Riding: Strides at Stony Hill

Stony Hill’s young riders continue to impress
Wick Hotchkiss, on Tome above, won a gold medal from the United States Dressage Federation in Wellington, Fla., last winter, acknowledging her mastery in equine sport’s most difficult discipline. Jack Graves

   “We’ve given out seven or eight scholarships now,” Maureen Bluedorn said, with a smile, the other day at the well-appointed Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, as the most recent recipient, Georgia Bunce, 8, with her mother, Megan, looking on, prepared to saddle up for a lesson in the pony ring.
    Bluedorn was referring to the year-old Stony Hill Stables Foundation’s laudable effort to extend the joy and challenging demands of equestrian sport to more and more youngsters here.
    Asked if her husband, Kevin, approved of Georgia’s path, Meg Bunce said, “He’s over the moon. He’s glad she’ll be riding rather than playing rugby.”
    Stony Hill’s young riders — not to mention its owner, Wick Hotchkiss, who was awarded a gold medal by the United States Dressage Federation this past winter in Wellington, Fla., attesting to her mastery of equestrian sport’s most demanding discipline — continue to impress.
    Aisha Ali, the stables’ chief trainer, said that in March, for the first time, Stony Hill was represented by five young riders — Oliver Ritter, 13, Lara Lowlicht, 11, Lily Ezrow, 11, Johanna Zwirner, 15, and Laura Conner, 14 — at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.
    Katarina Ammann, an 8-year-old who became the barn’s first double Long Island Winner’s Circle champion last fall — and about whom The Star wrote last January — didn’t make the trip, “though she’s going to go next year,” said Ali.
    “Everyone won ribbons,” she reported. “Three won first places and one [Ritter] won a grand championship. . . . The Hampton Classic is nothing compared to Wellington, where there are four months of world-class competition.”
    The five young riders were in their trainer’s care during their three-week stay. “We were always together. We stayed together in a house, and I did the cooking, though it was no culinary adventure! Mostly mac and cheese. We drove around in a golf cart, we went to the movies together . . . I was super proud of them. They were making history. They were at one of the biggest horse shows in the world and there was no stage fright — their confidence level was high, there were tears of joy, they loved it so much.”
    “There were grands prix every week with United States Olympic and international riders,” she continued. “Yes, McClain Ward was there . . . Oliver beat one of his students in a jumper division, finishing second among 27 entries, and was grand champion in a hunter division for riders 13 and up. It was a huge win.”
    Lowlicht, an East Hampton Middle School sixth grader who last summer became the first recipient of a Stony Hill Stables Foundation scholarship, finished in the ribbons at Wellington despite the fact she had to ride a borrowed pony (as she had to do at the Classic last August).
    When a visitor said he hoped she had better luck next time, Lara said, with equanimity, “When you work seven days a week, you don’t need much luck.”
    Lara’s skill has not gone unnoticed. “She’s been given a show pony to ride for a year by Olivia Golden, from whom we lease a lot of our ponies,” said Ali. “We didn’t ask her — she volunteered after seeing Lara ride in a video.”
    So, yes, the word of Stony Hill’s successes was getting around, the trainer said. “We’ve got a waiting list to board here. That’s a first. Our pony camp is almost completely full, we’ve had to hire new trainers, our new larger-than-competition-size arena, with its rubber mix competition-grade footing, opens this week. . . . It’s a game-changer. We’ll have some buff horses, you can be sure. They’ll be getting a lot of mileage in that ring.”
    Despite its recent strides, however, Stony Hill, Ali said, “hasn’t changed. Wick’s philosophy has always been to keep the doors open, to make riding fun.”
    The foundation, which Wick Hotch­kiss founded, is to hold its second fund-raising cocktail party — along with a dressage exhibition and pony drill team performance — there, at 268 Town Lane, on June 29 from 6 to 8 p.m.
    The invitation says the foundation offers “full scholarship equestrian training, including the lease and boarding of a horse, to local residents. Its goal is to promote equine sports, riding education, good sportsmanship, and to provide children and adults a healthy, life-enhancing experience.”