25th Gulf Coast Winter Classics kicks off Wednesday

The Gulf Coast Winter Classics kicks off tomorrow at the Harrison County Fairgrounds.

The 25th annual Gulf Coast Winter Classics takes place at the Harrison County Fairgrounds from February 15th to March 26th.

Charles Gill, a professional rider, has been competing for seven years. This year, he will be using his horse Diva, who has never competed before, but has been training for this moment. Gill has won multiple hunter derbies. “We first got Diva six months ago. It’s just lots of love and trust that goes into the bond between rider and horse. I just have to tell myself everything is going to be okay, pet my horse, take a couple of breaths and everything works out.”

For the next six weeks, competitors will be showing out to win prizes, awards, and prize money. Trainer Ken Whelihan said, “Horses are natural jumpers. The athleticism and altitude needs to be there like any athlete, but it’s not a young horse sport. The race horses are running when they are two, three years-old. Our horses are coming into their prime when they are 11 and 12 years old.”

The circuit will be used to see who has the best hunter-jumper horse. Hunters are judged by their form and how they move and jump, whereas jumpers are judged on how high they can jump. “You know you’re out of bed at 4 in the morning and you don’t really get back to bed until 8:30 at night. That time is spent here at the horse show. It’s a tricky sport because we’ll have several competitions throughout the day.”

The classics are free to public Wednesday through Sunday, but attendees are encouraged to come on Sunday afternoons around 2 p.m. to watch the Grand Prix.

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