Half-Century Age Range at Hampton Classic

For all ages
J.T. Sheeler, 6, talked it over with Stony Hill’s trainer, Chrissy Clark, before entering the leadline ring Jack Graves Photo

   Grand Prix Sunday at the Hampton Classic ran the gamut age-wise, from 2-to-4-year-olds in leadline classes to the 50-year-old Jeffrey Welles, a two-time former Grand Prix winner, who on Merlin placed eighth in the day’s main event.
    Stuart Nayman, as he was watching his wife, Hilary, lead their 4-year-old daughter, Rachel, around the Anne Aspinall Ring that morning under the discerning eyes of two judges, said, when questioned, that Rachel had been riding “practically since birth.”
    Hilary and Rachel Nayman ride at Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, where Chrissy Clark, who divides her time between managing a string of polo ponies for the Michelob Ultra team in Florida and at Stony Hill, is a trainer.
    Many East Hamptoners, summer kids and year-rounders, have learned to ride at Stony Hill, the best known former student being Norman Dello Joio, whose son, Nick, competed in Sunday afternoon’s $250,000 Grand Prix.
    “The last time I rode in the Classic was six years ago,” Rachel’s mother said. “But I’m coming back — I’ve got to get a horse.”
    As for Rachel, “she’s just started cantering,” though the 2-to-4-year-old riders weren’t required to do that that day — just walk and, when queried by the judges, answer questions as to equine body parts and such. “The judge asked her what color horse she was on, and Rachel answered correctly — a palomino,” Hilary Nayman said.
    When Rachel was done and had been told by Clark that she’d been “a superstar,” she was greeted in the warm-up ring by her 10-year-old brother, Ben, and by her 5-year-old boyfriend, Jackson Shell.
    “What’s the world coming to,” mused Donald Sheeler, the father of another Stony Hill entrant, his 6-year-old daughter, J.T., when this writer said he hadn’t begun going out with girls until he was 10. “And ever since they’ve been getting us into trouble.”
    His daughter, said Sheeler, had been in the leadline class last year, as well. Asked if he rode, he said, “No, I’m a spectator, a proud daddy.”
    Cody Abt, a 17-year-old volunteer who summers in Sag Harbor and rides at Andre DeLeyer’s East End Stables, said, when questioned near the in-gate, that she’d been riding since age 2.
    “I was the most relaxed kid,” she said when asked about her experiences in the Classic’s leadline classes. “I was so comfortable . . . I got a ribbon. I still have it.”
    Pernilla Ammann, whose 5-year-old daughter, Philippa, was being prepared for the 5-7 leadline competition by Clark, said her older daughter, Katarina, 7, had placed fourth in a short stirrup class earlier in the week. She, herself, did dressage (ballet on a horse) with Wick Hotchkiss, Stony Hill’s owner. “They don’t do dressage at the Classic,” she said. “It’s very difficult, though jumping is too. The two really oughtn’t to be compared.”
    Besides the above-mentioned, Clark brought with her that day Madeline Liceaga, Sebastian Liceaga, Lilah Juneja, and Samantha Ramos.
    Asked if Lara Lowlicht, an East Hampton Middle School fifth grader, who was awarded Stony Hill’s first-ever riding scholarship earlier this summer, had competed that week, Clark, who doesn’t train her — Aisha Ali does — said she had.
    “She’s been doing excellently in competitions all summer. She was fourth and seventh, I think, in Short Stirrup Equitation 10-12 Section B, and,” Clark said, reaching into a tubular container she held, “she was that class’s ESI Photography poster child.”
    As for the Stony Hill Foundation’s scholarships, Clark said, “They’d like to give out a few more. They conduct a review every six months. The next one will be in November.”