LYMAN, Miss. (WLOX) - The Gulf Coast Winter Classics horse show began Thursday in appropriately chilly weather. The start was pushed back a day due to the winter weather delaying the judges’ flights. Despite the chilly weather, the riders are excited to get started with the event that has become a mainstay on the hunter-jumper circuit.
One of the riders is an 18-year old from Zionsville, Indiana who has been attending the event since she was a baby and when her mother was riding.
“I’ve got a couple of really great horses this year. I’ve got a jumper and a hunter and then I’ve also got a baby this year and I’m super excited about it,” said Callie Rheinheimer. “This competition is one of my favorites. We’ve been coming here ever since I was a baby and I just kind of grew up here.”
Callie’s mom is now her trainer, and not only is Callie competing, but three of her siblings are also competing as well. Callie will be attending college next year on a softball scholarship, so it’s not all about horses for the family.
“Everybody does ride, yes, but it’s in and out depending on their sports season because they all play other sports as well,” said mom Cathy Rheinheimer. “We plan the whole winter down here riding and go home for baseball and softball season and back into the horse shows for the summer.”
Cathy said there is much more than horsemanship for her children to learn from the sport.
“Responsibility, you know when you are tired and not wanting to go get those horses out, they have to be fed every day, they have to be taken care of,” said Cathy. “You have the excitement of winning the classes and winning awards and then you get disappointment when they’re hurt or you have a bad day.”
This is the 23rd year of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, and event organizer Janet McCarroll said she can’t praise the county enough for the way the facility is maintained.
Riders come across much of the country to compete for prize money and points in the United States Equestrian Federation event, and while they were not greeted by the warm weather they had hoped for, they are not complaining.
“So much better though than where we come from,” Cathy said. “We’ve had a foot and a half of snow, and when we were driving down here, when we hit double digits we were excited. When we left it was 1 degree when we put our horses in the trailer, so 45 seems much better than that.”
McCarroll also added “They come down here for the warm weather. They haven’t gotten it yet, but they know that it’s coming.”
The six-week event attracts from 500 to 700 riders each week and has an estimated economic impact of $40 million. Also, if you’d like to see the full Gulf Coast Winter Classics schedule, click here.