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Photo by Cat DaveyPhoto by Cat DaveyEver wondered what it would be like to get away from the ice, snow, and cold to spend a week or even a few days enjoying the beautiful, historic south with your horse and fun loving friends?

You aren’t alone. Others have wondered and now become regular fans of Whiskey Road’s famous southern hospitality and perfect weather that blesses winters in the South. For 12 years the Whiskey Road Fox Hounds of Aiken, South Carolina have treated their fellow fox hunters to some of the best sporting to be found in the mid south. An abundant supply of swift coyotes, foxes, and bob cat in the many WRFH fixtures provides a variety of sport for the pack of English and Crossbred hounds guided by their Irish Huntsman, Joseph Hardiman and his skilled staff.

Hunt Week begins January 30 and ends February 7, 2013. Guests may elect to stay the entire time or for a lesser fee participate for a half session. The Toronto North York Hunt winters in Aiken and regularly hunts with Whiskey Road, so guests to WRFH Hunt Week have the added pleasure of hunting with Toronto North York’s English and Crossbred Hounds led by Huntsman Antony Gaylard and MFH Wolf Von Teichman.

Whiskey Road is blessed with a variety of fixtures teaming with wildlife. Woods and streams, pine forests, and open country offer beautiful scenery. The sand footing that has drawn so many equestrian disciplines is safe even in wet weather and is one of the things that our visitors rave about. Fixtures are easy to navigate, with safe, inviting jumps. There is a second flight for those who prefer not to jump. When it is warm, coats are excused.  

Party Central!

The hunting itself is superb and exciting, but the social atmosphere at stirrup cups and apres hunting is another trademark of Whiskey Road and part of the unforgettable adventure of vacationing with them in the lovely Central Savannah River Valley. Members of Whiskey Road take pride in treating their guests to lavish stirrup cup spreads, including omelets, home baked pastries and casseroles, and even a flask filling service.

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A hosted party is held nearly every night, but the official Hunt Ball takes place on Friday evening at Woodside Plantation, where bidders can vie for vacations, caps at Whiskey Road and other hunts (often Virginia hunts offer caps as auction items for our ball) and fine art.

Some of Aiken’s finest homes and inns open their doors for Whiskey Roader parties just for Hunt Week subscribers. In between time, fox hunters relax and tell stories by the roaring hearths of the Willcox Inn or enjoy the drink and fare of the many highly rated restaurants that populate the town.

Where to Stay

Accommodations are no problem for guests with horses. Aiken is such a horse-friendly town that boarding options are myriad.  Do your own at McGehey’s Mile or Full Gallop, or a private barn, opt to board with a WRFH member, or at one of the many area stables that welcome Hunt Week guests.  Hotels in the area vary from modest to grand, with the usual chains, independents, and B&Bs; assuring there is something for everyone – and every budget. Restaurants and shopping in historic downtown Aiken provides plenty of activity; from tack shops to boutiques. For those interested in culture, there is the Performing Arts Center, Aiken Center for the Arts, and a new Railway museum. Especially unique to the town is the new SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare; a state of the art animal shelter, spay clinic, and dog park that draws visitors from across the state. Many downtown restaurants have outdoor seating, and yes, it is quite pleasant outdoors in late January and early February.  This is the south, after all!

A Little History

Aiken came into fame as a winter destination for wealthy northern sportsmen, particularly polo and fox hunters who would ship their horses by railroad to their manicured estates along the landscaped parkways of the historic town. Today, the town and surrounding countryside has grown tastefully with impressive architecturally interesting farms and residences both large and small. All equestrian disciplines from FEI level to local hunter jumper and Gran Prix competitions are held at the numerous show venues that have been established around Aiken. Hunter paces that wind through the countryside are regular events held throughout the year. 

The city council of Aiken recognizes and welcomes the contribution of the equine industry and has designated special Equine Historic Districts where the roads are unpaved and traffic crossing lights are placed at a height that a mounted rider can easily push. Many of the in town horse residences are adjacent to the Aiken Training Track, where Dogwood and Darley Stables train their young stock or along Hitchcock Woods, the 2,000 acre woods managed by the Hitchcock Foundation. The Aiken Hounds drag pack, hunts these woods and on the Saturday of Hunt Week WRFH guests are invited to cap with them.

If you want to extend your season, be catered to by real southern hospitality, and enjoy great sport then pack up your trailer and head to Aiken for Whiskey Road Hunt Week. Contact Mrs. Gail Flintom, Jt. MFH for all the details, including lodging for you and your horse (and a free pass to the Dog Park) by calling 803-644-7650 or via email at gflintom@att.net www.WhiskeyRoadFoxHounds.com.

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