The Aiken Hounds celebrated the holiday season in high style.


Members of the hunt converged on Saturday morning in the parking area next to the Green Boundary for their Christmas hunt.


It was a joyful sojourn for Billy Benton to get to the hunt's starting point, as he rode his horse O'Malley from Freddie Gilligan's barn in Fox Chase, to the staging area.


“It's really exciting to see such a large crowd here,” said Benton. “Linda Knox McLean deserves so much of the credit. She took the reins as the joint master of the hunt about 20 years ago, at a time when Jane Gunnell and I had just moved to Aiken. It's been really wonderful to see how the hunt has grown and prospered under her leadership.”


Wendy Collins Gutfarb's polo pony, Just Visiting, was making the transition from playing polo to becoming a hunt horse, and the rider and horse were dressed for the holiday festivities.


“He's gone out twice and he's going to rock it,” she said.


However, Christmas isn't the only time of the year the Aiken Hounds participate in a hunt with a theme.


Halloween, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day are also among the special occasions celebrated during the hunt season, said Linda Knox McLean. The joint master of fox hounds rode her off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding, Drum, who has been leading the hunt's field for the past four seasons.


The Aiken Hounds is celebrating its centennial, so this year's hunt season takes on added significance, said Benton.


“It's comforting to know that we have another 100 years of this hunt, because we know the community supports us, and we support the Woods,” said Benton. “Mrs. Hitchcock probably never would have thought 100 years ago that we'd be out here a century later, celebrating Christmas, dressing up and having fun.”