Gulf Coast Winter Classics begins today at Harrison County Fairgrounds

The Gulf Coast’s premier equestrian event has returned. Today was the first day of the six-week equestrian competition.

Competitors from across the country flock to the Harrison County Fairgrounds for the Gulf Coast Winter Classics. Yet, for Gulfport native Claudia Woods, it’s a homecoming. “I’ve been riding horses since I can remember, competing since I was five. I grew up three miles down the road in Gulf Heaven and it is fun being home. I started out here actually with me and my pony. He’s 36 now which is old for them. He’s a brown and white pony and I used to ride around here and terrorize everybody on that little pony and a white helmet.”

Woods is a nationally ranked rider and now works at one of the biggest training facilities in the midsouth. When she was a little girl, her parents took her to the classics to watch the horses compete which spurred her dreams of becoming a rider. “It’s been a huge opportunity. I don’t think I would have gotten into as much as I have if I didn’t have this over here. It definitely gave me something to do and my parents something to do, bringing me across the country to compete after this.”

She encourages families to take advantage of the opportunity to watch these first-class competitions. Coordinator Janet McCarroll said, “It’s free admission. We put on quite a show for you with a lot of big jumps and beautiful horses. We do ask that you come here early because we have some bleacher seating, but most bring their own lawn chairs and the early birds get the tailgating spots. It’s a wonderful two hours on a Sunday afternoon with wonderful weather. It’s a chance to see something really exciting.”

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