminds me of a line in an old Juice Newton song: “I’m dancing as fast as I can.”

So in what can be an exhausting time of year, it gratifies me to run into instances where people are keeping their cool, physically and mentally. The other day, I was up in Riverhead at BJ’s doing some shopping, and I chatted briefly with another woman who, like me, was on her own trying to manage the self-check out station. She was in front of me, and when I finally collected my groceries and loaded them back in my cart, I saw she’d stuck a post it note to my box of cereal that read Dance like no one’s watching.

I’ve seen this quote from Crystal Boyd before, but I was struck by how much I needed to be reminded of it just then: “Work like you don’t need money…Love like you’ve never been hurt…And dance like no one’s watching.” In other words, live for the joy of it and for yourself, without worrying about the opinions or censure of others.

Are you dancing as fast as you can? And if so, is that truly where you want to be? Come take some time for yourself here at A Butler’s Manor, and let the night music of the cicadas and the scent of the nicotiana take you away from the need to cram someone else’s idea of summer into your vacation.

Come dance like no one’s watching.

Guests who become friends

As I tell people often, my only contribution to Chris’s garden is that I cut flowers to make arrangements for A Butler’s Manor’s guest rooms. In high summer, I have lots to choose from. Last year, one of our regular summer guests was enjoying the pool and we were chatting while I was cutting from the rose garden beside it, piling up blooms on one arm. The next time Jackie came to stay, she brought me a wonderful present: a long, narrow basket to be used for gathering flowers. You can see by the picture how it comes in handy (and look at the lovely flowers we have available), and not just for gathering flowers! Last fall, I filled the basket with small gourds, autumn leaves, and a scattering of yellow mum flowers, and it became the centerpiece for the dining room table. Over Christmas, I filled it with greens and low votive candles. I’m still working on ideas for a spring arrangement…
On the subject of return guests…one of the most rewarding things about owning a B&B is the friendship that develops with many of our guests who return again and again. We look forward to catching up with them each time they visit. Occasionally, we lose them as guests (but not as friends!) because of relocation or other job factors.
Jack and Tom are private pilots who would occasionally stay with us when their employer overbooked his summer house here in Southampton. As often as not, they didn’t need accommodations because there was room on the estate, but when they were in town, they’d often call to see if we were free, and stop over with a bottle of wine that we’d enjoy in the garden, or we’d join them for dinner at Le Chef. Alas — the employer’s summer house was sold last year…we sure miss them.
Sometimes people fall in love with the area and buy their own house here, so we lose them as guests, but gain them as neighbors! Such is the case with John, who stopped by on his bike the other day to say hello. He’s found a house in the village and may find a way to make it his primary residence. It will be fun seeing him and his family at concerts in the park and other “local” events.
But mostly, it’s just not summer to Chris and me without a chance to check in with some of the good people who return each year for a chance to relax in the sun!
Quote of the Day: You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. —H.L. Mencken