Sixty years have passed since a group of horse and hunting enthusiasts at Chastain Park in North Atlanta started
what was to become the Shakerag Hounds. The club then moved to the outer fringes of North Fulton County to a member’s farm. In the early nineteen sixties the hunt purchased property located just across the Fulton County line in Forsyth County, where we stayed for almost thirty years. In 1991 the hunt relocated to our present site in Madison County. Shakerag
Hounds has always been about change, but anchored in 300 years of foxhunting tradition. As we embark into a new decade of club life, we are building on sixty years of dedication, financial commitment, and sweat equity by the membership, with the help and support of the community and landowners.
The 19th-century surveyors who laid out Tryon stuck a compass in the map and drew the town boundaries as a circle a mile and a half in diameter. At the center of that circle stands the Tryon Horse. Todays landmark is the fifth-generation Tryon Horse. A jumbo version of one of the most popular toys they made, the Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers built the first Horse in 1928 for the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.
More than 200 farms and training centers are devoted to breeding, training and showing breeds such as the Thoroughbred, Paso Fino, Missouri Foxtrotter, Arabian, Morgan, miniature horse, quarter horse, hunter/jumper, and the gentle giants, draft horses among others. One can’t come to Marion County without becoming aware immediately that this is the “Horse Capital of the World.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture in early 1999, put its seal of approval on promotions using that label. The USDA’s Census of Agriculture reported that Marion led all U.S. counties in total number of horses and ponies in residence in 1997, cut-off year for the five-year census. Furthermore, the county ranked third nationally (behind two counties in Kentucky) in total value of horses sold. Horses are big business in Marion County. Between 45 and 50 different breeds are represented in the area. Nearly 29,000 residents are employed in the county’s Thoroughbred industry alone.
Presently, there are 12 miles of horse trails in the park. These trails are designed for equestrians. Bicycles are not allowed on these trails. Dogs are also not allowed on horse trails. These trails go through a variety of environments. While almost unnoticeable, there are remains of old home sites from the 1800s. An agriculture society once occupied this area and, as the years have gone by, nature is taking back what had been altered by man. The state park was established in 1970. However, until the state park acquired additional land in the mid 1990s, private companies were managing portions of the properties for timber production. The overall state park management plan is to help provide sound resource preservation and conservation. However, due to the various uses of the land before it was acquired by the state park, there are numerous environments from “natural” forested areas to formerly “timber” managed areas. Along the creeks, large hardwoods with high canopies will be seen. Some of the formerly “timber” managed areas are now predominately pine forests and a few “old” abandoned field areas. While the park is full of wildlife, the deer population is truly wild and at the first sign of a person hiking a trail a deer will usually scatter. If you are riding horseback, the deer will generally stand in place for riders to get close-up views (the deer seem to see the trail rider as just another critter rather than a human). Because of the soil types in this area of the country, there are no “through the stream” trail crossings as streams are all crossed by way of culvert bridges. While there are some grades, most trail riders consider Watson Mill Bridge trails’ terrain is not as steep as mountain trails further north nor as flat as the trails further south. This is one of the reasons equestrian trails are so popular at this site. There is something for everyone. At the head of the horse trail system, there is a camping area for equestrians wishing to stay longer than just a day.
Since opening its gates in September of 1995, the Park has already served as the equestrian venue for the largest sporting event in the world: The 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Our Park was the setting for all equestrian events, as well as the first ever mountain bike competition and the final two events of the modern pentathlon of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Georgia International Horsepark. Today, the tradition continues as the Park plays host to a remarkable variety of special events. Whether you are planning an equestrian competition, festival, concert, wedding reception, family reunion or sports competition, the Park’s sprawling 1,400 acres can accommodate events of all shapes and sizes.
It would be hard to name just one reason why Aiken is an ideal place for horsemen. If one had to, it would probably be that Aiken hosts one of the most vibrant horse cultures in the country. Back in the days of the Winter Colony in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, horse-lovers were initially attracted to the area because of the sandy soil and the mild winter weather. They kept coming back because in Aiken they were surrounded by like-minded people; people who cared about horses and about their particular equestrian passion, whether it were polo, hunting, driving or just riding through the woods. What makes Aiken an equestrian paradise today is the same thing that made it a horseman’s Mecca a century ago: Aiken is a place where the Horse is King.
From horse shows and rodeos, to concerts and symphonies; the Equestrian Center is the heart of Wills Park hosting a variety of events throughout the year (please click on the Calendar for a current schedule of events). A few facts- 8 shed row type barns with covered aisle ways, 298 stalls, 1 covered ring 150 by 350 feet
Since its completion in June 1994, the Equestrian Center has become the premiere facility in Georgia for all types of equestrian and canine activities to include hunter / jumper, dressage, combined training, all breed and pony club shows.