When asked to describe what the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing showcase would be like for spectators, Tara Bostwick described it as a combination of the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and the Masters golf tournament.
The new equestrian competition will be held at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s Bruce’s Field on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2.
As during the Spring Steeplechase later in March, horses will be leaping over obstacles.
And while the animals are doing so, spectators will be able to wander and watch the action at different locations like attendees can do during the Masters.
“Spectators very much will be able to enjoy being out in an open space and moving around how they would like outside the rope fencing that will separate them from the horses and riders,” said Bostwick, who is the vice president and treasurer of the Aiken Horse Park Foundation.
The Horse Park Foundation is the organizer of the Grand-Prix eventing showcase.
Gates will open at 7 a.m. on March 1 and 11 a.m. on March 2.
There will be three phases of competition.
Dressage is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on March 1, and show jumping will begin around 4 p.m. later in the day.
Cross-country will start at 2:30 p.m. March 2.
In dressage, horses perform a set series of movements in an arena.
“It requires a lot of finesse from both the horse and its rider,” Bostwick said.
In show jumping, the animals try to clear a series of fences with lightweight rails without knocking any of the rails down.
Cross-country is a test of speed, endurance and jumping ability for horses over a course that features varied terrain and different types of obstacles.
General admission tickets for the Grand-Prix Eventing showcase are on sale at aikenhorsepark.org, and they cost $12 apiece for each day. A pass for both days is $20.
Tickets also will be available at the gate at Bruce’s Field, which is at 931 Powderhouse Road.
General admission spectators should use the Audubon Road entrance that is the closest to Two Notch Road. They will park their vehicles in an area outside of the steeplechase course.
The three phases of competition will take place in the steeplechase course’s infield.
There will be food vendors, but attendees also can bring picnics, Bostwick said.
They also should bring lawn chairs, she added, because bleacher-style seating will be limited.
Pop-up tents will be allowed, but Horse Park Foundation officials are asking people not to bring items made of glass.
There will be an area for free valet bicycle parking.
“We want everybody to support their favorite horse and rider combinations,” said Kate Boggan, marketing and communications director for the Horse Park Foundation. “Cheering and clapping is encouraged, but be mindful that these horses are high energy, elite athletes, so waving flags and using noisemakers can be detrimental to their performance.”
Some of the top eventing riders in the world are scheduled to participate.
They include Phillip Dutton, who has won Olympic medals while riding for Australia and the United States. He is the chairman of the Grand-Prix Eventing Committee.
Among the others are Boyd Martin, who has been a member of two U.S. Olympic teams; Andrew Hoy, who has won multiple Olympic medals while riding for Australia; and Colleen Loach, who was a member of Canada’s 2016 Olympic eventing team.