Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Video on the Way | 5/23/13

Three Runs has been working on a new video showcasing some of our residents enjoying the myriad of equestrian amenities available at Three Runs. Three Runs resident Marcia Canizzo along with Aiken area freelance driving trainer Jean-Paul Gautier where out for a training session with "Ella"  - so we couldn't resist taking some photos...Ella will also be featured in the new video that will be available soon.

FWF Elegante also know as Ella is a 14 year very sweet and very beautiful tri-colored tobiano Georgian Grande (American Saddlebred/Clydesdale) mare. She was bred by Flying-W-Farms in Ohio. Ella is back in driving training since January of this year, after having a break from her basic driving training accomplished in 2006. Ella is also a very comfortable and talented riding partner, excelling in classical dressage at the lower levels.

Marcia is Ella's owner, main caretaker, trainer and rider...but Marcia's partner and Ella's co-owner, Joe Hrncirik, is always the willing assistant with horsekeeping chores, maintenance and training, as well as key backup support in caring for the horses.

Marcia has had a love and passion for horses, as well as cats and dogs since before her birth - almost sixty years ago. With the help of her sister Rhonda, Marcia offers pet caring services on a limited basis through her business - Aiken Sitter Sisters.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Aiken Horse Show in the Woods | 5/13/2013

A 97-year-old Tradition

By Pam Gleason, Photography by Gary Knoll

On March 18, 1916, a special train was commissioned from Southern Railway to bring spectators from Augusta to Aiken for what was advertised as a “Gala day – Society event. Unexcelled Exhibition of Thoroughbred Horses.”

This was the first Aiken Horse Show, and the beginning of a long tradition. The first show brought in throngs of winter visitors, who were nearing the end of their stay in Aiken and Augusta, both popular Southern resorts. World War I was raging in Europe, Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States, and Louise Hitchcock was the reigning queen of the Winter Colony. It had been a “banner year” for the colony, according to the Aiken Journal and Review, and the city had welcomed an unprecedented number of winter “tourists.” Other notable milestones in 1916 include the recognition of the Aiken Hounds by the Master of Foxhounds Association, and the founding of Aiken Preparatory School.

The first show was a success, and each year it got bigger, growing to last two and then three days. It became a society event, the grand finale of each winter season. Results and pictures from the show were featured in the New York Times and on the pages of society magazines. It was also a charity event, originally raising money for the Aiken County Hospital, and later for various other causes. By the 1930s, it was drawing competitors and spectators from near and far.

Today, the horse show marks the end of the winter foxhunting season in the Woods, giving hunt enthusiasts a chance to prove their horses in the show ring. It is also the beginning of the Aiken spring horse show season, serving as a precursor to United States Equestrian Federation approved events that will take place in mid-April. Finally, it provides non-hunting members of the community an excellent excuse to take an excursion into the Woods, where they have a chance to appreciate the athleticism of the horses and the natural beauty of the setting.

The Magic Ring

Regular competitors in the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods are unanimous in their praise of the show, and there are many things that make it special. One thing is certainly its location. The show is traditionally held in the horse show ring about a mile into the Hitchcock Woods, a 2,100 acre woodland preserve. Throughout most of the year, the only way to get around in the Woods is to walk or ride or drive a horse. During the horse show, cars are permitted to drive into the Woods, and this is the only time they are allowed.

The ring itself is always beautifully decorated with flowers, natural obstacles, and perhaps most important, lush green grass. This is rye grass, planted in the fall and carefully nurtured so that it is an emerald carpet by early spring. No one is allowed to ride in the ring except on the day of the horse show, and it can be tempting. Approaching the ring down the trail from Memorial Gate on show days, it can look almost unreal. It is early spring, and the rest of the trees and bushes are just starting to bud, but everything about the horse show ring is bright, colorful and in full flower.

The nature of the show is also special. The Aiken Horse Show is an old fashioned hunter show, with strong family traditions. From the beginning, it was a show with an emphasis on junior exhibitors, and today children’s classes dominate on Saturday. In addition to children’s hunter classes, there are leadline classes and a costume class, giving the youngest children a chance to compete. The family class can involve February-March 2013 The Aiken Horse 11 two, three and even four generations of riders. Families also compete together in the hunter pairs and the hunt teams class. The show has a real sense of community.

Supporting the Woods

Proceeds from the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods go the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, which owns and manages the Woods. In addition to the lunches and sponsorship opportunities, the show also holds a silent auction that always includes some spectacular items, as well as hard-to-find historical books and artwork that pertain to the history of Aiken.

Beyond the day-to-day maintenance of the woods and trails, the Hitchcock Woods Foundation also has a number of projects that it is working on. For instance, there is a need to have a more accurate map of the Woods that includes all of its trails as well as GPS coordinates. The foundation is working on a study of the Woods that will result in a new, 21st century map. This map will be a full GIS (Geographic Information System) map, including GPS coordinates and geographical information.

Aiken Horse Show Particulars

The 97th annual Aiken Horse Show in the Woods will take place from April 5-7, 2013. The competition starts with the $750 Aiken Hounds Welcome Stakes on Friday morning. There are nine classes on Friday’s schedule, including jumping and flat classes in the adult amateur and open hunter divisions, as well as the popular gentleman’s hunter hack.

Saturday is traditionally the day for children, and this year there will be a full complement of children’s and junior classes, along with the family class, and the foxhunter hilltopper division. The day ends with the presentation of a number of awards, including two “best child rider” awards and a sportsmanship award.

Sunday is foxhunter day, the day when the competition really heats up. The adult foxhunters go in the morning with the junior foxhunters in the afternoon. The presentation of the foxhunter championship is likely to happen around noon.

If you would like to be a part of the Aiken Horse Show experience but you are not riding, you can plan to come to the Woods and watch. General admission is free, but if you want to drive down and park near the ring, there is a $10 parking charge. If you would like to support the show in a bigger way, you can reserve railside parking (this is quite limited) for $100 per day, or buy any number of different packages that will get you admission to the ringside tent, lunch each day, and admission to the sponsors’ cocktail party that takes place on Thursday night.

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shawna Harding's Winter Training | 5/6/2013

Home In Aiken
by Pam Gleason 

Shawna Harding, who is currently Aiken’s best-known dressage rider, is spending the winter training at Black Forest Equestrian center just outside of town.

“I haven’t been here for the winter before,” she says. “I haven’t really been here at all. I went to compete in Europe for the past two years, and of course, I’ve been competing in Florida. This year, there’s nothing that I need to qualify for, so I didn’t feel it necessary to leave. I’m so happy to be home for the winter.”

Shawna’s recent riding and competition schedule has been rigorous, to say the least. She has been out on the show circuit with her horse, Come On III, a 1999 Danish Warmblood gelding, and Rigo, a 2001 Hanoverian gelding. Her success with both horses has taken her to the most prestigious dressage competitions in the United States – Gladstone, Devon, Palm Beach – as well as to Europe. Last spring she represented the U.S. in the F.E.I. World Cup Finals in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and the year before she spent several months in Europe, competing in the World Cup Finals in Leipzig, Germany as well as the CDI***** World Dressage Masters in Munich. Her wins and awards have been too numerous to list, both with Come On III, who competes at Grand Prix level, and with Tonya Rowe’s Rigo, who has been performing on the small tour.

“This winter, I’m training Rigo up to the Grand Prix,” she says. “So that’s my main goal. And then I have some nice young horses that I’m bringing along – one is a black 5-year-old mare that I just rode in myself. She’s been under saddle for about two and a half months now and she’s for sale. The other is a 4-year-old black gelding that I’m really excited about. I’m planning to compete him in the 4-year-old division this year.”

And what about Come On III, the horse that has taken her to so many world class competitions?

“Come On is happy in his field, just hacking on the property and trail riding,” says Shawna. “I’m giving him some downtime this winter. He’s competed so much and done so well, he deserves a break.”

Shawna might deserve a break, too, at least from the high pressure world of the show circuit. She says that she loves showing, especially in Europe where the atmosphere at competitions can be electrifying.

“You go to ride in sold-out stadiums,” she says. “There’s so much excitement over there. I lived in Europe for eight years, and I was always a groom at the big shows. To ride in the warm-up ring with Edward Gal and people you always see in the magazines and have watched on video, - to be there riding, to have qualified to be in the competition, is a real thrill. It’s a dream come true.”

But it isn’t easy. “It’s a lot of hard work. I fly with horses myself – I don’t hand them off to a groom – and I’m with them 24/7. It’s a lot, but it’s worth it. Now I have the experience, and Come On and Rigo have the experience. It can be chaotic, but I do love it.”

This winter, Shawna says she is enjoying the other part of dressage that she loves, helping her students achieve their goals and training young horses. In Aiken, she has a small group of students, people who are serious about their dressage.

“I have a fantastic girl that works for me, Lauren Gibson. She teaches people that are on the lower level,” says Shawna. “I teach people that are a little bit more advanced and can take my lessons. I’m very firm, but I’m very fair. I want people to ride well,” then she pauses to laugh. “And not talk a lot! They’re there to learn, and we have a really great group of people.”

But what is most rewarding to Shawna is working with the young horses.

“The biggest thing is having a really good program,” she says. “The horses in my program are well taken care of, and they have their paddock time, because I think turnout is very important. I have a structured way of training and bringing horses up so that every day they know what’s going to happen. Riding is not easy, and there are really no easy horses. There are just some that are less difficult than others. My program really works, and I have proven that. The horses know that they’re not going to get wrong signals, or any wishywashy kind of riding around.

“I really enjoy what I do,” she continues. “I love being with the young horses and training them up. My biggest thrill is doing something like putting a flying change on the horse, and having him learn it very quickly. You have that connection, that feeling of communication. I put with me riding them. I think that makes all the difference."

Shawna Harding teaches and trains at Black Forest Equestrian Center in Aiken. Keep up with her on her Facebook page: www. Or send her an email at

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