After watching her trainer, Laura Bowery, pilot her horse, Tivoli, to the championship in the local hunter pro division at the Hampton Classic on Sunday morning, Anne Byers knew her horse had what it would take to impress the judges in the Anne Aspinall ring. The only question that remained was would she be able to bring out the same type of performance just a short while later?
The answer turned out to be yes.
Byers and Tivoli picked up the tri-color championship ribbon in the local amateur-owner hunter division that afternoon, taking a first and a second in the over-fences classes and first in the under-saddle class. Combined with the win in the local hunter pro division, Tivoli tied for the Grand Local Hunter Championship with another horse, Saratoga, ridden by Holly Orlando of Wellington, Florida.
Byers is a Locust Valley resident who spends her summers in Amagansett and rides and trains with Bowery at Sea-Aire Farm in Water Mill. She’s been competing in the show for the past 15 years, she said, taking a break just once when she was pregnant with one of her three children. Byers won a championship in the hunter division years ago with a horse named Renoir, who racked up accolades in the hunter division for years before being retired. She’s been hoping to reclaim that glory ever since, and finally got her chance on Sunday with Tivoli, an 11-year-old Rheinelander gelding that she’s partnered with for the last two years.
“He’s just a wonderful horse,” an excited and breathless Byers said, moments after collecting her championship cooler, saddle bag and ribbon. “He’s like Clifford the Big Red Dog; he’s totally chill and very calm.”
Byers added that she feels a good synergy now with Tivoli, two years after purchasing him.
“I feel like you just get to know your partnership, and the two of us are really clicking,” she said. “I feel like today was a day where all the stars aligned and the jumps just came to me. And he was just awesome. Even if I had a hiccup, he covered it up for me.”
Byers didn’t start riding until she was in college. She tried out for the equestrian team at Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York, and made the squad, competing in the walk-trot-canter division. After that, she was hooked, but took a long break from riding after graduating with her undergraduate degree. During that time away from riding, she went to law school, and had three children—boys, now ages 11, 13 and 15—but has been back in the irons now for the past 15 years, she estimated.
“It’s an addiction and it’s such a passion, and you just love it,” she said of riding. “And the Hampton Classic is always the ultimate goal, so it’s just so great to have a day like this.”
Byers and other horses and riders who train and make their home at barns on Long Island were in the spotlight, as is tradition, on opening day at the week-long show.
Clever Z, ridden by M.L. Stevenson of New York, New York and Southampton, won the Local Hunter Non-Professional division, while Landis, ridden by Sabrina Kalimian of East Norwich, New York, won the Local Junior Hunter Championship.
In the Grand Prix ring, the youngest riders were on display in the leadline division in the morning. They displayed their burgeoning skills and were also asked a series of questions by Olympic gold medalist Joe Fargis to test their equestrian knowledge. Alexandra Steinberg rode Juicy Fruit to the championship in the 2-to-4-year-old division, while Emma Dyson rode Peter Pony, owned by the Topping Riding Club, to top honors in the 5-to-7-year-old division.
Later in the day, Patricia Griffith rode Black Label, owned by Maxwell Levy, to the championship in the $50,000 Clear Channel Hunter Derby. Black Label scored a total of 179 points over the two rounds to defeat Carrico (ridden by Callie Seaman, 171 points) and Pioneer (Victoria Colvin, 165). Some 30 horses started in the first round, with the top 12 returning for the second round. Griffith, 37, of White Plains has been riding in the Classic since she was 10 years old.