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Manhattan Mortgage Presents Opening Day At The Hampton Classic
From Tiny Tots to Veterans and from Miniature Horses to Dog Agility Demonstrations Opening Day at the Hampton Classic is a Day Not To Be Missed!

By Diana De Rosa

Take a well-known mortgage company whose founder and owner loves horses and rides, add that to a famous horse show which showcases tomorrow's champions side-by-side with Olympic veterans, spice it up with some Dog Agility Demonstrations, add a dash of kids activities such as pony rides and a petting zoo and you've got the perfect recipe for The Manhattan Mortgage Company's presentation of Opening Day at the Hampton Classic Horse Show on Sunday, August 25.

The 27th annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, which this year takes place from August 25 through September 1 in Bridgehampton, NY, will draw over 1500 equestrian competitors from across the country and some 60,000 spectators. As a kick-off to this weeklong event, The Manhattan Mortgage Company sponsors Opening Day, which is when the local horsemen come and compete on the same turf that later in the week will showcase Olympic veterans and up-and-coming equestrians. Melissa Cohn, founder and owner of The Manhattan Mortgage Company, will be among those local competitors.

Melissa and her daughters Sarah (16) and Samantha (10).

The excitement begins on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with events featured in six show rings. One of the highlights is the popular and prestigious Hampton Classic leadline division. Held in the Grand Prix Ring, one hundred tiny riders under the age of six will be mounted on their ponies or horses to experience showing at the Classic. The 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis annually judges the Classic's youngest riders. Other equestrian events held on Opening Day include short stirrup, equitation and local hunter classes. Most classes are restricted to horses stabled on Long Island.

At around 1:00 in the afternoon, with the media watching the activities from the Chalet at a special Press Luncheon hosted by Long Island Food Experience (LIFE), there will be Opening Day Ceremonies in the grand prix arena. At approximately 2:00 p.m. the arena will turn into dog heaven as owners and their dogs test their skills on an exciting obstacle course of balance beams, weave sticks, hurdles and tunnels in the show's first judged dog agility competition - the Adequan® Canine "Little Classic. Spectators will be invited out onto the grass to join in the fun and cheer their favorite dogs on.

While the horses are jumping and the dogs are barking, the Exhibition Tent will be hopping with activity. Visit the petting zoo, let your child learn the joy of riding by taking a pony ride, meet the llamas, alpacas, Miniature Horses and Guide Dogs from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. If horses are what you came for then stroll around the stable area and watch the grooms readying mounts for their riders. Or sit on the sidelines as the competitors vie for one of the coveted ribbons given out throughout the day. You might even see Cohn, or one of her daughters, Sarah (16) or Samantha (10) claiming some of those cherished ribbons. Last year "Grace," a grey, 15.3 hand Germanbred, ridden by Sarah won the Grand Local Hunter Champion and "Bulgari" won the Local Working Hunter Championship.

Opening Day is also a big day for Cohn who competes in the Adult Amateur classes on her eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood "Aston." She will also be competing aboard her seven-year-old, 16.1 hand, grey Dutch Warmblood "Bulgari" in the Local Amateurs. Sarah will be competing on "Navigator," an 8-year-old, 16.2 hand, German Warmblood gelding in the Large Juniors and "Grace" in the Small Juniors. Sarah also will be competing on her new Children's Jumper, "Rollerball," a 16 hand, 12-year-old, grey Dutch Warmblood. Samantha will be competing in the Children's Hunter Ponies on "Just A Dream," a bay gelding and on "Rip Van Winkle," a grey gelding. Liza Towell, a professional rider, will be competing "Grace," "Bulgari" and "Navigator" in the First and Second Year Green Working Hunters. Scott Kemery and Patti Foster will be there as trainers guiding them through the week.

At the beginning of her working career, Cohn made the decision to get involved in the mortgage business, beginning with mortgage lending at Citibank. "I saw immediately that no single bank could provide all products to all people," she said. It was her first boss that inspired her. "He clearly saw the future in mortgage banking, and I listened. I had no knowledge of the 'margins' of the business, but what he told me was logical and I pursued it." At first she and one other employee did all the work, from answering phones to photocopying. "My business strategy is to create a formula and replicate it from branch to branch with modifications for each region. As long as you remember that you are only as good as your last mortgage, and treat each client as your most important, then the formula will work anywhere." Melissa's strategy resulted in over $4 billion in mortgages in 2001.

While mortgaging is Cohn's business, riding is her passion and supporting a show as prestigious as the Hampton Classic just makes sense to Melissa, especially since three of her ten offices are on the East End of Long Island: one in Water Mill, one in East Hampton, and another in Westhampton Beach. Cohn likes the idea of combining her corporate world with the riding world.

"I enjoy being a sponsor of the Hampton Classic," comments Cohn. "It allows me to combine my personal passion for riding, the joy of being with my children and my business life as well as giving me the opportunity to support my local community."

Cohn mostly rides on weekends because during the week she spends her days in her Manhattan office (555 Madison Ave.), the main headquarters of Manhattan Mortgage, and her evenings in her New York City apartment. She started the company 18 years ago and for the past six years the "Mortgage Originator Magazine" (which is to the Mortgage world what USA Equestrian is to the horse world) named Melissa the number one mortgage broker in the country. That's because Cohn knows what she wants and goes after it.

Rose Hill Farm
Each weekend Cohn heads out to her home in Water Mill, NY, where she rides as much as she can. During the week you could also find her at a horse show either watching her daughters compete or competing herself. Or you could find her at her 20-acre Rose Hill Farm in Bridgehampton, where they board 24 horses, have an indoor and outdoor arena (both with all-weather footing), train hunters and jumpers, have 12 turnout paddocks and two hunt courses and each summer have a camp program for kids headed up by Emily Wintjen with instructors Phyllis Kane and Kate Wilkinson. This year a number of riders from the farm will be competing at the Hampton Classic.
"We are going to be having a lot of kids competing, about 20 from six years up to 15 years," explains Wintjen. "I think it is a really good local showcase. That is the big finale of the summer. A lot of the kids don't go off the Island, so this is a nice opportunity for them. It's a nice horse show. I know everyone is excited about it."
By having her own stable, Cohn has been able to pass her passion of riding onto others through her staff and instructors. Riding is something that Cohn has been doing since she was a child. And being able to combine her love of horses at a horse show as prestigious as the Hampton Classic with a company as successful as The Manhattan Mortgage Company is the crème de la crème!

All photos by Diana De Rosa

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