HITS kicks off horse-jumping competition season with benefit for Family

(Dion Ogust)

Starting in late May, equestrians from all over the world have been converging on the horse grounds of Saugerties, with the start of the 2012 season of Horseshows in the Sun (HITS), a company that sponsors a nationwide circuit of amateur dressage and horse-jumping exhibitions and competitions, which has a location in Saugerties and is headquartered in the village. The first of three consecutive weeks of show-jumping competitions will continue through Sunday, June 10. Admission is free Wednesday through Saturday and $5 on Sunday, and children under age 12 get in free; so if you enjoy watching handsome steeds galloping around the ring (and who doesn’t?), pack a picnic or buy food sold on the grounds and head for the bleachers. The $5 admission benefits Family of Woodstock, so by stopping by this Sunday afternoon, you’ll also be supporting a good cause.

The action will take place in the hunter and jumper rings. Seasoned viewers will notice a new two-level ring encircling the show grounds, incorporating variations in the course and creating more challenges for steed and rider. Several hunter classes will compete in the ring. Winners of the first series of jumping competitions will qualify for three events scheduled to take place on September 7 through 9, with a chance at winning the Pfizer $1 million Grand Prix, the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final or – new this year – the $250,000 Hunter Prix Final.

HITS, Inc. is also offering some special events. On Saturday, June 2, HITS will host “Taste of HITS-on-the-Hudson” from noon to 2 p.m., showcasing the cuisine of local restaurants, including the Tavern at Diamond Mills, which opened over the winter in the new hotel and conference center; Mirabella’s; the Dam Cafe & Deli; Lucky Chocolates; Mezzaluna; Town & Country Liquors; and Brianna’s Full Belly Deli.

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The Purina Mills Kids’ Day is scheduled for Sunday, June 10. From 12 noon to 2 p.m., games, arts and crafts, free pony rides, face-painting and more will be available to children of all ages. Whoopsy Daisy the Clown will give away balloons fashioned into animals and various characters. Afterwards, starting at 2 p.m., world-class competitors will compete for the top prize in the $100,000 Purina Mills Grand Prix.

On September 9, which marks the conclusion of the HITS championship weekends, Michael McDonald will perform, in a partnership with the Bardavon. McDonald, a former member of the Doobie Brothers, is a five-time Grammy-winner. The concert will follow the $1 million Grand Prix, which is the culminating event of the season – but in the meantime, there are plenty of exciting jumping contests to be viewed.

The HITS horse grounds are located at 454 Washington Avenue Extension. Call (845) 246-5515 (during the horse shows) or (845) 246-8833 for information or visit www.hitsshows.com.

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