The vision of late eventing owner Bruce Duchossois for a permanent, multi-purpose equestrian facility in South Carolina has reached another step, with capital improvement plans unveiled for the Aiken Horse Park.
On November 8 the Aiken Horse Park Foundation held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Park, the future location of permanent, state of the art multi-purpose facilities capable of accommodating equestrian activities, including clinics, exhibitions, and competitions. The Park will also be available for use by various charitable organizations, reflecting the Aiken County equine industry’s range of positive impact upon the Aiken community.
This development will realize the vision of R. Bruce Duchossois, a prominent figure in the local and national equine communities. Duchossois, who died in July, bought the 66-acre field and steeplechase track in August 2000 with the goal of preserving it from residential development and the long-term goal of turning it into South Carolina’s premier horse park facility.
R. Scot Evans, the President of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, of which Duchossois was an important contributor, talked about his love of Aiken and of the equestrian community there. “Bruce meant a great deal to Aiken’s horse community in that he has supported all disciplines and embraced horsemen of all walks of life. Everybody that’s been touched by Bruce in the equestrian world, as well as his philanthropic efforts, remembers him as a giver and one of the most thoughtful people,” Evans said.
“The Aiken Horse Park is Bruce’s field of dreams come true,” he continued. “Most of all, Bruce’s intention is to bring horse lovers together to share in their passion as well as using the facility for charity and educational purposes. It’s his way of giving back. Bruce felt very strongly about bringing tradition back in every way.”
In June 2013, just over a year before his untimely passing, Duchossois formed the Aiken Horse Park Foundation, a recognized 501(c)(3) charity, with the mission of carrying out his dream for the park. To that effect, the Foundation has established the following mission statement: “The mission of the Aiken Horse Park Foundation is to promote Aiken’s equestrian way of life and to encourage the community’s civic, educational, and charitable endeavors.”
Following construction, to begin this winter, the Aiken Horse Park will feature the Aiken Steeplechase and the Aiken Charity Horse Show, as well as a multitude of other equestrian, charitable, and educational events. In memory of Bruce’s legacy and his incredible gift to the community that he loved, the park has been named “Bruce’s Field”.
Speakers at the ceremony included Jack Wetzel, President of the Aiken Horse Park Foundation Board of Trustees, Richard Duchossois, Bruce’s father, Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, and Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President David Jameson. Though he was not able to attend, Senator Lindsey Graham penned a letter to Wetzel, which was read on the occasion. Other attendees included Martha Ruthven of Congressman Joe Wilson’s office, the Board of the Aiken Horse Park Foundation, four generations of the Duchossois Family, and numerous friends of Bruce, the family, and the Aiken equine community.
“Bruce had a way of bringing people together and if you happened to be an animal lover, all the better. He loved to share his passion for animals and was known for rescuing every type of animal, two or four legged. Having had the good fortune to serve together on the board of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, I first-hand learned of his caring ways for equestrians in their time of need. He will always be remembered as a true gentleman and I’m honored to be part of the Aiken Horse Park Foundation as a member of the board of trustees, building Bruce’s dream,” Evans said.