There are only 25 official Heritage Competition horse shows in the US.
This week’s Fairfield County Hunt Club benefit is one of them.
The designation is reserved for long-established competitions that have also made substantial contributions toward the sport, while raising money for charity.
Over 700 international riders participate, at the 97-year-old Hunt Club on Long Lots Road.
It’s a big deal. But despite the elite-sounding name — and of horse shows in general — this one welcomes all of us riff-raff as spectators.
Even better: It’s family-friendly. And free!
In addition to horses and riders, local and national vendors offer home goods, antiques, jewelry and food. (That stuff is not free. Sorry.)
The show — a fundraiser for the Equus Foundation, a Westport-based national non-profit that protects horses while fostering horse-human bonds — begins at 8 a.m. every day this week, and Saturday. There’s action on 3 rings, simultaneously.
The 2 biggest events are the Welcome Stake (Thursday, June 21, 4 p.m.) and Grand Prix (Saturday, June 23, 1:30 p.m.).
If you’ve never been to a horse show, here are a couple of things to know:
During judging, the rider and horse should appear relaxed. The riding should seem effortless.
Riders may be faulted or eliminated for knocking down any part of a jump, exceeding the time limit, “poor presentation of horse or rider,” bucking, stopping in front of a fence, going off course or jumping in the wrong order.
Those are the basics. To learn more, just trot on down to the Hunt Club.