By Laurel Scott Duncan
Pony racing and foxhunting go hand-in-hand when you’re Hampton Addis of Broomes Island.
So it seems only fitting that this talented 12-year-old–who dominated the Governor’s Cup pony divisions last spring–should also merit the inaugural Governor’s Cup Junior Foxchasing Scholarship.
Like many equestriennes, Hampton and her sister Jennifer, 15, come from a family steeped in hunting and racing traditions. Both her father and paternal grandfather were huntsmen, while their mother raced over timber and served as a whipper-in.
Not surprisingly, Hampton started riding, in her words, “…before I can remember.” Her earliest efforts came at home, aboard her sister’s pony Cocoa.
At one point, she attended Loftmar Stable’s pony camp, and followed foxhunts in a car with her grandmother.
Despite her angelic demeanor, Hampton is one of the most tenacious riders you’ll ever meet. At the tender age of nine, she went straight for the gusto, riding full-tilt with the Marlborough Hunt. “My first foxhunt was with Angel [in Disguise],” she recalled.
But that wasn’t all. The same year that she began foxhunting, Hampton also started competing “between the flags.” “My sister started racing…and was really good,” she explained. “And then she got too big for Angel, so I stared racing her. I was competitive from the start, because she handed me a perfect pony on a silver platter!”
With help from Jennifer and her mom, Hampton learned a lot about this12.1 1/2-hand dynamo. “She IS a little ornery– and she can be a little lazy,” she admitted. “But she’s a relly fun pony to ride; you can hop on her bareback and gallop around. And she jumps really, really well; she can jump 3 1/2 feet.
Like her rider, “Angel” adjusts to new situations with aplomb. “You can take her to a race–and then a couple of weeks later, you take her to a pony club event, and she’s fine! Hampton attested. “A little hyper, but she’s pretty cool.”
As a junior jockey, Hampton was quick to master race-riding technique. Although she admitted to being nervous about the starts, she noted, “My ponies have always been really good at that. They watch the flag, too, and they see the flag go down, and they’re smart, and they go!”
Steering was another hurdle that Hampton learned to overcome–especially after the wire, when some ponies make a beeline for the barn. “And at the end of the race, ou don’t know where to turn,” she pointed out. “You think, ‘Well, I could turn this way, or I could turn that way…and by the time you’ve started, you’ve already run into the [snow] fence!”
Last spring, Hampton also began riding the immortal Garfield, one of the most cherished ponies on the circuit and one that has been handed down from family to family. Now 14 or 15, the grey gelding–who has a reputation for being tough to hold–is apparently still up to his old tricks. “Garfield is very sweet on the ground. And you can ride him around your house, but you don;t want to race him up a hill or anything!” she warned.
At first, learning to handle this legend was a bit of a challenge, Hampton confessed. “I didn’t know what he was going to do, because I’d never raced him before. I didn’t know what to expect!” But before long, he two where best buddies.
Pony racing has certainly given Hampton her share of thrills–and spills. Her biggest fall came two years ago, in the winner’s circle of the Howard County Iron Bridge Point-to-Point. Without warning, Angel in Disguise reared up, dropping Hampton and breaking her ankle. “She has really sensitive ears,” the young rider explained. “We were right next to a loudspeaker, and it was blaring!”
As a result of her injuries, Hampton was grounded for three long months. “I was even out of school for 2 or 3 weeks,” she said. “I had to have a really big splint, and I couldn’t get in the car!”
Since the accident occured at the start of the point-to-point season, it was decided that sister Jennifer would finish the season of Hampton’s pony, as well as her own. They were fit and ready to go, and the result was a banner season for Jennifer.
Always a good sport, Hampton sat on the sidelines and cheered her sister on. Although disappointed, she seemed more concerned about her pony’s welfare. “I think Angel likes racing and I was glad she could do it,” she said.
In the end, Jennifer swept both the small and medium pony divisions. Then, in a heartfelt demonstration of sisterly love, she gave the recovering Hampton one of her hard-won trophies.
The Addis girls took junior racing by storm last year, with Hampton restored to her rightful place atop the small pony division, and Jennifer again taking medium pony honors.
This year, the pony races were nothing short of a Hampton Addis tour de force. Never worse than second, she dominated both the small and medium pony divisions.
The highpoint of Hampton’s 2001 season was the Elkridge-Harford meet April 7 near Monkton. “That was the first time I’d raced against somebody with Garfield, and I won,” she said. “And then I won with Angel, too! There was also this boy at my school who was racing against me, and I really wanted to beat him,” she said, laughing.
Besides racing and foxhunting, Hampton currently enjoys Pony Clubbing a small Thoroughbred named Cricket who has outgrown her status as a large racing pony. “Jennifer raced her twice when she was smaller, and she won both [races],” she explained. “Then she started Pony Clubbing her, and I started Pony Clubbing her…and she was really good; she’s really quiet.” Noted horseman Charles Fenwick Jr. once said that a person isn’t ready to ride steeplechase until he or she has…jumped 1000 fences.”
If that’s true, Hampton is well on her way to qualifying as a jump jockey. Certainly, Pony Club has improved her balance and her confidence. But she feels that foxhunting is more useful when it comes to her immediate occupation, pony racing. “In Pony Club, they always tell us to go slow,” she pointed out. “But foxhunting helps. The only problem is, when I go foxhunting, I have to remember not to lean forward, or I’ll get pitched over their heads!”
The Junior Foxchasing Scholarship was created by Maryland Steeplechasing Association to foster that traditional link between foxhunting and steeplechasing, and to support the nurturing of future horsemen and horsewomen involved in both disciplines.
Because of her outstanding displays of sportmanship, Hampton was a natural for the scholarship, which was presented at the Governor’s Cup Awards Dinner May 23 at the Manor Tavern near Monkton. The young winner–who’d already swept the small and medium pony championships–was totally floored. “I didn’t even know there was [such an] award!” she enthused.
In one of the evening’s more touching moments, Hampton dedicated the honor to her sister Jennifer, much as Jennifer had done for her two years ago. “When I broke my leg, my sister gave me back the trophy,” she explained matter-of-factly.
Although Hampton’s a regular with the Marlborough Hunt, the Junior Foxchasing scholarship allows her and an adult to “cap” with the Potomac, Howard and Elkridge-Harford hunt clubs–as well as–this coming season. “I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
Clearly, the future is bright for young Hampton, who says she has “lots of fun” racing ponies and plans to continue doing that as long as possible. “I think it’s really safe and a lot of fun; I think everything is great about it!” she said.
Of course, equines aren’t Hampton’s only hobby. A budding thespian, she recently acted in a Calverton School production. Her interest in sports knows no bounds, it seems. “I’m planning on playing field hockey and basketball this year,” she said. “I didn’t get to play last year, because we didn’t have time.”
But who knows? Eventually, like her sister, she might start “catch riding” for trainers like Ricky Hendriks. That, of course, would mean graduating to horses.
But for now, Hampton’s content to stick with ponies. After all, as she pointed out, “I’ll have to get a little bigger [to ride horses]; I’m kinda skinny right now!”