Horses and riders are back in the Spa City — not at the starting gate but in the ring at the 17th annual Skidmore College Saratoga Class Horse Show.
The event, which runs through Sunday, is a fundraiser for Skidmore College. In previous years, the event has raised as much as $3.5 million, attracting world-class equestrians as well as others to the highly regarded show.
“Many horse shows have gotten to where it’s just like a business and they have just lost all the amenities,” said Anne Braswell, who brought up 14 horses from her Terrapin Farm in Ocala, Florida. “This is still a very special horse show.”
Horses, including thoroughbreds, compete in three rings for two weeks. Hunter Rings I & II, across the street from Saratoga Race Course, showcase horses of all bloods and colors gracefully leaping over jumps. The Jumper Ring is judged for timed jumping with an allowed time of 75-80 seconds, while Hunter Rings I & II are judged based on style and grace for both horse and rider.
“For a horse show like this, you know your horse’s strengths before you come,” said Jessica Singer, a 2014 graduate of Skidmore and former co-captain of the college’s riding team.
The first week featured the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Level Three competition, and week two was for Level Four.
Groomers spend considerable time on a horse’s appearance before entering the rings, wiping their cheeks and polishing their hooves.
“It can be a very inviting environment for horses, depending on their age,” said Skidmore assistant equestrian coach Belinda Colgan. It is also a time-consuming sport for riders.
“Instead of going out and playing golf, this is their hobby,” said Patrick Rodes, who has managed the equestrian show the past four years.
Executive Director Adele Einhorn and Skidmore’s head riding coach, Cindy Ford, resurrected the Saratoga Classic in 1998. The last horse show was held in the late 1930s at the Oklahoma Training Track. Riders come back year after year.
“It’s different for every show, depending on whether you win or not,” Singer said. “I think the excitement of the competition is what keeps us going.”
Last year, the Skidmore riding team placed third in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Champions at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. Skidmore College also won the 2013 Members Choice Award for best “AA” show in their area.
Einhorn co-chairs the task force “Take2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program,” and led the successful effort to allow thoroughbred horses to have their own jumper divisions. The thoroughbred division will begin next year in January to compete in their own Hunter and Jumper divisions.
For more information, go to www.skidmore.edu/saratogaclassic.