Aiken Equestrian Events Rock!
The first official weekend of fall in Aiken was packed with equestrian events: polo, horse shows, eventing, dressage — there was a little something for everyone. Heavy rains on Thursday and Friday had threatened to spoil the good time, but the sun came out on Friday evening, allowing organizers, riders and spectators alike to heave a sigh of relief. The forecast still predicted overcast skies and drizzle, but it would not be a total washout.
On Saturday morning Stable View Farm kicked off the season with a recognized horse trials. One hundred and thirty horse and rider teams competed in 12 divisions ranging from Junior/Young Rider Beginner Novice up through Open Preliminary. Stable View, Aiken’s newest eventing showplace, is getting even bigger and better this year. The owners, Cyndy and Barry Olliff, recently purchased an additional 800 acres surrounding the 200 acres they have already developed. They are putting in new dressage arenas (both grass and with professional synthetic footing installed by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces), a gallop and a derby field. Most important, they are creating an Advanced cross country course and already have the dates for the very first Advanced event in Aiken: it will be held at this time next year.
Stable View has a keen focus on the experience for riders, spectators and sponsors. On Saturday there was an exhibitors’ party with food provided by Casa Bella. On Sunday, every division included an official awards ceremony with a victory gallop for the ribbon winners. Sharer Dale, a realtor with REMAX Aiken, was the presenting sponsor — she gave out ribbons, prizes, and even prize money which was awarded in every division for first through fourth place. Most of the competitors were locals, but there were some that came from far away. Most notable among these was Clayton Fredericks, the Australian Olympic Silver medalist who is currently the coach and technical advisor for the Canadian eventing team. Fredericks competed several horses in a number of different divisions, and won enough prize money to make his trip up from Ocala, Fla quite worthwhile.
Back in town, Progressive Show Jumping held one of their popular “Just for Fun” shows at Highfields Event Center. These unrecognized shows have lower entry fees and are a good way for horse and riders to get some experience in the ring. They are the lowest of the three tiers of horse shows put on by PSJ. The middle tier is represented by PSJ shows, which are regional and have year end awards, while the top is represented by nationally rates shows. Next weekend, Highfields will be the site of the PSJ Fall Classic, which includes the PSJ mini medal finals. The top 15 riders in the PSJ standings are invited to compete.
Over at Aiken Polo Club, Saturday was Polo for Patriots day, an event that raised money for the Aiken Augusta Warrior Project and Equine Rescue of Aiken. Because of the wet fields, the featured 21-goal polo match was shortened to two chukkers, but there was plenty of action anyway. The afternoon started out with two chukkers for smaller children, followed by two chukkers for accomplished junior players, and then two high goal chukkers. The day also included many social activities and contests as well as a display of military equipment and vehicles.
There was more polo at Aiken Polo Club and at New Bridge Polo Club on Sunday, with games in the USPA National Copper Cup 12-goal, the USPA Governor’s Cup 6-goal and the Copa de Plata. Look for the finals of all three tournaments next weekend.
Sunday was a special day in Aiken for Jane Bunting Sage, who completed her Century Ride at Fair Lane Farm riding her horse Keswick (Toby). The Century Club is an elite group recognized by the Dressage Foundation. To be eligible to join, your age, combined with your horse’s age, must add up to 100. Then, you must complete a dressage test in front of a judge, whether at a competition or at a private event. Jane and Toby qualified this year when she reached 76 and he hit 24. Their Century Ride took place at 11:00 am in front of an enthusiastic group of friends and well-wishers, as well as Jane’s coach, Amy McElroy. The test went well, and the accomplishment was celebrated with ribbons, trophies, roses, and even champagne. You can read more about the Century Club and about Jane in the upcoming October-November issue of The Aiken Horse.
It’s coming out in two weeks. Look for your issue around town!