Carriage drive benefits Audubon Center
JACKSON -- An idyllic setting with a variety of colors and wildlife could be found along the trails by the nearly 40 carriages participating in this year's Aiken Driving Club's fall drive Sunday at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary.Katrina Becker and Jack Wetzel's four-in-hand teams were among those that took part in the drive, but there were a wide variety of carriages and ponies who made the most of the carriage drive on a beautiful autumn day.Judith Stanton has what she refers to as a fun, little pony, who she believes is half-Shetland Pony and half-Miniature Horse."I've had him for about two years," said Stanton, who has been with the Aiken Driving Club for the past 10 years. "The Audubon Center is a great place. We had an opportunity to see the river and the trees. We heard all kinds of noises."The proximity of the center to Aiken and its nearly 3,200 acres is part of the sanctuary's appeal. Photographers and pedestrians were among those enjoying the trails.The deep sand footing on the trails is outstanding, said Jack Wetzel."There are so many avenues of trees with every bit of foliage that you would want to see," said Wetzel. "We had about an hour drive. The carriages go at a nice pace."It was the first carriage drive for Jim and Debbie Miller. The Millers and Nico, a three-quarter Welsh Pony and one-quarter Thoroughbred cross, drove through the trails on a Russ Hardwick Carriage. Jim Miller took up carriage driving when he retired from fox hunting two years ago."We took some time in finding our driving ponies," he said. "This is our first drive. I'm really excited about it."Those taking part in the drive had the option of going down two different trails, with the longer distance about 2¬½ miles, said Paul Koehler, Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary director."It was a win-win situation for all of us," said Koehler. "Everyone had a great time. They're beautiful trails, and the day has been gorgeous. Each carriage provides some revenue for our center and helps our education program through conservation."