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“California Dreamin’ ” The California horse show community congregates at the HITS Thermal Desert Circuit in Thermal, Calif. Located in the Coachella Valley, Thermal is 25 miles from Palm Springs and twoand-a-half hours by car from San Diego. Thermal is below sea level and was originally established as a railroad camp for Southern Pacific Railroad employees. HITS moved the horse show venue from Indio to Thermal in 2007, and offers eight weeks of competition culminating in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix and a $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Thermal is a tiny town set in the beautiful desert region of southern California. Far from glitz and commercialism, Thermal invokes the quiet solitude of its desert ecosystem. Days off are spent enjoying the temperate climate and dry air of the region. A nearby outlet shopping mall fulfills the retail itch for many. Hiking and backpacking through the painted desert are popular activities and present a chance to experience a variety of natural wildlife and plant life. Many members of the equestrian community visit The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Established by members of the local community, this organization provides exhibits on butterflies, exotic animals, endangered species, and indigenous plant life, all in an effort to promote education and preservation. A short car ride away is Palm Springs, a city famous for its mid-century modern architecture and design. In its heyday, Palm Springs was a popular second home and vacation place for the Hollywood elite. In its modern state, it is a destination for architecture aficionados, musicians, artists, and vacationers seeking a unique small-town experience. Palm Springs is sleek and artsy with

48  Equestrian  Winter 2016

unique shops, fine dining, and boutique hotels. The lilt of the city is testament to generations of artists and performers. Also a sports destination, it boasts over 100 golf courses, professional tennis tournaments, and professional polo matches. Palm Springs is hip and trendy, a nice contrast to the peaceful, quiet rhythm of the desert. “Carolina on My Mind” Heading east again, we find one of the oldest equestrian communities in the country in Aiken, S.C. Founded in 1835, the small city has a long tradition as a winter haven for Northeasterners. The Aiken Winter Colony was founded in the late 19th century by famous horsemen Thomas Hitchcock, Sr. and William Whitney, and has grown into a mecca for a myriad of equestrian activities. Horse trials, horse shows, dressage clinics, driving derbies can all be found in Aiken during the winter season. Steeplechase racing occurs in March and October, attracting the best ‘chasers’ in the country. The allure of a day of tailgating, horse racing,

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Winter Issue