Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aiken Fall Festival

Horse shows in Aiken seem to be thriving. Rick and Cathy Cram of Progressive Show Jumping are currently in the process of building a fourth barn to accommodate all of the horses that ship in to their Highfields Event Center on Gaston Road. Progressive Show Jumping itself holds many shows there – the biggest is the Aiken Spring Classic, to be held this coming year from April 18 through 29. This show is a staple on the Aiken spring calendar, regularly attracting riders and horses from all over the Southeast.

The Crams also lease their facility to other horse show companies. For the past several years, Equus Events Horse Show Productions, owned by JP and Megan Godard, has been taking over Highfields for two weeks in September for the USEF ‘A’ rated Aiken Fall Festival. This show includes such attractions as jumper classics and stakes, the South Carolina Hunter Jumper Association Governor’s Cup Equitation finals for junior riders, and Hunt Night, a group of classes for horses that can normally be found on the hunt field rather than in the show ring. 

This year, the Aiken Fall Festival, which ran from September 8-18,  filled Highfields to capacity with horses and riders from North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other states farther afield. The first week of the competition brought a number of different horses and riders to the winner’s circle. Thursday’s $5,000 Open Welcome Stake went to Josh Dolan of Hilton Head, riding his horse Skylands Con Chino Z. On Friday evening, competitors headed to the hunter derby ring for the $2,500 National Hunter Classic. There were 21 entries, but the top four places would go to two riders, Liza Boyd from Camden and Daniel Geitner from Aiken. Liza was first on Marilla Van Beuren’s Marksman and third on Stephanie Saunders’s Heartbreaker. Daniel was second on Janet Peterson’s Damocles and fourth on Robin Hughes’s Zo Doro.

In Saturday’s featured class, the $15,000 Aiken Premiere Jumper Classic, Hardin Towell riding Kelly Maloney’s Fieona edged out Daniel Geitner on Tara Bostwick’s Sympa. The final feature event of the weekend was the Governor’s Cup Equitation Finals. The winner of this class was 17-year-old Allie Augustine from Mount Pleasant.  

By many counts, the second week of the show belonged to Daniel Geitner. Daniel started his streak on Thursday by winning the $5,000 Open Welcome Jumper Stake aboard Ann Ritter’s Jumbo Jet. He followed that performance with the Green Working Hunter Championship riding Zo Doro, and the Reserve Championship in the same division on Paige Wilson’s Best Foot Forward. He then rode Damocles to the High Performance Hunter Championship and the Grand Championship in the hunter division.

Friday evening featured Hunt Night. In this division, followers of local hunts showed what they could do in Field Hunter, Handy Hunter and Hunt teams classes.  Cathy Chambers, who rides with Why Worry Hounds, rode her horse Oscar to the championship for the second year in a row. Patti Brantley, Kathy Nofsinger and Arnie Bloom won the Hunt Teams competition, riding under the colors of Live Oak Hounds.

The final feature of the week was the $15,000 Aiken Fall Festival Jumper Classic, held on Sunday evening. The course, designed by JP Godard, was a tricky one, yielding only six clear rounds out of 22 competitors. In the jump-off, just two riders would go clean; Harold Chopping on Patent Pending (owned by Kendra Bullington) and Josh Dolan on Skylands Con Chino Z. Harold Chopping took home the first place honors, beating Josh by just .810 of a second. Daniel Geitner settled for third aboard T/Salemon, owned by Karen Kerby.

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