Cooler autumn weather brings horse lovers to Aiken for the Fall Steeplechase, polo and horse-driving competitions, all events that highlight the city’s long history with equestrian sports – and its love of a good party.

The steeplechase, held Oct. 25, ( offers the excitement of a horse-and-rider race over fence and ditch obstacles. The tailgating and tent-party scene are almost as much a part of the day as the race, and visitors turn out in their best – coats and ties for men, dresses and fancy hats for women. Another reason to consider a trip: The Fall Steeplechase typically has more available rail-side space than the sold-out spring event.

The Katydid Combined Driving Event, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, offers the chance to watch beautifully turned-out horses pulling carriages through dressage maneuvers, a carriage race over a 15-km course with obstacles, and a timed driving challenge around cones. “People come from all over the East Coast,” said Peggy Dils, manager for the Katydid event (, which takes place about 12 miles outside of the Aiken city limits. Admission is free, but consider buying a ticket for the Sunday brunch (; proceeds benefit the Aiken Land Conservancy).

Aiken is home to a long list of polo clubs, including the New Bridge Polo & Country Club, which has tournaments running most of the fall (polo hotline: 803-644-7706), ending with the Fall Classic, Oct. 24-Nov. 2, a six- to eight-goal match. The Aiken Polo Club – one of the nation’s oldest – holds games most Sundays at 3 p.m. at historic Whitney Field in what Aiken calls its “downtown horse district.” Tailgating there is an Aiken Sunday tradition (

If all the horsey activities whet your appetite for more, check out the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, (, located in the historic Hopelands Gardens. The gardens ( are a great place to stroll, unwind and consider the way Aiken has grown from a post-Civil War “winter colony” for wealthy, horse-loving Northerners to a flourishing community still intent on celebrating all things equestrian.

Area information:

Amber Veverka