Horses, Hounds and Polo
Going equestrian in Aiken County
With at least one or two more inevitable snowfalls ahead of us, my husband and I decided to look South for a vacation that would give us a jumpstart on spring. Some place we could finally get outdoors and shake off the cabin fever we’d experienced since the holidays. Inspiration struck when I discovered Aiken County, South Carolina, an equestrian destination known for horse-filled days and the slow, relaxing evenings that make the South so ideal for vacations.
A fashionable destination
After more research, I learned that Aiken County had become famous in the late nineteenth century as a winter colony for “American royalty” from the northeast—families with names like Astor and Vanderbilt. Over time, more and more snowbirds were drawn to Aiken County’s moderate climate and horse-friendly sandy soil.
While not exactly royalty, my husband and I are horse lovers, and it was easy to fill up our itinerary with a wish list of activities, from trail rides to fox hunts and polo lessons. This would be a vacation filled with muddy boots and grass stains, and we couldn’t wait.
Compared to all of the other new experiences (like fox hunting and polo) we’d included on our itinerary, trail riding was something I was very familiar with, as I’d spent many a day wandering the trails near our home. One thing I was not expecting was the breathtaking natural beauty we’d encounter on our ride.
Aiken County, which has more than 65 miles of trails for visitors to enjoy, is positioned between the foothills and the famed Lowcountry of South Carolina, which explains the striking variety found in its natural surroundings. One moment, we’d find ourselves under the massive canopy of majestic oaks, and the next we were trotting past dogwoods and wild azaleas. While I was enamored by the landscape, my husband, an amateur birder, could barely contain his excitement each time he spotted a new species. In fact, I must have heard him shout out the names of at least four different types of woodpeckers alone.
Our day on the trails left us both relaxed and energized for the days to come, making it the perfect start to our equestrian vacation.
Running with the dogs
The morning of our fox hunt started with a light mist that gave way just in time to set out, although even a driving rain wouldn’t have been able to dampen our enthusiasm.
Surrounded by horse and hound, the experience felt timeless, with seemingly every detail—down to the designated roles and attire—steeped in tradition. Even though neither of us had ever participated in a hunt, the scene felt familiar, as if having stepped into a painting we'd admired for years. The hunt was organized into two groups of horseback riders—first flight and hill-topper. Even from our “hill-topper” perspective a fair ways behind the dogs and the first group, it was easy to get caught up in the majesty of the experience. We aspired to be “first flight” riders, watching and admiring as they kept a frantic pace behind the hounds, jumping over every obstacle in their way.
Once the quarry had gone to ground, and the hounds had been called off for the last time, we gathered back at the stables with our fellow riders to trade our favorite stories from the day.
When we arrived at Overbrook Farms, located just outside of the city of Aiken, for our polo lessons, I was feeling equally excited and nervous. For me, staying upright on a horse was a good thing. However, having a pro at my side to walk me through the basics of leaning put me at ease right away, and pretty soon the exhilarating thrill of trying something new took over. I found myself as comfortable at the horse’s flank as I had been upright in the saddle!
Suffice it to say, we walked away from the lesson with a new appreciation for the game.
It was with this new appreciation that we watched the professionals do their thing at the Aiken Polo Club, an established polo club with well over 100 years of history. Never ones to turn down hospitality, my husband and I opted to enjoy the match from the social tent, where fashionable dresses and stylish suits meet mouthwatering barbecue and specialty cocktails. Surrounded by such an enthusiastic and friendly crowd, we found that their love for the sport was contagious.
Spending a week playing in this equestrian paradise was truly a vacation unlike any other, and it was just the break we needed from our chilly hometown. And while we were leaving Aiken County no closer to royalty than when we arrived, the memories and experiences we took with us were fit for a king and queen.
The Southeast has something for everyone. Discover the trip that’s perfect for YOU.
Year Round Equestrian Sports
Aiken hosts year-round equestrian events, featuring polo tournaments in the spring and fall played on historic Whitney field, March triple-crown equestrian events, and dressage riding tournaments.
Aiken's Polo history includes the Bostwicks, the Hitchcocks, and many other wealthy Americans. Aiken serves as an ideal location for year round polo. International and American polo teams practice, play, and compete in Aiken polo events.
Steeplechase combines the precision of jumping with the speed of a race to create a very exciting event! The races are between two and four miles in length and the fences are 52-inch hurdles at varying heights. This is the chance for all to get outdoors and enjoy the history, horses and heritage of Aiken.
Historically the sport of the elite, fox hunting in Aiken is a fall favorite event. Usually held in Hitchcock Woods, the largest urban forest in the South, the event involves a scent drag, fox hounds, and hunters.
Aiken Triple Crown
Last 3 Saturdays in March.
1st Race Weekend:The Trials
Thoroughbreds compete in flat races at the Aiken Training Track.
2nd Race Weekend: Aiken SteeplechaseHurdle Jumper Races at Ford Conger Field.
3rd Race Weekend: Polo
Proceeds aid community and charities.
1st weekend in April
Spring Polo Season: April - June.
Aiken Polo Club
Fall Polo Season
Sept - mid Oct.
Aiken Polo Club
October 24, 2014
Post time: 1 pm
The Aiken Fall Steeplechase is a one day event on Saturday, with a pre-race warm up party on Friday night. Watch horses pound the plush turf and soar over fences at the Aiken Fall Steeplechase!
Blessing of the Hounds
Hitchcock Woods, Aiken
220 Golf Course Rd, Warrenville
Lessons, trail rides, boarding, horse camps, and birthday parties. Facilities include trails, covered picnic shelters and game area.
4343 Banks Mill Rd, Aiken
Built in old European architectural style, including a covered dressage arena with 80' mirrors, 3 outdoor arenas, 12 miles of trails on 500 acres and 2 stabling facilities. Riding lessons, stall and pasture boarding available.
4030 Chasin Way, (off Pony Trail), Aiken
Appointment only. 803-648-6277
No dogs please.
Situated on 80 acres. Facilities include covered riding arena, dressage, jumping, turnout and training. Riding lessons, breeding, and boarding.
147 Warehouse Rd, Aiken.
Home of PSJ Progressive Jumps and Progressive Stabling. A 60 acre facility with 3 rings, grass jumper field, 3 permanent barns, polo field, turn out paddocks and RV hook-ups. Available for equestrian and non equestrian events, clinics, stick and ball, schooling and more.
5540 Jefferson Davis Hwy. North Augusta
US 1, 5 miles from I-20, exit 1 in North Augusta
Open air equestrian arena and stables on 32 acres. More than 30 equine events annually, including barrel horse racing, team penning, cutting horse competitions and open benefit horse shows.
117 Stable Dr., Aiken.
New, top-notch equestrian training facility available for lease. Access to world renowned coaches plus national and international competitions. Includes a cross-country course, kennels, accommodations, and a 300 ft. x 250 ft. covered arena.
179 Fox Pond Rd, Aiken.
Offers riding lessons on your own horse, training, boarding, and schooling tadpole through preliminary, horse trails and competitions.
75 Obannion Ct, Aiken.
Guided trail rides through Hitchcock Woods and surrounding woodlands.
4492 Charleston Hwy, Windsor.
Open during events.
215 Woodward Dr, Aiken.
Offers Western and English riding lessons and trail rides. Summer camp for children.
4627 Whiskey Rd, Aiken.
Offers summer camps, lessons, birthday parties, and boarding.
Ashbrooke Equestrian Center
5644 White Pond Rd, Aiken.
Riding instructions for adults and children.
3828 Wagener Rd, Aiken.
Hosts events and provides lessons, boarding, and rehab.
4069 Wagener Rd, Aiken.
Training facility for eventing, fox hunting, boarding, sales, dressage and show jumping. Open for competitions or by appointment.
3077 Tomcat Lane, Aiken.
Specializing in dressage, eventing, and jumping. Available for clinics and coaching at shows and horse sales.
3549 Charleston Hwy, Aiken.
Trails, dressage court, pavilion, stables, electric and water hookups, wash rack, paddocks and cross country obstacles.
1080 Archie Ware Rd, Trenton.
Full service training facility that offers lessons and boarding for all levels.
597 Redds Branch Rd, Aiken.
Hunter and jumper facility specializing in training, showing, boarding and horse sales. Open by appointment only.
1224 Sizemore Rd, Aiken.
Training, boarding, sales and show facility for hunters and jumpers.
4230 Wagener Rd, Aiken.
Boarding and training facility with a focus on hunter/jumper and dressage.
1010 Newbridge Rd, Aiken.
Hunter/jumper training facility.
359 State Park Rd, Windsor.
Home to the Katydid combined driving event in October. Call for appointment.
254 Whittle Pond Rd, Williston.
Provides training for professional carriage driving, clinics and shows.
620 Banks Mill Rd, Aiken.
Training center with polo accommodations and stalls.
4201 Shiloh Church Rd, Aiken.
One mile track and trails for the off training day and schooling/training gates.
Traveling Petting Zoo & Pony Rides.