BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY (August 31, 2001) - The lives of young riders Cody Baird and Paige Johnson are taking a parallel course at the 26th Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, which continues through Sunday, Sept. 2. Both 15-year-olds rode their chestnut geldings to win the championships in the Large Junior Hunter Division - Cody in Section A and Paige in Section B - on Thursday, August 30, at The Classic. The Junior Large Hunter Division was split into two sections because more than 44 horses were entered in the division, so the girls are not actually competing against one another.
Both teens successfully guided their horses over courses of 3'6" jumps in their two over-fences classes and then scored best at the walk, trot and canter in their under saddle classes. Cody, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., and Paige, who lives in Washington, DC, don't usually meet up in the show ring except at large shows, but they are longtime friends. Cody competed for years on a pony, Himself the Elf, who formerly belonged to Paige.
Cody's success in Section A against more than 20 other horses came aboard her 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Most Wanted. He is nicknamed "Mel" because actor Mel Gibson is "most wanted," joked Cody's mom, Jane. Cody, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., said she has been showing since she was 8 years old. She has been riding "Mel" for the past two years, but he is not her only horse. She has four other horses for competing in the Jumper and Small Junior Hunter divisions. But she won't reveal who's her favorite.
"I love riding," she said, preparing to head back into the ring at the Hampton Classic. "It's my life."
Regall, a 9-year-old Swedish warmblood, was Paige's winning mount in Section B of the Junior Large Hunter Division on Thursday. His name means "tall in stature," said Paige's trainer, Chuck Keller of Middleburg, Va. Although he is about average size at 16 hands, 1 inch tall, "Regall stands big and proud," Keller said.
Paige got hooked on horses when she saw a TV show about ponies when she was 8. Today she has her choice of 16 horses to ride - both hunters and jumpers -- but riding and showing don't consume her life. During the school year, she limits riding to four days a week. "
I try to level out my social life and riding," said Paige, who will be 16 in September. "You'd get bored with it too fast if you just did it all the time."
Paige's parents, Sheila and Robert Johnson, are big supporters of equestrian sports, working to help the grand prix riders of the future by joining the U.S. Equestrian Team and other organizations in sponsoring competition for talented young riders at horse shows across the country. Their television network, BET, sponsored the BET/USET show Jumping Talent Search for riders under 21 on Tuesday at the Hampton Classic Horse Show.