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A favorite among both locals and tourists, the annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase draws visitors from near and far.
Adventure in Aiken ➜ Aiken, South Carolina BY ELISABETH PROUTY-GILBRIDE
PHOTO: NIKKI LIVERMORE
IF YOU’VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF vacationing somewhere where you’re surrounded by your fellow equestrians, and even better—a place to bring your horse with you—Aiken, SC, is the place to go. Boyd and Silva Martin, Phillip Dutton, and Kim Severson are all world renowned riders, to name a few, who own winter training facilities in this small equestrian mecca. “If you’re a horse person, there’s pretty much something going on every weekend throughout the year that caters to every discipline,” says Aiken resident, Maria Smith. “Whether you do driving, western pleasure, eventing, or hunter/jumper riding, there’s something available for everyone.” Highlights of the equestrian scene include: trail riding through Hitchcock Woods, which offers 2,100 acres of preserved forest for horseback riders, hikers, dog walkers, and joggers; the Aiken Steeplechase, which takes place each spring and fall, and attracts tourists from around the nation; the annual Aiken Horse Show, an open show, which is also known as “Horse Show in the Woods,” set within the Hitchcock forest; the Whiskey Road Foxhounds’ annual Hunt Week, which includes five hunts and numerous social functions; the Aiken Polo Club, which holds weekly polo matches on Sundays, from April through September; and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum,
which is located within the city’s historic Hopeland Gardens and features photos, trophies, and additional artifacts representing flat racers and steeplechase horses from 1942 through the present. “My favorite place to go in Aiken is Hitchcock Woods,” says Cynthia Brewster-Keating, a resident who moved to the city in May 2006. After spending months researching places to live, she had heard about Aiken from a number of friends within the equine industry and, ultimately, decided to settle there.
“I’m a hunter/jumper rider, but because of my busy work schedule, I’m not very competitive; being able to go trail riding in a beautiful, privately-maintained forest that caters specifically to equestrians, walkers, and joggers is wonderful.” For those who do compete, the city boasts a variety of “A” rated shows for hunter/jumper riders, as well as numerous horse trials recognized by the United States Eventing Association (USEA) for eventing enthusiasts; also, it is home to the Katydid Combined March 2013
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