Location, location, location.
It’s important in real estate, and it’s also what makes the Aiken Horse Show special.
The three days of competition, which began Friday, are held deep in Hitchcock Woods, which is one of the nation’s largest urban forests.
Towering longleaf pines surround the venue, providing plenty of shade. Also in the area is a big dogwood tree that is beginning to burst into bloom.
“We show on the A circuit, so it’s nice to be here where there’s a more relaxed atmosphere,” Cathy Geitner said. “The setting is so beautiful.”
Cathy and her husband, Daniel, are the owners of the Aiken-based Daniel G. Geitner Stables, a full-service training, sales and show facility for hunters and jumpers.
“This is more of an old-fashioned kind of horse show,” Cathy said. “There aren’t many horse shows anymore where you can get ringside parking and tailgate and spectate. And there’s definitely not another show in the United States where you have go on a trail ride to get your horse there because you can’t get a horse trailer down into these woods.”
Ten horses and about 16 riders are scheduled to represent the Geitner Stable during this year’s 102nd Aiken Horse Show.
They began gathering at their usual spot on a hill above the show ring around 7 a.m. Friday.
“We have a great vantage point from up here where we can see everything,” Cathy said.
Daniel is in Florida this weekend, but Wyatt, 13, and Lilly, 10, are with their mother.
Wyatt is helping out as a groom.
“Tennis is my sport,” he said. “I’m not really into the riding thing, but I still love being around horses.”
Lilly, however, is an enthusiastic equestrian.
“I love this show; it’s really fun,” she said. “I like the grass in the ring because it’s really soft on the horses’ feet. But my favorite thing about this show is the Costume Class. Every year, we dress up in special things. Last year, we did ‘101 Dalmatians.’ When we came out of the ring, we started planning for this year.”
For the third year in a row, John Abbott and Richard Lamb designed the course for the Aiken Horse Show.
“We collaborate and decide where the jumps are going to go and what tracks they (the horses and riders) are going to follow,” Abbott said. “For this show, there are nine different patterns, for lack of a better word. There also is a standard with what we should use as far as the materials for the jumps are concerned.”
Added Lamb: “It’s all about keeping with the idea and tradition for the Horse Show, which is based on fox hunting. Everything should be natural and available in the woods, so we use things like pine logs and brush. Over there is a brick wall that is fashioned to remind you a little bit of Memorial Gate (which is a Hitchcock Woods landmark).”
At the Horse Show’s the start, during the $750 Aiken Hounds Welcome Stakes, Abbott and Lamb watched closely to make sure there weren’t any major problems.
Their goal, Abbott said, was “to make the course rideable, pleasant and exciting to try.”