Horse’n Around in Aiken
Old western movies mythologized the role of the American cowboy on horseback, his image by
film’s end often reduced to a dark silhouette against a
setting sun and jagged, snow-covered mountain tops.
In modern times, the horse and horseback rider have
become part of mainstream culture. Horseback riding has
entered both urban and suburban settings, while trotting
its way to the top of many favorite pastime lists.
While horseback riding probably isn’t the first thing
that comes to mind when thinking of South Carolina,
you’d be surprised to find that it has a thriving equestrian
scene, with Aiken at its heart.
Historic and Charming
Located near the mid-point of South Carolina’s long
border with Georgia between Augusta, GA (home of the
Masters), and Columbia, SC (the state’s capital), Aiken is
often described as a city with Southern charm and a cosmopolitan flair. Discovered in the 1800s by Charlestonians
looking for a respite from the summer heat, Aiken was a
winter colony for the wealthy for more than a century.
Today, residents enjoy warm weather and a wonderful
quality of life. You can still view vestiges of the town’s
heritage in its beautifully-preserved historic mansions and
in its wide avenues divided by grassy medians and shade
trees. Historic downtown Aiken is filled with remarkable
shops and restaurants, and the business district is alive
and flourishing. Galleries, antique shops and specialty
boutiques await the serious shopper. The mild winters
make it a haven for golfers, hunters and fishers alike.
Home to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame,
Aiken is the heart of South Carolina’s horse country.
Riding stables and horse shows abound, and harness
racing, steeplechase and thoroughbreds are integral parts
of the Aiken horse scene. That means plenty of fun and
enjoyment for those who ride, show and bet the ponies—
or just want an excuse to buy a new outfit.
The mild winters and early springs, combined with the
sandy soil, are ideal for the pursuit of a variety of equestrian
activities. Aiken is considered a national polo capital and is
home to more than 45 polo professionals. Whitney Field
is the site of the longest consecutive period of polo play
on one field in the U.S., and with the establishment of two
new polo clubs, Aiken boasts high-goal tournament action.
© ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/RICK HYMAN