Wick Hotchkiss remembers the days when kids from the city and kids from the Hamptons would all hang out together at Stony Hill Stables, which her mother, Liz Hotchkiss founded more than five decades ago. It was accessible. People bonded with their horses, dressed them themselves and had fun.
But horse riding has changed over the years. The rise of private stables have driven up costs of participating in the sport, and the stable staff handles getting the horse ready to go for the rider. A couple years ago, Hotchkiss noticed the number of local children coming to Stony Hill was dwindling.
“We just didn’t want to become so exclusionary that the local children couldn’t enjoy the same benefit that being with horses all day long gives to children,” Maureen Bluedorn, president of Stony Hill Stables Foundation, said.
Bluedorn pitched an idea: host a family-friendly benefit to raise money for scholarships so local East Hampton children could afford to attend pony camp in the summer, where they’d learn not only to ride but the importance of teamwork, patience and how to care for a horse. It would include the Hamptons benefit usuals: cocktails, hors d’oeuvres (Bluedorn’s favorite is the mini-hotdogs) and an auction.
But this one would be a little different, with a dressage performance and the ultimate crowd pleaser: a chance to watch the Pony Drill Team. The Pony Drill Team is a group of kids, including previous scholarship winners, on their ponies performing to music directed by Ashley Lynott.
“It’s a big hit,” Bluedorn said. “[Ashley] delivers every single time.”
“It’s so cute,” Wick added.
This year, the music of choice for the drill team is Peter Pan. There will also be a western rider, Lianne Miller, and a jump exhibit with the stable’s new hunter-jumper trainer John Paul Jimenez, who brings nearly 20 years of experience to the stable and has performed at the Grand Prix level.
“People love to watch horses jump, and John Paul is an excellent jumper,” Bluedorn said. “I think it will add an element of excitement. People just relate to jumping, sometimes easier than they do to dressage.”
A husband and father of three, Jimenez fits right into the nurturing, accessible culture at Stony Hill.
“It’s amazing for me to witness how horses change these riders for the better; physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said. “To have horses in their lives is life-changing for them.”
And that’s why this benefit is so important to Stony Hill. Wick recalled a scholarship winner whose parents described her as unmanageable when she arrived at pony camp as a 10-year-old.
“Now, they say she’s completely turned the corner and is socially happy, good in school,” Wick said.
“It’s hard to express in words the feeling of satisfaction and reward that you get. It just makes you smile that you know the way they were when they came in, and here they are,” Bluedorn said.
If You Go
Stony Hill Stables Foundation Benefit
268 Town Lane, Amagansett
Time: Saturday, June 20, 6pm
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-267-3203