Bruce Duchossois loved to make his peers feel at home. Fond of the horse show scene of his youth, peppered with hospitality and a family feel at each competition, Bruce wanted every equestrian to experience the “feels like home” sentiment that he loved so much.
Since Bruce’s passing in July of 2014, the Aiken Horse Park Foundation has carried on in his honor, elevating the bar for hospitality on the horse show circuit and always making it a point to make his presence felt in every small detail.
“Bruce had so much love for Aiken,” the Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s marketing and communications director Kate Boggan said. “He stepped in and bought the property when it was in danger of being sold to developers. There is so much equestrian history at this venue, and he had this vision of creating that old-fashioned, spectator-centric horse show feel that he grew up around.”
A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Aiken Horse Park Foundation is dedicated to giving back to and promoting growth within the community. For that reason, one of the biggest draws on the show calendar each year is the Aiken Charity Horse Show, a hunter/jumper show that donates much of its proceeds to a local charity. This show, Kate says, is the ultimate dedication to Bruce’s legacy.
“That show is sort of the heart and soul of the Foundation,” she said. “It’s a dedicated homage to Bruce and we try to leave no stone unturned when it comes to hospitality and ensuring the exhibitors have all they need.”
Often, shows at Aiken Horse Park are referred to as “boutique” feeling because of their hospitality. And the addition of a charitable beneficiary only makes that feeling stronger. “To date we’ve done over $110,000 in charitable donations,” Kate explained. “We feel that it’s important to do as much as we can for our local community, and it was always really important to Bruce to have that real family feel.”
Kate tells stories of opening the park for free admission to the public on show weekends; a bus brings over senior citizens from the local retirement home for a day of equestrian sport in shady tents, catered cocktail hours are ordinary occurrences, and the spectator count was more than twice the projected number for the inaugural Aiken Eventing Showcase in 2019. Indeed, the Aiken Horse Park Foundation has made good on its promise to honor Bruce in all its efforts — and the local community takes notice.
Bruce Duchossois left a lasting legacy on equestrian sports, and that legacy is honored each day at the Aiken Horse Park, where hospitality is the priority and feeling like family is the goal. It’s no wonder that riders of all disciplines look forward to their outings at Bruce’s Field. Undoubtedly, each hoofprint on the grassy infield that Bruce had such big dreams for is a little token of thanks, a symbol of the equestrian community that calls this venue home — all thanks to Bruce.
You can experience Bruce’s Field for yourself! Tickets for the $50,000 Liftmaster Grand Prix Eventing Showcase at the Aiken Horse Park are available now. The event will be held February 28-29, 2020. To learn more about the Aiken Horse Park Foundation and Bruce’s Field, click here. You can also listen to a special interview with Kate Boggan on the latest episode of the Major League Eventing podcast here.