Aiken is the heart of the state’s Thoroughbred Country, hosting polo matches each Sunday from April through June and September through November every year. And that’s just for starters. Other areas also host signature horse events throughout the year. Check out this great list of events for the full horse experience.
Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary spring trail ride offers two trails: one seven miles and the other eight. Riders with their own horses can enjoy one or both with a hot lunch in between. The ride is $35.
The Aiken Trials is the first leg of the Aiken Triple Crown and includes a day of family fun, tailgating and contests. Opening ceremonies include a carriage parade. General admission is $10 with parking extra. VIP tickets are $75.
The Aiken Spring Steeplechase offers six races with tailgating and infield parking that brings folks out for horse racing as well as a big party. This is the second event in Aiken’s Triple Crown of equestrian events in the spring. Admission: $25 in advance; $35 at the gate. Parking is extra. Contact: Aiken Spring Steeplechase or Audubon Drive.
The Carolina Cup is the spring horseracing event for South Carolina. Since 1932, the Carolina Cup has drawn thousands of folks from all around the state and region in their Easter finest to watch a half-dozen races, including the 2 1/8-mile Carolina Cup run over fences. General admission is $30 in advance and $45 at the gate. Parking is extra. Contact: Springdale Race Course
Pacers and Polo is the last event in the Aiken Triple Crown and kicks off the spring polo season. Matches are at 3 p.m. Sunday at Whitney Field on Mead Avenue. Typically held on a Saturday in late March, the event is a fundraiser for the University of South Carolina Aiken athletics. Tickets are $10 at the gate, with VIP and special parking passes available.
The Aiken Horse Show was established in 1916 and is held annually at Hitchcock Woods. The three-day event brings together show riders in a wide range of classes and competitions. Contact: Aiken Horse Show or Hitchcock Woods Foundation
Polo for Charity is called Bluffton’s biggest picnic, offering tailgating, divot stomping and people watching. Admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the gate. Contact: Okatie Rotary Polo for Charity
The Aiken Fall Steeplechase starts with a pre-race warmup party on Friday night followed by six races and a daylong party on Saturday. Admission: $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Tailgating spaces are available, and parking is extra.
The Jack Monroe Beach Ride is held at Lakewood Campground at Myrtle Beach, bringing about 1,200 horses and riders from all over the country to this fundraising event for the American Heart Association. The annual five-day event has raised more than $3 million since starting in 1981. Admission is $150 per horse in advance (before July 1 each year) and $175 for regular admission. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The King’s Tree Trials in Williamsburg County features a slate of nine races for quarter horses and thoroughbreds each November. The track is located at the McCutcheon Training Center, and spectators tailgate in the infield with homemade food. Local vendors also set up serving the area’s specialty: barbecue. Admission is $15 and tailgating spots are $30–50.
The Charleston Cup at the Plantation at Stono Ferry brings in top thoroughbreds from all over the country that compete in steeplechase and flat races. The Saturday race is preceded every year by a Friday night black-tie gala. Admission is $25. Infield tailgating spots start at $200.
The Colonial Cup in Camden is the fall version of the Carolina Cup, with a more family-friendly atmosphere, including the Jack Russell terrier races, a carousel and mule wagon rides. Admission: $20 in advance and $30 at the gate.
For a more detailed listing of equestrian events in Thoroughbred Country, check out: equestriancalendaraiken.com.