Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina, Offers Unique Year-Round Experiences
An equestrian's paradise, visitors to Thoroughbred Country will fall in love with sprawling countryside, picturesque downtowns and unique events only found in undiscovered South Carolina
THOROUGHBRED COUNTRY, SOUTH CAROLINA—FEBRUARY 2023—Located just east of Augusta, Georgia, and west of Columbia, South Carolina, is Thoroughbred Country, an area comprised of sprawling countryside, wide open greenspaces and endless opportunities to explore nature. Bordered by Interstates 20, 26 and 95, this region offers a plethora of unique experiences including equestrian events, historical sites, picturesque downtowns with unique shops, restaurants, museums and one-of-a-kind lodging options.
Sometimes referred to as “Undiscovered South Carolina,” Thoroughbred Country consists of Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties. It’s no secret horses take the top prize in Thoroughbred Country. From polo matches to harness races and steeplechases, there is ample opportunity to see the horses in action, no matter the season.
Take in a weekend match during the season. Check the schedule at Aiken Polo Club. Games are held on historic Whitney Field, in the heart of Aiken’s historic horse district. All are open to the public and typically last an hour and a half to two hours. Sunday matches start at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The spring season runs from April through mid-June while the fall season runs from September to mid-November. Spectators are encouraged to call the hotline before heading to the field, especially if conditions are wet or the weather is threatening. Whether tailgating or enjoying the games at the Pavilion (separate charge), there’s no doubt you will find yourself immersed in history and tradition at Whitney Field. Aiken Polo Club, 420 Mead Avenue, Aiken, South Carolina, 29801, 803.643.3611.
Don’t miss the thrilling McGhee’s Mile Harness Races happening March 11. This annual event is a fun filled day of Standardbred racing. Located at a family owned and operated Standardbred training facility in the heart of Aiken, spectators are in for a real treat. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the races kick off at noon. Ticket sales start in early February. McGhee’s Mile, 620 Banks Mill Road Southeast, Aiken, South Carolina, 29801; 803.617.8511
Looking for more adrenalin pumping events? Mark your calendar for the Aiken Trials. Established in 1942, this time-honored tradition is the first leg of Aiken’s Triple Crown. This fun, family friendly event draws upwards of 10,000 spectators each year for tailgating, vendors and competitive racing. This year’s event will be held March 18 at the Aiken Training Track. Aiken Trials, 538 Two Notch Road, Southeast, Aiken, South Carolina, 29801; 803.648.4631
It’s not springtime without a steeplechase! The tradition of steeplechasing continues in Aiken at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase. Don’t miss this long-standing and beloved Aiken tradition featuring five exhilarating horse jumping races, a village of shops, live music and much more. The event takes place on March 25 at the Aiken Steeplechase Racecourse. This event, along with the Aiken Trials and the Pacers and Polo event, make up Aiken’s Triple Crown. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For more information on tickets, click here. Aiken Steeplechase Racecourse, 2020 Richland Avenue East, Aiken, South Carolina, 29801, 803.648.9641
The Annual Aiken Horse Show brings more equestrian experiences for all to enjoy. Whether you are an equestrian, an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff or simply looking for a new experience, you are sure to enjoy this long-running horse show. Started in 1916, the Aiken Horse Show remains one of the most prominent equestrian competitions in Aiken. Held on the grounds of Hitchcock Woods, the largest privately owned urban forest in the country, nature lovers will delight in this spectacular setting. The 2,100 acres and 70 miles of sandy trails at Hitchcock Woods have been a haven for pedestrian and equestrian users since the early 1800s. Happening March 31-April 2, this year marks the 107th Annual show.
While there are many equestrian events in the area, Thoroughbred Country is so much more than horses. Home to a thriving arts scene, Aiken has a longstanding tradition of nurturing excellence in the arts. One event doing just that is Joye in Aiken. Founded in 2008, Joye in Aiken is named after Joye Cottage, a grand Gilded Age mansion that once hosted performances of some of the world’s greatest artists, attended by some of America’s wealthiest arts patrons. This week-long festival brings over 100 artists to the area performing at various venues throughout Aiken, offering world class musical experiences for all who attend. This year, Joye in Aiken is celebrating its 15th year. For schedule and ticket information, click here.
Fall brings more beloved events to Thoroughbred Country, one of which is the Blessing of the Hounds. The long-running tradition of the Blessing of the Hounds is held on the grounds of Hitchcock Woods each November. Organized by Aiken Hounds, the annual ceremony pays homage to the traditions of foxhunting, the history and heritage of Aiken’s hunting culture and the beloved and skilled hounds that make the sport so exciting. Local clergy members officiate, providing the blessing each year. This year will mark the 110th annual event. Open to the public. For dates, times and more, click here.
If you go
Visitors to the area will be pleased to find one-of-a-kind lodging options from bed and breakfasts and inns housed in historic homes to suites and cabins. With a wide range of dining options, there’s something for every palate. From seafood and barbecue to Southern-style cooking and international cuisine, the options are plentiful. Round out your stay by shopping some of the best antique shops and galleries around.