Friday, June 12, 2009

Some News from the Summer Issue

Horse Show in the Woods
The 93rd annual Aiken Horse Show in the Woods was another success this year, with many new winners and some new divisions and trophies to boot. The Aiken Horse Show is designed to give people who hunt a chance to show off their horses in the ring and to get families and children involved in some friendly competition. It’s a different kind of show, chiefly because it is set in an old fashioned, grassy arena about a mile into the Woods. One of its primary missions is to showcase the beauty of the Woods and to raise money for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.

The most coveted trophy of the show is the Foxhunter Championship. Horses that compete in the Foxhunter division must be true hunt horses that have actually hunted during the season under the rider who shows them. This year the trophy went to Sarah Accord and her horse Chambourcin. The pair also won the Adult Amateur Hunter championship. The Reserve Champion Foxhunter was Wow, ridden by Ann Wicander. Wow also won the Rushkia Award as the judge’s choice for the best field hunter.

One new division this year was the Colonel Howard Fair Pony Club Challenge, which was sponsored by Larry Byers, a current Aiken resident and a former president of the United States Pony Club. The trophy honors Howard Fair, one of the founders of the USPC, who foxhunted in Aiken during the 1930s and encouraged young Aiken Prep students to join the hunt. The challenge cup went to the pony club accumulating the most points in the foxhunter divisions of the show. The members of three pony clubs competed for the title: the Aiken County Pony Club, the Tryon Pony Club and the Palmetto Pony Club. The Palmetto Pony Club, with four members competing (Justice and Boyce Myers, Shannon Hardiman and Victoria Jacks) took home the cup.

Aiken Ladies Aside sponsored another new division at the show this year, which included two classes and even a few jumps. The Ladies Sidesaddle Champion was Betty Alexander, who has been the ALA’s mentor and instructor, riding Clover Hill’s Silver Lining. Betty was also named Best Turned Out Sidesaddle rider. Linda Lee Algar on Sunny Boy was Reserve Champion. The Aiken sidesaddle group has become quite active lately, with many new converts to the old-fashioned way of riding. If nothing else, this shows that Aiken’s riders love tradition.

Williston’s Horse Source

Williston’s growing horse population has a new place to buy their feed and horse supplies. Buck’s Building Supply on West Street, formerly known as Shumpert’s Building Supply, has expanded their equestrian section and is featuring a full line of Purina feeds for horses, dogs and cats. The store is also stocking bagged shavings and some useful items like halters and leads. They will eventually carry hay as well as grain and become a full service feed store. Delivery is already available.

The new owners of Buck’s Building Supply are Jason and Joel Stapleton, who purchased the store from their relatives in February. Recognizing the growth of the horse community in their area, they decided that it would be good business to offer more services to horse people. They hired Ann Dearborn, owner of Rumor Has It Farm, to manage the horse section. So far, it has been a big hit with people in the area, who are thrilled that they don’t have to drive all the way to Aiken to purchase their feed – it is 22 miles, after all.

As part of their outreach to the equestrian community in Aiken County, Bucks recently donated 800 pounds of grain to Equine Rescue of Aiken.

New Drills
Are you looking for something new to do with your horse? Have you ever considered joining a drill team? Some members of the Aiken horse community have formed one, and they would like to have a few new members. The group was born as an offshoot of the sidesaddle club, Aiken Ladies Aside, and has been meeting on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. at Shonna Athman’s area just east of town. Participants are riding under the tutelage of Jo Fantay, a certified drill team instructor, and have been working on a short drill that is set to music.

“We’re all just learning,” says Karen Alexander, who rides with the group, “and we’re really just doing it for fun. For me it was a way to do something with my horse and get out of my box. But it is amazing. I never rode to music before. The best thing about it is that you have to have a good position to get your horse to do what you want him to do, so it really improves the rider, without being a lesson. Every day is a learning experience.”

Aiken’s drill team expects to practice throughout the summer. Who knows, by the fall they may be ready to give an exhibit somewhere. If you are interested in joining the group or finding out more about it, call Karen Alexander at 803-643-0303

Virginia Beach on an Aiken Polo Streak

The Virginia Beach polo team extended their winning streak to 18 consecutive games this spring. The team, headlined by Omar Cepeda and owned by Virginia Beach resident Bart Frye, had been in the hunt all last spring, winning the Taylor Cup 4-goal and making it to the finals of the Aiken Cup 8-goal and the Carolina First Spring 8-goal. They started their winning streak on Sunday, October 4, 2008, with a victory in the first game of the Partridge Inn 8-goal invitational. They proceeded to win 10 games in a row that fall, taking home the Partridge Inn trophy and then triumphing in the Carolina First Fall 8-goal. They came back this spring to win the Holley Tractor 4-goal (four consecutive games) and then all of their match games in the Smoak Family 8-goal (four consecutive games.)

The winning streak finally broke on May 17 at the Smoak Family finals. Casa Azul/C-Spear, powered by the dynamic Eddy Martinez with Matt Sekera, Grayson Brown and J.D. Cooper, took the game 10-9. Virginia Beach came back the following week to win the Banks Mill Feeds 8-goal, perhaps starting another winning streak that they will carry on in the fall. If you are counting, they have now won three games in a row. . .

More Polo Opportunities

If you have never played polo, but would like to give it a try, now is your opportunity. Tiger Kneece, a 6-goal professional who has led the Brigadoon team to numerous championships in tournaments of all levels, is giving a series of polo clinics at the Brigadoon Polo Club. The clinics, which take place over a weekend, include polo instruction and practice games for players who are just starting out.

Billy Benton, a local real estate broker and a foxhunter got an email advertising the first “Tiger in the Woods” clinic this spring. “I had not been planning on doing a polo clinic,” he writes. “But I checked my calendar and realized I had no appointments to show real estate. One of the nicest things about today’s real estate market is not being bothered by pesky buyers on weekends.”

Billy was joined by two other local riders (Amy Brooks and Bryan Smith) and two out-of-towners (Tim Mitchell from Colorado and Gary Kauffman from Tennessee). There were four instructors (Tiger, Kris Bowman, Christine Cato and Maybe Ortiz) and five students, so everyone got lots of attention. Billy praised the horses and the activities, saying it was fun, safe and priced right at $400, probably the lowest cost polo experience on the East Coast. He thinks anyone interested should give it a try. “And if you’re in the market for Aiken real estate, I would be pleased to schedule a tour of available properties,” he adds.

The next clinic will be held June 19-21. For more information, call Christine Cato at 704.905.3706.

Sending Lost Pets Home

If you are missing a dog or a cat (or you have found one), there is a new website that can help you. Aiken Pets Reunited ( is a countywide notice board where people can post notices about lost or found pets, free of charge. Victoria Foulkes-Pyle, a local realtor and horse person, started the website after finding a lost dog. Although she did eventually locate the dog’s owners, she realized how difficult it is to reunite lost pets with their families because there is no easy way to let people know if you have lost a pet or found one.

The website was set up by Victoria and Wes Funderberg, who is the city of Aiken web administrator, with the help of Barbara Nelson, the president of the Aiken SPCA. There is a daily list of lost and found animals. You can sign up for alerts via email, and even follow the organization on Twitter. If you have lost a pet, you may send an email to

More Hall of Famers
A number of Aiken-connected horsemen are getting inducted into various halls of fame recently. The latest inductee is Gustav Schickedanz, a Canadian racehorse breeder who owns Long Leaf Plantation, a training facility in Aiken. Mr. Schickedanz, who is 80 years old, will be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame this August.

Schickedanz is one of the most successful breeders of racehorses in North America. He bred the top stallion Langfuhr (Danzig out of Sweet Briar Too by Briartic) who was one of the leading graded stakes winning sprinters in North America before retiring to stud at Lanes End Farm in Kentucky in 1997. In 2005, Langfuhr was the leading sire in North America by number of winners, and he continues to rank among the top sires on the continent. One of Langfuhr’s sons, Wando (Langfuhr out of Kathie’s Colleen by Woodman), also bred and owned by Schickedanz, won the Canadian Triple Crown and was named Canadian Horse of the Year in 2003.

Gustav Schickedanz was born in Memel, Germany in 1929. His family had a 300-acre farm near the Russian border where they raised Trakehners. In 1944, as the Russian forces approached, the family took the horses and fled to Bavaria. After the war, they relocated to Ontario, where Gustav and his brothers worked in the family construction business. In the 1960s, Gustav got into racing, starting out with inexpensive horses, before realizing he would have a better time with higher class stock. He has been on an upward trajectory ever since. This year alone, Schickedanz’s horses have a win percentage of 25 percent with earnings of over $340,000 in 28 starts.

The Horse District

The downtown horse district is one of the things that makes Aiken, Aiken. Recognizing that, members of the city’s planning commission have been examining whether new zoning ordinances might be used to add another layer of protection to the area. Under current zoning regulations, many of the horse district’s most prominent attractions could actually be subdivided, including the Whitney polo field with its track and barns and the Aiken Training Track. Another idea is to create conservation easements that might be able to protect the properties in perpetuity.