Saratoga County

Top riders competing in annual horse show

More than 1,200 horses and nearly as many riders will be competing this week and next during the 49t
Lauren Dornfield of Pittsford and her mount, Enough Said, clear a jump in the schooling jumper division on Tuesday’s opening day of the St. Clement’s Saratoga Horse Show at the Oklahoma Training Track in Saratoga Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Lauren Dornfield of Pittsford and her mount, Enough Said, clear a jump in the schooling jumper division on Tuesday’s opening day of the St. Clement’s Saratoga Horse Show at the Oklahoma Training Track in Saratoga Springs.

More than 1,200 horses and nearly as many riders will be competing this week and next during the 49th annual St. Clement’s Saratoga Horse Show.

Horse vans and riders have been rolling into the Saratoga Race Course grounds on Union Avenue for the past two days preparing for the nationally recognized equestrian competition.

“We go from kids 7 and 8 years old all the way up to older adults 50 and 60 years old,” said show president Maureen LaBelle.

The riders and horses jump obstacles laid out in three separate courses for hunters, jumpers, and equitation competitions.

LaBelle is also a fourth-grade teacher at St. Clement’s Regional Catholic School, which has hosted the show as a fundraising event for almost five decades.

Dozens of volunteers from the school set up the competition site east of the Oklahoma track, prepare food for the concession stands and staff the food tents during the two weeks of competition that started Tuesday.

Between $60,000 to $100,000 is raised in all. The money is used by the regional Catholic elementary school on Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs, LaBelle said on Tuesday.

“By participating in the horse show, you are helping children to receive their educational foundation here at St. Clement’s Catholic School in our early childhood program, pre-kindergarten program and our K-5 program,” said St. Clement’s principal Jane Kromm in a prepared statement.

The event is called a horse show but it’s really a serious jumping and riding competition.

The public is welcome to attend all events, which start at 7:30 a.m. and generally run through much of the day. Admission is $3 for adults with children under 12 years old free.

Hillary Dobbs, the 19-year-old daughter of CNN’s Lou Dobbs, is coming back to Saratoga to defend the grand prix titles she won last year.

Dobbs, a student at Harvard University, captured her first major jumper titles last May by winning the Saratoga Cup on the first weekend and the David B. Wood Cup the second weekend, according to Sydney Masters, a show publicist. She will be arriving in Saratoga Springs on Friday after taking some of her final exams, Masters said on Tuesday. Dobbs will bring at least four of her favorite mounts with her, including Quincy B, Corlette, Marengo and VDL Lotus Excel.

While the St. Clement’s school volunteers perform many duties, the school hires a professional team to run the actual competition.

Brian Flynn is the head of the horse show team and has coordinated shows throughout the United States, according to LaBelle. The team includes judges, stewards, ringmasters and course designers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the competition is the jumping events in which the horse and rider are timed as they maneuver through an obstacle course. The fastest time, without hitting obstacles and making any other “faults,” is the winner.

The hunter class events are judged more on the form of the horses as they are piloted over the jumps. In the equitation class the form of the rider is the focus.

Some of the riders are paid professionals while others, like Hillary Dobbs, are amateurs.

The major events, such as this week’s Saratoga Cup and the David B. Wood Cup on May 18, are held at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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