by Paul Burdziakowski
The Connecticut Summer Classic Horse Show took place July 30–Aug. 1 just as Western Massachusetts experienced its hottest temperatures of the season. The Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, MA provided a comfortably cool setting for participants and spectators to get out of the heat and into the coliseum to watch some spirited competition.
During the three-day event participants competed against one another for ribbons, hats and cash prizes but even more so for prestige. Most of the participants used the show to try to improve on their own previous performances while a few riders with Saddlebreds and Hackneys used it as a tune up for the World Championships next month at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.
Despite being a regional show, participants came from all over including as far away as Wisconsin and even Ontario, Canada. The show featured four main breeds of horses including Hackney, Friesian, Morgan and American Saddlebred all with varying ages and levels of experience. The riders were equally diverse with some as young as three all the way up to 73 years of age.
The youngest participants were a part of the Academy division, which introduces first time riders to the world of show horses. It includes classes such as lead line, walk and trot, and walk, canter.
Twenty-year-old rider Brittany Mullaney of Hagaman, NY had the distinct characteristic of being one of several younger participants while holding plenty of experience.
“I’ve done so many horse shows that I can’t even count them anymore,” said Mullaney.
Her horse is a nine year old American Saddlebred called In the Name of the Rose. Saddlebred’s are known to be a spirited yet intelligent and gentle breed. Mullaney and her horse competed in an American Saddlebred 3 gaited park amateur competition where the goal is to impress the judges with the horse’s elegance, motion and brightness using three different gaits.
On the opposite spectrum, 66 year old Carol Rodman of Long Island, NY and her pony, Showstar’s Queen LF, are both first time participants in the event. Rodman’s entry is a four-year old Hackney Pony shown in the roadster division. A breed derived from the Hackney Horse, the pony pulls the driver in a sulky and is judged on speed and form. Rodman and her pony took part in the open road pony competition where they secured the top prize, a blue ribbon.
“It’s been on my bucket list to drive a Roadster Pony because it has always been one of my favorite classes to watch at shows,” said Rodman.
While Rodman may be a first timer for this particular event she comes from a 5th generation family that has ridden, driven and shown horses. Rodman is a 3rd generation exhibitor but her mother, Millie LeBoff, was 2nd generation and actually started the Connecticut Summer Classic Horse Show at the Eastern States Exposition 26 years ago. There were no summer horse shows at the time so LeBoff, an avid exhibitor, started the show as a project of the American Saddlebred Horse Association of Connecticut, which she was a part of.
Even though LeBoff drove horses up until her 80s she has since passed the show responsibilities on. The current horse show manager and chairperson of the United Professional Horsemen’s Association (UPHA), John Lampropoulos, is just in his second year but he already finds himself extremely busy managing the horse show. One of the things he enjoys most about his job is seeing the extended family atmosphere and the camaraderie among the participants.
“It’s a show that brings many generations of families together and provides a lot of competition as well as fun,” Lampropoulos said.
In addition to running a good show Lampropoulos does his best to cater to the participants by doing such things as throwing parties at local restaurants or creating a fun night that features bounce houses, obstacles courses and dunk tanks. Lampropoulos also uses the proceeds from the show to help support future events such as an upcoming super convention in Boston which his chapter will be hosting in February of 2016.
Lampropaulos is not the only one using the event to assist others. Thirty-two year old Alicia Owens of Montross, PA is not only a rider but a trainer as well, getting horses competition ready. Owens also uses the sport as a model for life to teach younger participants.
“This is one of the few lifetime sports where you can take it up at a young age and continue until you are older,” Owens said. “Just like life, which sometimes isn’t fair, here horses have a way of humbling you as you may have a great showing one night and an off night next time. You just have to self-evaluate and take the positives.”
Owens, who has been doing horse shows since the age of five, continues to the tradition of sorts by using an eight-year old Morgan horse named Dragonsmeade Varvatos for the Morgan open park saddle competition. The horse is not her own, instead she trains for 12-year old Sarah Hecht who was very happy they won a blue ribbon.
Members of this chapter will have little time to rest as they will compete once again next month at the Deerefield Fair in Deerefield, NH. The Eastern States Exposition Horse Show is also one of the oldest shows in New England and will be the next regional horse show in the area on Sept. 18 – Oct. 4. The TSASA Octoberfest Horse Show on Oct. 29–Nov. 1 will close out the season.