Classic Company goes back to the future with event at Harmon Field

Published 2:38 pm Monday, June 1, 2009

Taking a cue from a favorite movie theme, Bob Bell, president of Classic Company, took a bold step forward by stepping back into a historically rich venue with the hope of returning horse shows to their roots of grandeur, tradition, and simple pleasures.

During the spring of 2008 Bell found inspiration in his own backyard, during a leisurely drive around scenic Tryon where he has a mountain top cabin.

The car came to a stop at Harmon Field and Bell began to&bsp; develop a script. Steeped in equestrian and personal history, visions of his start as a horse show steward to imagining the awe of the 1956

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Olympic stars training on these hallowed grounds filled Bell with an overwhelming sense of &dquo;this is what we&squo;re missing,&dquo; a more intimate gathering of equestrians, rewarding their success with precious mementos, and creating a social atmosphere through special treats like Mimosa Sundays. From this theme came the debut of the Tryon May Classic Boutique Show over Memorial Day weekend, the first USEF A rated event to grace historic Harmon Field in over 20 years.

Like any good Director, Bell chose a cast that would enhance the competition by inviting two of the most admired and respected names in the industry, Betty Reynolds Oare and Ernest Oare served as judges. Betty Oare&squo;s father was National Show Hunter Hall of Fame horseman Arthur&bsp; Reynolds.

&dquo;It&squo;s really fun to come back and judge at Harmon Field, because the first horse shows I ever did in my life were at Harmon Field,&dquo; a very happy Betty Oare began, &dquo;I grew up in Tryon. When&bsp; I was a kid in school, both the school and the town all closed at noontime, and everybody came&bsp; to the one-day horse show. The men of the town cooked BBQ and it was an all day into the evening event.&dquo;&bsp; No doubt Bell&squo;s inclusion of similar nuances such as Friday afternoon&squo;s wine, cheese, and shrimp reception made the Oare&squo;s homecoming special and the exhibitors feel welcomed.

Oare felt it a privilege to watch some of the era&squo;s most famous horsemen, many of whom are still quite famous today. &dquo;George Morris, Frank Chapot, and the famous &dquo;horse with the flying tail&dquo; Nautical with Hugh Wiley all rode and trained here. There are many ghosts around those rings.&dquo; Oare reminisced fondly and added, &dquo;It&squo;s a joy to be back at Harmon to see today&squo;s talent developing.&dquo;

The action in the rings while competitive was all good natured so it wasn&squo;t at all odd to see many of the younger participants quickly exit the ring together laughing. Then with ponies in tow they headed for another long standing ritual of Harmon Field,&bsp; a relaxing trail ride to the creek for a cool dip.

Young and old alike have enjoyed this tradition for nearly a century. And for those spectating the classes there was simple pleasure of picnicking ringside. &dquo;It&squo;s these little amenities that are often so difficult to achieve at larger events. I wanted to bring back the enjoyment of coming to a horse show and the Boutique events are the best way to accomplish that vision.&dquo; Bell said as explanation to his choice in going to smaller more scenic locations.

Oare whole-heartedly agreed, &dquo;I love seeing folks hanging around stalls or&bsp; rings visiting and the kids all playing together. Sometimes I just worry that we just don&squo;t take time to enjoy each other and this Boutique idea is the perfect way to get back to that feeling.&dquo;

Bell utilized the two main rings for the show with two additional schooling rings and all surrounded by the lush green mountain vistas in the backdrop. &dquo;The two outdoor rings were lovely with the natural jumps,&bsp; brush, and flowers. Great all weather footing in all the rings. Beautiful trophies too and how many times can you remember being able to go out to enjoy a nice dinner early on? This show has been run first class all the&bsp; way,&dquo; Judge Oare said. Size made no difference when it came to talent, as some of the Southeast&squo;s finest hunters turned out to compete.

&dquo;There was some good quality horses here. Anyone thinking they&squo;d come for some easy points left saying what an experience. They had to rise to the occasion,&dquo; Oare said of the competition.

Owner-rider Joann Loheac of&bsp; Columbus would agree, she and mount Bachelor Bob won the Gordon Wright Challenge Trophy awarded to the Grand Amateur Champion and had the&bsp; distinct honor of winning the Irene Acker Challenge Trophy for Grand Hunter Champion. Considered a Grande Dame of the Tryon Horse Shows success,&bsp; Irene Acker personally presented the beautiful trophy bearing her name to an obvious emotional Loheac.

The Grand Junior Champion, Adle Marchant of Cornelius, NC and partner The Wow Factor were presented the Tony Wallace Challenge Trophy. By the end of Sunday more than 26 antique silver trophies had been awarded to division champions.

&dquo;I went into the show office and Bob&squo;s got all these old photos on the walls-great memories of Harmon&squo;s glory days. Most of them are from before even I remember, but there&squo;s one in the middle of my dad [Arthur&bsp; Reynolds]. He [Bell] and his staff have done such a nice job here. Bob doesn&squo;t cut the corners, he&squo;s put such emphasis on making this truly special. He&squo;s given us all a chance to relive some nice history and I hope he&squo;ll continue to build on this.&dquo; Betty shared.&bsp; Judging by the smiles and questioning when the next Boutique event would occur, Bell has captured the essence of a by gone era in horse showing just as he hoped.

The next Boutique Event will be the Charleston Summer Classics held in Charleston, SC beginning July 8 for two weeks in another scenic locale and some of the countries most beautiful beaches a mere six miles away.

Again Bell&squo;s script is to bring back the 1970 & 1980&squo;s &dquo;Glamour&dquo; to horse showing. &dquo;I don&squo;t think there&squo;s anything so impressive as seeing both a rider and horse turned out beautifully, combined with all the trappings&bsp; of a classic social event. I want to recreate that fun atmosphere so both&bsp; older and younger riders can cherish their showing experience.&dquo;&bsp; He&squo;s convinced that larger doesn&squo;t always mean better, especially in today&squo;s economy. &dquo;People deserve to get more than their money&squo;s worth and not feel like a mere number. Our goal with the Boutique events is to just spoil them as much as we can!&dquo; Bell concluded.

For more information on the Boutique events please visit or call the office at 843-768-5503. Entries for both will be limited so reserve space early.