Monday, December 30, 2013

American Driving Society Meetings | 12/30/2013

Showcasing Aiken

By: Pam Gleason, Photography by: Gary Knoll

The American Driving Society brought their annual meeting and convention to Aiken this fall from September 26 through 29. Driving enthusiasts came to the city from across the county, some of them bringing horses and carriages in order to participate in drives and parades that were held in conjunction with the event. The serious business included a board of directors meeting, as well as the annual members meeting. Other activities exposed the drivers to Aiken, and let Aiken have a good look at the drivers. There were organized drives in the Hitchcock Woods and at the Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary, as well as a parade through town on Saturday morning. 

"It was wonderful," says Susie Koos Acker,who is the executive director of the ADS. Susie came all the way from Wisconsin, bringing three driving ponies and two vehicles. "For one thing, the weather was ideal. And we were just overwhelmed by all the generosity and how friendly and accommodating everyone was."

The first outing was a drive at the Audubon Sanctuary, which took place on Friday morning. This drive attracted a large crowd of 35 carriages, including many members of the Aiken Driving Club, as well as visiting drivers. Saturday morning, a carriage parade of about 25 rigs made its way through Aiken on a route designed by Mrs. Katrina Backer, who led the parade with her impressive four-in-hand. On Sunday, Jack Wetzel organized a drive through the Hitchcock Woods. This included a picnic at the tea cottage. 

Jeff Morse demonstration
In addition to the drives, there were several well-attended clinics dealing with issues related to driving. The most popular was a session that gave some hands-on training advice for transitioning a riding horse to a driving life. This clinic, which took place at Ford Conger Field, was conducted by Jeff Morse, a trainer from Massachusetts. The demonstration horse was a Lipizzaner, brought by a member of the United States Lipizzan Federation. The USLF is an ADS breed partner and held its annual North American Lipizzan Symposium in Aiken at the same time as the ADS.

The biggest news to come out of the ADS meetings has to do with the ADS endowment fund, which was started a little over a year ago as a way to pay for driving initiatives and development programs. Recently, a member offered to put $50,000 into this fund as a matching grant if the society can raise $50,000. One of the goals of the society the coming year is to raise this money. They are currently planning a fundraising campaign.

Peggy Dils, who is the president of the Aiken Driving Club, coordinated the ADS meeting locally. She was roundly applauded for her efforts, and also received a gift of a week's free tuition to a CanDrive camp in British Columbia. CanDrive, organized by Caio and Gerard Paagman (well-known in Aiken for their traveling Ideal Harness carriage shop) provides driving getaways in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The week offers trail and pleasure drives as well as lessons and clinics from top driving professionals.

The ADS meetings brought some first time visitors to Aiken, as well as many people who had spent time in the city before. After such an enjoyable weekend, those first-time tourists and regular visitors are likely to want to return. Some of them might even return for good: one of the sponsors of the meetings was Meybohm, a local real estate company with many agents who specialize in horse property. One feature of the weekend was a real estate tour. Apparently, it was quite well attended.

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