The Aiken Horse Show - Since 1916

How to Watch the Horse Show

Do you love horses and beautiful, natural places? Do you love springtime? Then you will love the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods. 

This year, the horse show lasts three days and includes 52 classes for children and adults. Classes start at 9 a.m. and the show day is usually over between 4 and 5 p.m., but it can end later or earlier depending on the number of exhibitors. Whether you are watching from the tent at the end of the ring, from a sidelines parking spot, or just strolling about taking in the action, there is plenty to see. Come for an hour, a day or all three days to participate in one of Aiken’s most important equestrian traditions.

Each day at the show has its own character. Opening day, Friday, often attracts the most polished performances and the most exciting jumping of the weekend. The day starts with the $750 Aiken Hounds Welcome Stakes sponsored by the Aiken Hounds, and ends with the $1000 Aiken Horse Show Open Handy Hunter Stakes. Between these two classes, the Open Hunter and Amateur Hunter divisions bring in accomplished competitors from around the region.

Saturday is family day. First up is the Children’s Walk Trot division open to children 12 and under. Next comes the Walk-Trot-Canter division (children under 14), followed by Open Pleasure, Pairs, and then two divisions for young horses (“Future Hunters.”) Leadline, which features the smallest and youngest children (7 and under) begins around noon. The ever-popular Costume Class comes not long afterward: there is always something inventive and interesting to see here. Saturday is also the day for Family Class, a Therapeutic Riding class and the Junior Hunters division. The most competitive class of the day is the last one, the $500 Aiken Horse Show Junior Handy Stakes.

Sunday is foxhunter day, tailored to active foxhunting riders and their horses. For many of the exhibitors, their sport is riding to hounds rather than showing, and this may be the only time all year they enter a show ring. This day also includes popular classes such as the Gentleman’s Hunter Under Saddle Challenge and the Aiken Driving Club Silver Fox Challenge, for senior riders. Those who are nostalgic for the past will not want to miss the sidesaddle division late Sunday afternoon: Aiken has an active population of sidesaddle riders, and their division includes a “Formal” under saddle class, as well as an over fences class.

The Foxhunter division, also on Sunday afternoon, is possibly the most competitive of the show. This division is open to horses and riders that have hunted together at least three times during the season. Riders who love the camaraderie of the hunt are often quite competitive, and everyone is always eager to see who will be crowned Foxhunter Champion, earning the right to be featured on the cover of next year’s Aiken Horse Show program.