The Gulf Coast Winter Classic Horse Show, the largest hunter-jumper horse show on the Gulf Coast, is running through March 20 at the Harrison County Fairgrounds.
More than 1,000 horses will gallop across the fairgrounds as they compete for prize money and points.
The horses are grouped in two classes: hunters and jumpers. Hunters evolved from the fox hunting tradition and are judged for their style and manners as well as their jumping ability. Jumpers show speed and precision in jumping fences up to 5½ feet high.
Jonathan Rabon, office manager for the competition, recently conducted an email interview with the Sun Herald about the spectacle of the competition.
Form is essential
"Hunters are judged by form and way of going, style over jumps," Rabon said. "Jumpers are simply speed and not incurring faults by refusal or knocking down rails. There are competitors ranging from beginners to professional and watching the different levels of riders and horses is very interesting."
The highlight of the competition takes place at 2 p.m. each Sunday with the Grand Prix, which is the biggest and fastest jumper class with weekly prize money ranging from $25,000 to more than $50,000.
The competition began Feb. 14 and will vary week to week with as many as 1,000 horses participating at the busiest point. The closing weeks are of special interest, Rabon said. Week 5 is the International Hunter Derby and week 6 offers circuit high point awards.
This 18th annual event holds a AA rating, the United States Equestrian Federation's most prestigious rating. The Classic Company produces this and other equestrian shows that span four states and six venues and run more than 20 weeks each year.
In addition to competition, there will be vendors offering tack, clothes, accessories, coffee, smoothies and needlepoint. Also of note, filmmakers will be gathering footage from the event for the forthcoming film "The Majestic."
The fairgrounds are at 15321 County Farm Rd., almost seven miles north of I-10's Exit 28.
Competition is open to viewing Wednesday through Sunday each week. Events end mid-afternoon Wednesdays and Thursdays, but go all day Fridays through Sundays. Spectator admission is free.