Fox hunting is the most venerable of all equestrian sport, and next spring, the nation's oldest drag hunt will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Aiken Hounds were established in 1914, and to this day continue to hunt every Tuesday and Saturday, October through March, in the Hitchcock Woods.
The sport of fox hunting has been interwoven into the fabric of the community, and the Aiken Hounds have played a prominent role in cementing the city's deep appreciation of horses and equestrian sport. This fall, the 100th anniversary of the Aiken Hounds annual opening meet, Blessing of the Hounds and Stirrup Cup at the Hitchcock Woods' Memorial Gate will take place. The annual event was selected by The Huffington Post as one of the nation's 10 Terrific Thanksgiving Traditions.
The Aiken Hounds' 100th anniversary will coincide with the 98th annual Aiken Horse Show in the Woods.
However, the Aiken Hounds are doing their part to recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the hunt.
A book commemorating the hunt's 100 years will be edited by the author of Foxhunting Adventures, Norman Fine, and published by Derrydale Press, the publishers of the celebrated tome Life and Sport in Aiken. The release date for the book will be in 2016 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods, said Jane Page Thompson.
The book will be a compilation of stories and photos, looking back at the history of the Aiken Hounds, and also a look forward at the next 100 years.
“We're in the process of collecting photographs and compiling stories, and are looking for sponsors for the 2015/16 season,” said Thompson. “There will be a chapter about the Thoroughbred horses of Ambrose Clark and Pete Bostwick that trained in the Hitchcock Woods. My own family is currently training a horse in the woods.”
There will also be several items available for sale commemorating the historic event. Design submissions for several limited editions items including a square scarf, a oblong scarf, and necktie, are being accepted now, and will be due May 1. Submissions should be of the Aiken Hounds, the Hitchcock Woods or associated subject matter, said Thompson. The scarves and neckties will be available this fall at the Aiken Hounds' annual Blessing of the Hounds on Thanksgiving Day. Plans also call for the production of a St. Hubert medal.
A number of horseman who've participated previously will also be celebrated during the Aiken Hounds' 100th year celebration, said Linda Knox McLean, Aiken Hounds, Joint Master of Fox Hounds.
“It's a way to honor some of the people who have been involved,” said Knox McLean.