There is a distinct sparkle in Ellenka “Ellie” Hunter’s blue eyes when she talks about her deep emotional connection to horses. They have infused her life with both challenges and joy, from having to nurse a sick horse for days with Guinness Stout to entering the show ring and jumping a perfect course.
Hunter grew up in the suburbs of North West London and didn’t have the opportunity to take formal riding lessons, so she rode just by copying others. She recalled, “Over the years, I rented horses by the hour whenever and wherever I could and experienced completely hair-raising rides, galloping through the English countryside and renting horses in Regents Park in London and Central Park in NYC.”
It wasn’t until Hunter moved to the Hamptons full time in 2003 that she could really devote herself to the sport with formal lessons and training and the chance to develop relationships with her own horses.
“The moment we jumped around, I knew she was for me, because she is super kind and honest. We learn new things together.”
Hunter worked in the financial world at Goldman Sachs and Schonfeld Securities before moving full time to the Hamptons after 9/11. She started a successful food manufacturing business, Ellie’s Country Delights, ahead of her time, with vegan and gluten-free fare, which was distributed to over 800 stores on the eastern seaboard. When faced with the investment needed for expansion, she decided to close the company and start a new exciting chapter in 2014 with Michael Davis Design & Construction, a luxury Hamptons home builder, where she is a licensed real estate salesperson and a manager focusing on human relations.
“I’m fortunate to work and learn from Michael Davis, who has 30 years of experience guiding clients to not only find suitable properties but also help them realize their vision of the possibilities,” said Hunter. “The business is truly dynamic, and because we live in a part of the world with some of the most expensive real estate, and the abundance of ideas to create the home of your dreams, it’s rewarding to see these incredible homes come to life and see the families enjoy their homes.”
Now Hunter rides at the storybook setting of Campbell Stables in Bridgehampton, what she calls the Buckingham Palace of barns, a gorgeous new estate where everything is pristine right down to the flowered window boxes on the stalls and tightly organized tack room.
“My wish list for a horse was a bay gelding, approximately 12 years old with years of training under saddle. And Steel arrived as a seven-year-old grey mare. It’s an ongoing joke that she was the opposite of my wish list. Steel however, has the mindset of a 15-year-old. She’s the sweetest mare and incredibly sane for her age. The moment we jumped around, I knew she was for me, because she is super kind and honest. We learn new things together.” Steel the Blue, is very much a mare, sassy with the boys, as Hunter says, but also like a loyal Labrador who just wants to lick you.
Riding is the new soul food for Hunter, who has not only a successful career but a busy home life with her son and fiancé. “Riding challenges me physically and mentally, and keeps me in the moment like no other sport,” said Hunter. “There’s a balance of strength and softness, patience and action that requires clear direction at every second.”
Equestrian sport presents a unique opportunity for women to enjoy for decades. Beezie Madden, at age 54, won the Show Jumping World Cup in 2018. In what other sport would a 54-year-old woman be at the top of her game, let alone one who is competing against, and beating, men?
The barn for Hunter is not only a stable of horses but of supportive women which hail from England, France, and Argentina, many of them experiencing horsemanship side by side with their daughters and bonded by their love of these beautiful animals. This is no place for mean girls. Anyone not into the supportive environment or willing to cheer each other on would be voted off the island, so to speak.
Hunter said of her trainer Raquel Batto of Longacre MB, “I trust her implicitly. She is so good at what she does and she has my best interest at heart. She is as honest as the day is long and is so dedicated. She cares about the individual and the horse. She keeps me in line. I need someone to set boundaries and make sure I am safe, and she manages each horse according to their personality.”
For Hunter, her equestrian and real estate worlds complement each other, “I’m the go-to girl on all sorts of advice, from business start-up and administration to doctors and health,” she said, “I’ve lived here for 16 years and know many people from all walks of professional life. I love connecting people who need help. I feel blessed to have so many sincere connections and know so many professionals from all walks of life — many of whom I call friends.”
Hunter has her own field of dreams this week in the Hampton Classic Horse Show, where she is showing in the low adult hunter division and equitation. Hunter commented, “I absolutely love showing. Everything you’ve learned over the years comes into play with only a few minutes to demonstrate what you’ve learned, and it’s when my relationship with my horse really counts. Steel is a true performer in the ring. She loves it too.”
She added, “It’s such a sweet and endearing experience to have family and friends there to support you. My son (who is highly allergic to horses) and my partner’s support is essential, since many hours are spent at the barn. It truly takes a village to make this happen. I feel so fortunate and never take any of it for granted.”
To learn more about Michael Davis Design & Construction where Ms. Hunter is the office manager and right hand to Mr. Davis, visit www.michaeldavis.com. To learn more about the Hampton Classic, visit www.hamptonclassic.com.