Due to an increased number events on the show jumping calendar, founder Abigail Wexner decided to bring the 20-year tradition of the New Albany Classic to a close.
Wexner founded The Classic, held in late September in New Albany, Ohio, in 1998 as the main fundraising event for the then Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, which she also founded. Held at her own home and grounds, the horse show offered a $125,000 FEI-rated grand prix as well as a family day, making it a popular event for equine and non-equine lovers alike. The CCAFV transformed into the Center for Family Safety and Healing in 2011 when Wexner’s vision partnered with the Center for Child and Family Advocacy. And over the 20 years, the horse show raised more than $32 million, which made The Classic the most productive fundraiser event ever in U.S. show jumping.
“[Wexner] sort of took a risk, put these two things together that she cares a lot about, showing jumping and supporting families and victims [of family violence],” said the New Albany Classic’s public relations representative Lisa Hinson. “She took a big risk and wasn’t sure if it would work. And it did. It just grew like crazy. It raises $1.6 million a year.”
But with the upcoming FEI World Equestrian Games in Tyron, North Carolina, and the evolution of other top performance competitions in September, Wexner felt it was time to close this chapter and look for another fundraising opportunity for the Center for Child and Family Advocacy.
“The Classic has been a labor of love for all of us involved, and we simply could not be more proud of the impact of its success,” said Wexner in an emailed statement. “Thousands of families have been helped as a result of the support of so many loyal local and national sponsors, volunteers and guests. We are grateful for the participation of the equestrian community as well, who came to New Albany from across the country and around the world to compete. Retiring this event after a successful 20-year run represents an opportunity to develop something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring what’s next.”
Throughout the history, The Classic had 5,500 volunteers working more than 35,000 hours and hosted more than 200,000 guests that came to watch the top U.S. riders. In 2013 Beezie Madden’s gold medal Olympic partner Authentic retired at The Classic, and the show named its trophy after him. Kent Farrington and Voyeur mark the last names added to the trophy with their 2017 win, and McLain Ward holds the honor of winning the class the most.
“There’s no cuts to anything that the Center is doing to support victims of family violence in our market,” Hinson said as Wexner looks for events to support the cause. “[Wexner] founded the event on the premise on a wholesome family day around the sport of show jumping that made memories for families and brought them together in a wholesome activity that reinforced the goal of the center for family safety and healing—which is healthy families and happy families. The Classic embodied that.
“It’s a bittersweet announcement to make certainly,” she continued, “but the opportunity there is, ‘OK what’s next? What are we going to do next?’ ”