2017 - Blessing of the Hounds
An Aiken Thanksgiving Tradition
Aiken Hounds’ Drag Hunt celebrates their opening meet with the Blessing of the Hounds, on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that has become increasingly popular for spectators. What a wonderful way to start the day walking into the infamous & glorious Hitchcock Woods. This 2100 acre preserve, is the nation’s largest privately owned urban forest, dedicated to equestrians and pedestrians. A day to give thanks to Tommy Hitchcock, Jr and his sister Helen Hitchcock, who lovingly created a foundation in 1939, donating 1,191 acres of woodland. (More Info)
This social event continues to be a gathering place where members of the community can catch up with friends, and admire the sport of Fox Hunting.
A “drag” hunt means that the scent of a fox is dragged ahead of time throughout the woods, with a designated feeding area for the hounds to represent the “kill.”
The various colors of jackets that are worn represent various status. The red coats are actually called “pinks” and are only worn by Masters of various hunts. The green coats are worn by staff, Huntsman, whipper ins, (those who help keep the pack together and on scent).
Everyone else is in black or very dark navy blue, and divided into 3 different flights. 1st Fligh follows the Huntsman and the hounds and are a jumping flight.
2nd flight follows 1st flight, but does not jump. 3rd flight is the walk trot group, and because the “drag” is predetermined, they usually head out first to find the best spot to “view” the action.
After the blessing, colors are given out to deserving members, who have demonstrated above and beyond dedication to the group. The colors for Aiken Hounds are light beige and sewn onto the collar. The rule of thumb is to NEVER pass the Huntsman, or someone wearing colors.
It takes approximately 35 dedicated volunteers to help with parking, crowd control, setting up Memorial Gate and the show ring, handing out programs and serving the stirrup cup, consisting of 7 to 8 gallons of Sherry & Port , 10-15 gallons of water for the riders, 3 gallons of lemonade, 750 cookies, 150 ham biscuits and 1500 cups.
And did I mention the time involved by ALL riders, getting their horses fit, groomed and braided. Tack cleaned, boots polished, jackets and stock ties clean….
Thanks to ALL for this special event.