Charleston Summer Classic horse show celebrates equestrian competition and culture

Erica Van Dyken, 8, of Moorestown, New Jersey, competes with her pony, Star Command, at the Charleston Summer Classic horse show.

The Lowcountry sees its fair share of summer visitors, from beachgoers to history buffs, but this group is a different breed.

The Charleston Summer Classic brought around 400 horses and ponies to Mullet Hall Equestrian Center on Johns Island this week with their owners and riders, and around the same number will compete in more events this Tuesday through Saturday.

"It's a great horse show because it's a great destination," said Jonathan Rabon, office manager with The Classic Co., which puts on the Charleston Summer Classic and other competitions around the Southeast. "There are not a lot of places where they can turn it into a family vacation, and the dads can go play golf, and they can get into the beaches and downtown Charleston."

Riders from beginners to professionals participate in the hunter, jumper and equitation events, and they come from as far away as Texas and Ontario.

Erica Van Dyken, 8, flew from New Jersey to compete with her pony, Frosty, who shows under the name Star Command. She won first place in the small pony model event.

What does she like about ponies? "They're nice and funny, and you can do cool things on them," she said. But they also get into trouble, as white ponies like Frosty love to do when they see dirt.

She's been riding since she was 3, she said, and she loves the thrill of jumping.

Erica's mother, Dina Van Dyken, said she got Erica into riding because she enjoyed it so much herself growing up.

Raban said parents passing on their love of horses to their kids is common in the sport, and that it's part of what makes the community so special.

"It's a great group of people that go from one show to the next, and you see a lot of the same people traveling all over," he said.

Rabon recommended that those interested in watching an event or two come for the hunter derby Thursday evening or the grand prix Friday evening.

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