BY ANNIE BIRMINGHAM
The Hampton Classic Horse Show is recognized by equine enthusiasts worldwide for its expansive grass Grand Prix field, with natural obstacles and gigantic oxers that put horse and rider alike to the test. Laying down a respectable round in this often overwhelming ring (with its sprawling VIP tents on all four sides and the flags of over a dozen countries waving overhead) is often a daunting task for any competitor…. one that Catherine Tyree managed with just one hand.
When one of Tyree’s mounts slipped in the midst of a turn during the $40,000 Hampton Classic Speed Stake, her hand jammed into his neck. She heard a crack, but continued on through the next turn before coming to a stop upon realizing that something wasn’t quite right. Tyree had broken the fourth metacarpal bone in her left hand, with four full days of the week-long competition still remaining.
“I’ve been injured before, so I knew what it felt like to be sidelined and didn’t want to do it again if at all possible. I had the cast put on in a way that I still had my thumb, index, and middle finger free, and I was able to find two pairs of handle reins to use for the week. I put my two fingers through one of the handles and my thumb on top of the rein.”
After testing out riding with the cast and special reins over a few jumps in the warm-up area, Tyree decided to continue competing throughout the remainder of the week. “I’ve developed great partnerships with my horses, so I felt very safe…. I knew I could trust them even if I was riding with a broken hand. I had originally planned to show my younger horse in the High Amateurs that week, but decided to err on the side of caution. I didn’t feel that I’d be able to give him the ride he prefers, so it made sense to just wait until my hand was better.”
Other than that adjustment, Tyree, who rides with North Run out of Vermont, continued the remainder of the week as originally planned, even finishing tenth in the Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier aboard Bokai, a 12 year old KWPN gelding of whom she’s had the ride on for the past two years. “He’s pretty laid back at home but turns into a complete adrenaline junky at the show. He feeds off of his environment and knows when it’s time to do his thing. We’ve done a lot together… he has turned a lot of my dreams into reality.”
To Tyree, such strong finishes, especially with her injury, signify important moments in her career. “The Classic has been around for a while and a lot of great horses have jumped there over the years. As a competitor, it feels special because of the sheer level of competition. After everyone goes their own way for the summer (whether it’s to Spruce Meadows, Europe, or staying stateside), the Hamptons is the first time that everyone is together again. No class is easily won here.”
After the Hampton Classic, Tyree made the trip to the American Gold Cup at Old Salem Farm; where she finished with top placings in the $35,000 Welcome Stake aboard Catungee and the $80,000 Gold Cup Qualifier aboard Bokai. After getting her cast removed, her team took the trip to Washington, D.C. for the 60th annual Washington International Horse Show, where she and Bokai finished on top of the podium in the $40,000 Welcome Stake to secure the Leading Under 25 Rider Award. Her horses will head to the Kentucky Horse Park next for the Kentucky National Horse Show before some well- deserved rest until the winter circuit gets underway.