Photos by ESI Photograhy
Trucks and trailers making their way to Washington Ave. from the Thruway each morning. A noticeable uptick in foot traffic and patronage in village shops and restaurants. The weather is warming up. Ever since 2003, these signs have heralded the return of the horse shows to Saugerties.
HITS Saugerties has three sessions. The first, beginning this week, runs from May 21–June 8, followed by July 16–Aug. 3 and Aug. 27–Sept. 14.
The grounds are open Wednesday–Sunday. Lindsay Yandon, of the HITS Marketing Team, suggests spectators check out the grand prix events on Friday and Sunday, starting around 1 p.m. Admission is free Wednesday–Saturday, and those over 12 years of age pay $5 on Sundays (proceeds go to Family of Woodstock).
There is plenty happening on other days and outside the main stage, said Yandon. HITS includes a wide range of competitors, from Olympic-level to kids with ponies. Outside the ring, there’s a restaurant and snackbar, and equine-related shops. As with horse races, some spectators make a day of it, picnicking in the grass and soaking up the sights and sounds. One doesn’t have to know a lot about the events and the criteria by which the competitors are judged to enjoy a horse show, says Yandon. Just seeing the elegant yet massive equines navigating the course with precision is exciting.
The show is hunter/jumper. With the latter, getting through the course the fastest and clearing the jumps cleanly are all that matters. With the former, style counts.
A pamphlet designed to explain the events to newcomers says the jumper events “are spectator favorites because they are relatively simple to judge and are based on speed and athleticism … The standard is cut and dry: You either have the fastest round without faults or you don’t.”
The hunter classes judge the horse. “A hunter should have a long, low, ground-covering stride and jump the fences easily, smoothly and with consistent pace. Hunters are quiet, exhibit good manners both over fences and under saddle, and jump courses that involve direct lines and straight-forward fences, usually designed with natural elements and colors.” The rider’s appearance is also important. “Shiny boots, well-tailored clothes and a smartly groomed horse all count in the hunter ring.”
A third class, equitation, is concerned with the rider only. “Equitation classes judge the rider on their form, their guidance of the horse, effectiveness of their aids, position of legs, hands and upper body position, and the ability to perform certain tests with style and precision. The rider’s legs should be perpendicular to the ground and quiet with the heel down. Their hands should be supple and follow the movement of the horses head. The upper body should be upright, but relaxed with a slight arch in the lower back. The rider’s head should be up and looking forward. Equitation classes are generally judged on the flat at the walk, trot and canter and over fences.”
For spectators with children, the best day to check out HITS will be Sunday, June 8, Kids’ Day, from noon to 2 p.m. Activities include pony rides, face painting, arts and crafts, and horse shoe decorating.
The biggest competitive events are Sept. 3–7, capped by the Zoetis $1 million Grand Prix.
In the past few years, HITS has hosted concerts at the end of the season. Past acts included The Temptations, John Fogerty, Michael McDonald, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. There will be a concert at the end of the 2014 season as well. No word yet on who’s playing.