Hats off to the 70th Annual Block House Steeplechase

Chloe and Taylor of Campobello, SC, have been raised to appreciate the dressy traditions of the Block House Steeplechase.

Tryon is an equestrian oasis all year round, but in May, the culture crescendos to a gallop. In this month’s print issue, we jump into the history behind the 70th Annual Block House Steeplechase, happening on Saturday (http://www.boldlife.com/steeplechase-founders-vision-endures/); talk to trainer/farrier Jason Brickner about the popularity of the Icelandic breed (http://www.boldlife.com/tolt-and-consequences/); and check in on the first-ever “Art of the Horse” group installation, happening in Tryon, Saluda, Columbus, and Landrum SC (http://www.boldlife.com/trotting-to-the-forefront/).

Having thoroughly covered the four-legged set, we’d like to give a hats-off, pants-on shout-out to the lively spectator scene. The Steeplechase is a rollicking tradition for many foothills and upstate families, and donning vibrant apparel — for the ladies, always topped by Derby-esque hats — is as de rigueur as jockey satin and mint juleps (beer is sold “by donation”; liquor is BYO).

A contest for tailgate decorating happens at 11am, followed by two clothing competitions — the “Go to Hell Pants Contest” and the all-important hat contest.

“There has always been a tradition of elegance at these events. Horses seem to bring that out in people, and it’s an interesting contrast to the raw power of the horse. Ladies in beautiful hats and elegant dresses versus the highly muscled athletic horses — that are also very beautiful,” muses Suzanne Strickland, a local equestrian and owner of Stone Soup restaurant.

Autumn Ashmore of Campobello, SC, attends the Steeplechase with her family, including husband Jason — a return spectator for decades — and daughters Chloe and Taylor, who enjoy getting styled up for the annual event.

“It makes me happy to know that my girls are the newest generation to appreciate this great tradition,” says Ashmore.

The 70th Annual Block House Steeplechase, May 7. See blockhouseraces.com for ticket information.

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