Monday, February 28, 2011

Riding for Life | 9/28/11

Senior Foxhunters in Aiken 

By Amber Heintzberger, Photography by Gary Knoll 


Mel Haas
As a sport steeped in tradition,foxhunting is bound to have a few senior citizens among its ranks. Although the masters of several of Aiken's hunts say that the average age in the hunt field is getting younger, there are still plenty of old-timers out there showing newcomers the ropes.

There is no shortage of hunting in the Aiken area: the four local clubs include the venerable Aiken Hounds, Whiskey Road Fox Hounds, Why Worry Hounds and Edisto River Hounds. Some Aiken hunt enthusiasts also frequent the Belle Meade Hunt in nearby Thomson, Georgia or venture further afield to ride with the Lowcountry Hunt near Charleston, or the Camden Hunt in Camden. With so many options, those who have the time and are so inclined might hunt as often as five days a week.

Larry Byers, 72, and his wife Pat have lived in Aiken for six years. He is whipper-in for the Aiken Hounds and Why Worry Hounds, and hunts four to five days a week. Larry is a former Master of Foxhounds at the Santa Fe Hunt, located in Temecula in southern California, and has been involved in the sport since he was a young man. Over the years, he has been active in showing and eventing, and has been a dedicated volunteer with the United States Pony Club, serving as the organization's president from 2001 to 2004. Byers is retired from a career as an aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps and as the finance director of a water district in California.

Dr. Mel Haas, who will be 71 years old in March and lives in Edgefield County, is a semiretired neurosurgeon who hunts three or four times a week with Whiskey Road and Why Worry and occasionally with the Aiken Hounds. Mel has been hunting since he was in his 20s living in Baltimore. During his residency in medical school in Boston, he hunted with the Norfolk Hounds and later moved to Aiken after taking a job in Augusta. Though he is not on staff at present, he is Master Emeritus of Whiskey Road and was MFH for 27 years. He was also the huntsman for 13 years and the field master for 14 years.

David Smith, 68 of Aiken, has been hunting for more than 40 years. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, he received his colors in Camden in 1970, and then hunted in Tennessee and Kentucky, earning his colors at the Mells Fox Hounds in Tennessee in 1986, where he served as whipper-in. He has been a Master at Whiskey Road since 2004 and was whipping-in to WRFH for eight years prior to that. He and his wife, Lynn, are currently joint Masters of Whiskey Road. David also started playing polo in 1970, and is a member of the Aiken Polo Club.

Why Keep Hunting?

David Smith
Getting up early in the morning, trailering to a meet, riding over rough terrain in all sorts of weather…what is it that keeps people coming back for more, year after year, decade after decade?

"Hunting is fun," says Mel Haas. "I see my friends, I like the horses and I like to get out. I was mostly a drag hunter in my early years and I'll never forget the first time the hounds broke line and went after live prey; there’s something primeval about it."

Larry Byers says, "Foxhunting gets us together with the horse, outside in God's beauty, and there's no competition. The only competition that exists is between hounds and quarry. With the riders, it's just camaraderie. I used to event and do those things, but in hunting you don't get that terrible pang in your stomach like when you go in the start box."

Riding is widely accepted to be a high-risk sport and hunting increases that risk with horses and riders traveling at speed in a pack. Haas acknowledges that he has had his share of wrecks, quoting the legendary Aiken horseman Billy Haggard. "Billy said 'If you ride horses you'll get broke up, and if you ride long enough you’ll get broke up bad.' I've broken my back and had a few concussions, but I'll retire when it's not fun."

Mel and Joyce Haas
Although he may have had a few broken bones, Dr. Haas says that the stress relief outweighs the risks. My father died in his 50s and had a very stressful job," he says. "When I was a resident in Boston I’d go out at night and the barn manager would plow up a track for me – no matter how stressed I was, if I could get out there and gallop, the riding relieved it. The riding sort of saved me."

Hunting enthusiasts often get hooked on watching the hounds work just as much as on the adrenaline rush of the action or the social aspect of hunting. "Watching the hounds work and solve the problem, and seeing how the fox can 'outfox' the hounds, is amazing," says Byers. "We have grey foxes here and they can actually go up a tree, so it's amazing to watch them take hounds to a swamp and run them around and try to get them to lose the scent."


Hunting in Aiken

With several hunt clubs to choose from, a generally agreeable climate and loamy soil that stays good in most conditions, Aiken is a veritable foxhunter's paradise. Noting the social aspect, Smith says that he has a lot of friends who've been hunting for a long time. "We have so many members now who are snowbirds, they come in for a month or three, and it's really nice to get back with all of these people," he explains. "It's the same with the steeplechase people, the polo people – they're all involved in the same thing."
Byers agrees, "Aiken is really unique, it's a very welcoming community horse-wise and the people involved in horses here are supportive of each other. Eventers support foxhunters, foxhunters support polo people – it's a very open equine community."

The joint Master of the Edisto River Hounds, D.K. Newell, who admits that at 64 is 'no spring chicken', says the diversity of Aiken’s hunts is also a major attraction. The Edisto hunt provides a less strenuous experience for foxhunters that might appeal to older riders. "We specialize in a kinder, gentler kind of hunt and enjoy our older members and children," she says. "They both need the same sort of pace so they don't fall off and break anything. Our hunt is graduated with first flight and second flight, so you can walk and trot if you like. There are no jumps in our hunt country, no ditches or water crossings, so it's a very comfortable environment for beginners."

A popular draw for foxhunters in Aiken is Hunt Week, which starts at the beginning of February. "As usual, people will be coming into town the week before – usually they don't go home!" says David Smith. "We have five hunts for our guests during the week. There's also a hunt ball. Hunt Week really goes on almost two weeks with something to do every minute. They have to start getting fit around Christmas to keep up!"


Staying Young

Larry Byers takes an active part in the care
 of the hounds at Aiken Hounds.
Whether it is helping to exercise them or
cleaning their kennels, Larry loves
to be with the hounds.

Hunting can be good exercise, and senior foxhunters say that riding to hounds keeps them fit and feeling young. Dr. Haas says he goes to an athletic center three mornings a week to work on core body strength and also does some of the barn and yard work, but most of his fitness comes from riding. During Hunt Week, he says that so many hunters in their late 70s and early 80s join the fields that he feels downright middle-aged.
Larry Byers says he had a blood pressure problem when he was a working man, but that hunting has relieved that stress. "It keeps you from being a wuss, too!" he jokes. "You have to believe in your horse and yourself when you're galloping down to a jump in the hunt field and if you get into trouble you just have to kick on. That's what has kept me going all these years. It most definitely keeps me happy and a really lucky person to be outside enjoying all of this."



A Sport for All Ages

Foxhunting has many faces: from the more formal Aiken Hounds to the easy-going and aptly named Why Worry, there's something for everyone. There are drag hunts and live hunts and, as MFH of the Aiken Hounds, Linda Knox McLean points out, those who don't ride can participate socially, joining at the hunt breakfast after the hunt comes home. The hunts attract riders of all ages, from small children to seniors.
 D.K. Newell says that Edisto River is as popular with the younger generation as it is with its older members. "We have a number of members from Auburn University, including my son Walter Cheatham who is joint Master now," she says. "He just graduated in December and plans to go back to do his master's degree, but he loves hunting. He grew up on the back of a horse and has been hunting with Edisto River since we started up 16 years ago. He's excellent with the hounds – it felt wonderful as his mother when he was 12 years old and asked if he could whip in on his own for the first time. I think that having younger members inspires the older people, who get to see the young, vibrant kids out there keeping up with the hounds and hunting in a proper manner."
"We meet more kids out there now, though a lot of the boys don't seem to get keen about riding," observes Dr. Haas, whose own three daughters grew up hunting. "There are more young ladies than boys. The boys need to realize it's not a prissy sport – you get out there in the hunt field and it can be all you can do to keep up with everybody! You can start as a child and go all the way through until late in life. Just yesterday we had a 71st birthday party for my friend Leo Benjamin – we hunted from his farm and then had birthday cake at the hunt breakfast. He came back from a major injury five years ago and now he hunts first flight and plays polo."

Leo, who broke his neck and had a major brain injury in a foxhunting accident, explains that Dr. Haas is the one who found him in a ditch and put him on the helicopter when he was injured. "It's a dangerous sport but we enjoy it – it's kind of an addiction." For Leo, who has been hunting for 40 years, the thrill of the sport is all about the animals. "I like the horse end of it. I played polo for 35 years, I rode jumpers. It’s the horses that draw me to it. It's also really enjoyable to watch the hounds. It's amazing what a talented huntsman can do with 30 or 40 hounds. It's a hell of a skill."

Leo doesn't know how long he will keep hunting, but he certainly has no plans to quit. "I'll keep foxhunting as long as I can stay on a horse," he says.

There is no upper age limit on foxhunting, after all. Mel Haas points out that 82-year-old Gus Schickedanz, who winters in Aiken, has had a couple of strokes and is still hunting. "I do it because I like it, but Gus made me promise I won't stop until I'm as old as he is," says Haas. "Since he's still hunting, I can probably never quit!" he laughs.

"Foxhunting goes back hundreds of years and I think one reason it's lasted is it's a sport you can do your entire life," continues Haas. "As long as somebody can throw you on a horse, you can get out there. I think the oldest fellow I've known was Marion Smoak, who hunted until his 92nd year. He didn't jump any more but he hunted three or four hours and was mentally intact. He'd always been active and so he kept going. There aren't a whole lot of sports you can do until your 80s or 90s."

Haas says that Belle Meade has the "three score and ten club," and the "four score club."
"I've joined the first one, I'll try to make the second one too," he says.


Keeping the Sport Alive

"I think foxhunting exists today because we've kept traditions alive," says Larry Byers. "The biggest thing is respect for horses and others and having plain, basic good manners. That's all the traditions of foxhunting really are. It's just good manners and respect for one another. In the field, giving way to the hounds and respecting the staff are essential. We live in a society where sometimes we forget good manners, especially when we hear all this vitriol going on today. In foxhunting, polite manners are the basis of comradeship."
He adds that the horse is paramount in that equation: "No foxhunter will go to breakfast without first taking care of their horses," he says. "Also, horses love to hunt! God didn't give the horse antlers or claws – he gave them speed and the safety of the herd. They get to use those things going out hunting with a bunch of other horses."

Passing knowledge down is part of the tradition, too. David Smith says that as a young man he learned a lot from old-timers like Joe Bates who were legends in the hunt field.

"He trained one of his last polo ponies at 76!" says Smith admiringly. "Frank Hampton in Columbia, who I knew in junior high school, had a lot to do with my early impressions of horses and animals. My grandfather, as well, who was around 'til almost 100 – everything to do with a horse or a hound, he did it, no matter what time, day or night – they'd go coon hunting, fox hunting – it was a 24-hour a day thing with them. It was pretty incredible. Many a day I've slept on the drive home from hunting. It was a wonderful childhood…and it still is."

For young and old, foxhunting brings riders closer to nature, their horses and the equestrian community. It is a way to stay active and sociable at nearly any age, and Aiken is an ideal place for this. Byers, who is proud to be considered a “senior”, says, "Both of my kids are wonderful adults; they're very independent, self confident and successful at what they do and I attribute that to them growing up with horses. It’s been a wonderful way of life."

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

International Artist at Hall of Fame | 2/21/11

Peb's March Exhibit 

By Mary Jane Howell

His real name may be Pierre Bellocq, but he is known throughout the racing world simply as Peb. His cartoons and caricatures have delighted readers of the Daily Racing Form for decades. On March 3-27, the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum will hold a major exhibition of Peb’s work.

"Thinking that I will have the opportunity to show my work in Aiken thrills me no end," says Peb. "Aiken to me is very much like the birthplace of my father, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Pau region of France. Every winter there would be a glorious steeplechase meeting, which would attract horses from all over Europe. Horses would be trained in the countryside – such a tranquil setting – much like Aiken. My father Hilaire learned to train from his father in such a setting. I have great memories of that place and it has long been an inspiration for my work. I look forward to visiting Aiken in March for the exhibit – it makes me proud and thankful also to be asked to share my work in such a way."
Whether it's a cartoon featuring the racehorse Zenyatta as the goddess Athena (titled Z-Athenya), Secretariat lounging as a playboy on a bed covered with the blue and white checkered colors of Meadow Stable, or the intricate Canvas of Stars mural at Gallagher's Steak House in New York City, Peb's art delights both the eye and the mind.
Born in 1926, Peb's early world revolved around horses, but at 8he knew he would be an artist. He was raised in Maisons-Laffitte, a community in the suburbs of Paris, where his father worked first as a jockey and then as an assistant trainer. It seemed natural to Peb to combine his two passions, drawing and horses. World War II came. When Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, the Bellocq family fled to the south of France. Returning home months later, they were relieved to find their home untouched.
In 1946 after the liberation of Paris and the end of the war, Peb began drawing for France Libre and then Paris-Turf, which became the largest racing newspaper in France and one of the largest in Europe. The young artist caught the eye of John Schapiro, president of Laurel Race Course in Maryland. Schapiro was in the process of launching his brainchild, the Washington, D.C. International takes, and he was looking for an artist to do his logos and posters.
"I met Schapiro at Longchamps in 1951," recalls Peb. "I was 25 and could barely speak English. I had done a poster for the race and he loved it and he asked me to come to America."
With a wife and two young children, as well as a blossoming career doing racing sketches for Paris-Turf and political sketches for the literary newspaper L’Aurore, Peb declined the offer. However, a few years later, Schapiro invited him to attend the 1954 International, which had become a huge success. He flew to the United States on the plane that carried the French and Belgian horses that were running in the race, and he never returned to France.
After a short-term job with an advertising agency, Peb was hired by Sam Perlman, publisher of the Morning Telegraph and the Daily Racing Form, to do one sketch a week. He also got a gig at the Philadelphia Inquirer doing political sketches. With his livelihood secured, Peb was able to bring his wife and children to New York.
For more than 50 years, Peb chronicled the American racing scene in the Daily Racing Form. Think of a racehorse and he’s probably drawn it. The 2010 Horse of the Year, Zenyatta has been a particular favorite, as was the great Secretariat. Owners, trainers and jockeys have been captured by his pen with a mixture of artistry and wit. Aiken’s own Cot Campbell has been a frequent subject, portrayed with a jutting chin and his signature cap. Campbell is one of 73 individuals portrayed in the popular "Canvas of Stars" mural at Gallagher’s, which was commissioned by the owner, Marlene Brody and unveiled at a starstudded party in November, 2007.
It took Peb over a year to create the mural, which is 26 feet long. He used celebrities from every decade since the 1920s who had been loyal customers at Gallagher's, including John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth, Paul Newman, LeRoy Neiman, and Muhammad Ali.
"I sketched all kinds of people when I first moved to this country," says Peb. "Musicians, political figures, actors, boxers... you name it!"
"That comes in handy when I do murals because I have such a collection of sketches at this point in my life."
Peb has also done murals at Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, Del Mar, Oaklawn, the Meadowlands, and Roosevelt Raceway.
In 2001, when Churchill Downs began its major renovations, one of the additions to the clubhouse was a 36-foot mural depicting all 96 jockeys who had won the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 2004. Peb has added to it every year.
But it's not just racing that interests Peb. He has recently become enamored with the sport of competitive driving and has done several commissions within that discipline. He has done hundreds of harness racing pieces, as well as straight equine humor.
Monica Driver, web developer for www. and a winter resident of Aiken explains that the museum’s exhibition space "will be filled with original paintings, working sketches and signed prints. We will present examples of all sorts of equine activity in Peb’s inimitable and humorous style. The race track and Zenyatta will be represented, of course, but we will also feature harness racing, steeplechasing and carriage driving. There will also be working sketches from several of the recent murals."
Peb also painted a truly Aiken scene for the exhibit. He was asked to create a picture of Blue Peter, the champion 2-year-old colt of 1948 and a member of the Aiken Thoroughbred Hall of Fame. Blue Peter is buried in the infield of the Aiken Training Track, beneath the beautiful live oak tree there, which is known as Blue Peter’s tree. Instead of simply sketching the horse, Peb used his sense of humor and his imagination to conjure up an image of the ghost of Blue Peter rising up from his grave and hovering over the training track, frightening the youngsters who are being sent out for their morning gallop. The painting will be raffled off the night of the exhibit's opening. Raffle tickets are $50 and proceeds will support programs and exhibitions at the Hall of Fame. The painting can be seen at the museum, with tickets available from now until March 3.
"I have admired Peb's work for many years and to have this internationally known artist come to Aiken to do a show for our Hall of Fame is fantastic," says Lisa Hall, the museum's supervisor. "Through his art he has brought racing alive and this exhibition is going to be one that every horse lover and racing fan will want to attend."
The Aiken exhibit will be the first public showing of Peb’s work since 2004, when the Daily Racing Form and the National Museum of Racing put together an exhibit entitled "Peb: The Art of Humor," that ran for 18 months.
In honor of his body of work, Peb won an Eclipse Award in 1980 for Outstanding Contributions to Racing. In 1983 the French government awarded him the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor bestowed on artists in that country. He received the National Cartoonists Society 1991 Sports Cartoon Award and their 1999 Newspaper Illustration Award.
Peb's exhibit runs from March 3 – 27, with the Opening Reception March 3 from 5 – 7 p.m. The Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 135 Dupree Place, inside Hopelands Gardens.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Aiken Horse Show | 2/14/11

Horses, History and the Hitchcock Woods 

By Pam Gleason, Photography By Gary Knoll

Perhaps there is no tradition more deeply rooted in Aiken’s equestrian history than the annual Aiken Horse Show in the Woods. Mrs. Hitchcock established the show in 1916 as a place to showcase the horses of Aiken’s Winter Colony. It was very successful and instantly became an annual affair. Not only was it an equestrian competition, it also became an important social event, and was as well known as a place to gather and enjoy an elaborate picnic under the trees as it was a place to show horses. Long wooden tables were laid under the pines and covered with white table cloths, meals were served on fine china and crystal, and spectators were attended by private butlers and wait staff.
 The classes at the shows reflected the makeup of Aiken’s equestrian community. The first shows featured in hand classes for polo ponies and unbroken colts, as well as classes for child riders, for hunter pairs, for qualified hunters and for steeplechase hunters. The last class of the day was always the most interesting. There were four jumps set in the ring, and the contestants had to jump a course over them twice. "No horseman was needed to judge the class, merely an expert timer," wrote Jimmy Cooley for The Aiken Bulletin in 1933. For speed was the first and last consideration, and the only thing that counted was the time elapsed. According to Cooley, this was a class that could not possibly have been on any programme except in that little forest encircled ring in Aiken.
As time went on, the classlist evolved. Mrs. Hitchcock added lead line classes for small children, in which all contestants got a ribbon. In the next division, for children mounted on ponies of 13 hands and under, there were no consolation ribbons "so as soon as children graduate from the lead-rein they begin to learn to be good losers," wrote Mrs. Hitchcock. Classes for older children grew so large it took all morning to finish them. Family classes were instituted and became quite competitive — the Hitchcocks often won, mounted on their trademark chestnut Thoroughbreds. The polo pony classes grew so large that for a time, they were removed from this show and had to have their own show. Some years, the horse show was so big, it started as early as Tuesday, and people referred to "horse show week" in Aiken.
The little show in the woods became famous. By the mid 1920s, the New York Times had started covering it. According to the Times, in 1927, there were 500 horses at the show and 1,000 spectators. The following year, the Times reported 800 horses and 2,000 spectators. In 1930, the Times reported that the first day of the show was entirely devoted to one jumping class that had 64 competitors and that there were 3,500 spectators. It seems likely that these figures are at least somewhat inflated. However, it is clear that the show was extremely popular, bringing competitors and spectators from near and far. It was the one time that motor cars were allowed in the woods, and ringside parking spaces were sold, raising money for various causes. "It is surprising to see the variety of number plates from far, far away," wrote Harry Worcester Smith in his book Life and Sport in Aiken (Derrydale Press, 1935.)

The Show in 2011

Today, the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods carries on the traditions started by Mrs. Hitchcock in 1916. A great deal has changed in the 95 years since these traditions started, but the ring itself has stayed substantially the same. In the fall, it is always seeded with rye grass, so that by the time of the show it is an oasis of emerald green, surrounded by tall, dark pines. Spectators still come to have their gourmet lunches under the ringside tent, and the event is still one of the social highlights of the season.

The classlist has evolved over the years, although it retains many features of an old fashioned hunter show that are hard to come by these days. There is still a family class, a class for hunter pairs and for hunt teams. Leadline classes and hunter classes for children are still a feature, as are a variety of classes for members of the local hunts. The polo pony classes and other in-hand classes are gone, however, as is that exciting final class of the day in which competitors jumped against the clock.

Some of the more recently introduced classes hark back to older times. A few years ago, members of Aiken Ladies Aside, Aiken's side saddle club, introduced a side saddle class. That class has now become a whole division. This year, the sidesaddle division, which has previously been held first thing in the morning, will be held later in the day so that side saddle riders from Camden can compete. The gentleman's hack class, introduced last year, was quite popular and will be repeated. According to Linda Knox McLean, who is the co-chair of the show with Gail King, the family class might also be bigger this year.
"We’ve expanded the definition of a family," she says. "Now you can have step cousins and other, more distant relatives. It’s great to see more families out there, carrying on the tradition, and we’d like to encourage participation."
Another change this year is that instead of a luncheon on Saturday there will be a breakfast. This is because this year the horse show coincides with the Pacer’s and Polo match on Powderhouse Field, which is the third leg of the Aiken Triple Crown.
"We’d like people who are going to polo to come to the horse show in the morning," says Linda. "They can come here, have breakfast and enjoy the show, then carry on and go to polo in the afternoon."


The Judge

The judge of this year's show is Paul D. Cronin, who was the director of the riding program and the head instructor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia for 34 years. Sweet Briar College is a private liberal arts college for women founded in 1901 with a well-known and highly respected riding program. A number of members of the Aiken equestrian community attended Sweet Briar. Those who rode with Mr. Cronin remember him with a respect that borders upon awe.

There is little wonder. Mr. Cronin is one of the most distinguished old-school horsemen in America. He has had a long and successful equestrian career, training with Captain Vladimir Stanislavovitch Littauer (1892 -1989) for more than 30 years. Captain Littauer, who was a cavalry officer in Imperial Russia, was an early advocate of the forward seat, at the time a controversial school of riding. He came to America as a refugee after the Russian Revolution and eventually founded a riding school and wrote over a dozen books on horsemanship. In addition to Paul Cronin, his well-known students included Jane Marshall Dillon, Bernie Traurig, Diana Rankin and Walter Kees. Paul Cronin went on to win many prestigious awards from the United States Equestrian Federation and the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

"We’ve been wanting to have him judge the show for years," says Linda McLean. "He’s known to virtually all the Sweet Briar alumni in Aiken, and he’s much beloved by his former students. I know he’s looking forward to coming down to Aiken, because he has many old friends here. It’s going to be like old home week for him."
Linda notes that none of his former students will be riding in the show themselves, but at least two will have their young children in the ring. "They're both so thrilled to be able to show off their children to him," she adds. "They are so excited about him coming to Aiken."
Mr. Cronin's accomplishments also include writing a well-reviewed book called Schooling and Riding the Sport Horse: A Modern American Hunter/Jumper System. The book is available on Amazon – those who wonder what the judge will be looking for at the show just have to buy the book!


The Foxhunter

One of the unique aspects of the Aiken Horse Show is the Foxhunter division. In order to be eligible to compete in this division, riders must present a certificate from a Master of Foxhounds that they have actually gone out and hunted the horse that they are riding at least six times during the season. This division is, perhaps, the most hotly contested of the show. The winner of the Foxhunter Championship takes home the Arden Park Memorial Trophy and is honored each year on the cover of the next year's horse show program as well as on the cover of The Aiken Horse.
Last year's Foxhunter Champion was Ann Wicander riding her horse Wow. Ann, who lives and rides in Aiken during the winter months, spends the warm season in New Hampshire where she is the joint Master of the Wentworth Hunt. Wow is an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare who is both a foxhunter and an eventer; Ann currently competes her at the Preliminary level.
Although they were the champions last year, Ann says that she and Wow will not be in the ring this year, leaving the field open for the next contender.


Practical Information

  • This year's horse show runs from Friday, April 1, until Sunday, April 3. As usual, there will be a welcoming party at the show grounds on Thursday evening. Classlists and entry forms are available online at, or at tack stores around town.
  • Those who plan to come to the hunt breakfast on Saturday and/or the luncheon on Sunday, those wishing to purchase ringside parking and those who are interesting in sponsorship opportunities should call the Hitchcock Woods Foundation office at 803-642-0528.
  • Although cars are allowed in the woods on horse show day, trucks and trailers are not. Competitors park at the Stable on the Woods entrance and hack into the show. During the days of the show, Linda Knox McLean and Jenne Stoker will be at the ring this year with their cell phones, and they encourage participants to check in with them to find out how the class schedule is progressing so that they don't find themselves rushing to the ring and then waiting for their class to start, or, worse, hacking in calmly only to find that their class is already over when they get there. (Linda Knox McLean 803.646.7111 or Jenne Stoker 803.270.7331.)  
  • The Aiken Horse Show is the signature event of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, which was created to "protect and preserve the Hitchcock Woods in a natural and ecologically healthy state; maintain and manage historic and traditional equestrian and pedestrian uses, and foster education and research on the history and resources of the Woods." Every year the show raises funds for the foundation so that it can carry out this mission. If you would like to make a donation to the foundation, or become a Friend of the Woods, please visit

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.