As a horse-crazy kid who grew up to become rider-focused SmartPaker, being able to attend HITS Saugerties Championship Week was an absolute pleasure. The picturesque setting just next to the Hudson River made for a beautiful week with crisp fall mornings and beautiful sunshine all day. SmartPaker Meaghan and I got to spend time catching up with old friends and meeting their new four-legged partners.
Growing up riding and training on the hunter/jumper circuit, I still love being able to see some of my long-time idols like Margie Engel, Todd Minikus and Laura Chapot compete against one another! The week was full of classes starting with .85 m jumpers to short stirrup and finishing the week off with a $250,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix and Saugerties $500,000 FEI CSI 5* Grand Prix. Riders of all ages and levels were in irons in their horse show best all week. We even got to see Team SmartPak rider Laura Chapot pilot her trusty Shooting Star around the Grand Prix ring.
While the whole trip was an absolute blast, my favorite experience was being able to spectate the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) Hunt Seat Medal Finals. It was my first time being exposed to this type of collegiate riding competition. This is a unique class that showcases the top 50 riders from the East Coast NCEA ranking list. This competition is split up into 3 phases over jumps 3’3” in height. Phase 1 includes a course of at least 10 jumps where the top 10 riders are called back for Phase 2. Phase 2 is the Flat Phase and challenges the riders to any of the USEF Tests 1-19 as well as at least two lateral movements. The top 4 riders with the highest combined totals from Phase 1 and Phase 2 move on to Phase 3. Phase 3 is the Bracket Phase where riders compete head to head on top of their competitors’ horses and pilot them around a course of at least 8 fences. The first and fourth place riders compete on the same horse and the Second or Third place rider compete on the same horse. The winners of each head-to-head will compete for Champion and Reserve on the same horse. The other two riders will compete head to head for third and fourth place. The Bracket Phase was so fun to watch and kept spectators on their toes until the very end. The horses and riders were beautifully turned out and the sportsmanship between the riders was a very special thing to see in our sport!
In between spectating classes like the NCEA Hunt Seat Medal Finals and meeting customers to and from the ring we were able to chat with riders, trainers and owners about how SmarPak supplements can best support their horses. Meaghan and I wandered around the barns and to and from the rings to pass out SmartPak swag and meet some of our current horses powered by SmartPaks. SmartPak sponsored several classes this week so it was very exciting to spend time at the rings and see some of the top horses and riders competing and pass along some SmartPak goodies as a congratulations!
On a final note I want to give a huge shout out to our equestrian community. Fellow competitor and friend to many, Team Ireland rider Kevin Babington was recently injured in a riding accident at the Hampton Classic just a few weeks ago. There wasn’t doubt that Kevin and his family were at the forfront of everyones minds and were represneted with green ribbons that riders, trainers, grooms, owners and vendors were sporting all week. Many riders who won prize money this week graciously donated a portion of their winning to the Babbington Family to support Kevin’s recovery. Seeing our community come together and support such an amazing athlete during a tough time is such a heartwarming experience and am greatful to have been able to be a part of it!
Before we knew it the week had already gone by and it was time to head home. We were so thankful to be able to meet some of our most amazing customers and their horses and can’t wait until we’re back at the ingate cheering them on at the next show, until next time!