The weather was just perfect as my friends and I set off for Upperville, Virginia to begin the annual Hunt Country Stable Tour, a self-driven once a year tour that would take us into some of Hunt Country's most illustrious stables and training facilities. We started at Upperville in the morning, planning to work our way back to Middleburg in time for lunch. I knew that we were in for some beautiful farms and horses, but didn't expect the diversity of demonstrations and other animals that we would see on our day in Hunt Country.
Trappe Hill Farm was our first stop. Located a ways down a side road off of Route 50, this farm has about 30 horses, which are trained for racing (on the flat and steeplechasing), foxhunting and endurance riding. They also had a couple of foals that were adorable. Though we missed the swimming demonstration, there is a pond outside where the horses do swim. On the tour, the Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center and Stables also has a pool, used for conditioning and rehabilitating horses.
Though Trappe Hill was our first stop, I already wanted to stake a claim to one of the lawn chairs in the shade of a willow tree beside the pond and spend the afternoon in this calming environment. It's being on an idyllic farm like Trappe Hill that made my friends and I want to leave the city behind!
Next we headed down the road to Fox View Farm, where a crowd had gathered to see Laura Cramer and Sandra Conchar, the National Side Saddle Champion for 2006, jump fences riding side saddle. That was pretty neat to see, as I have seen photos of people riding side saddle before, but never seen them jump in person. It seems like one would feel so unbalanced and up close looks like a difficult discipline. A crowd gathered at Fox
We also visited the beautiful stables at Rokeby, owned by the Mellon family. This farm has produced Derby and Belmont winners. The stables are very open and clean. Horses here have views of bright green rolling Virginia grassland and lots of fresh air. They also produce some spectacular cheese in their dairy and beagles for beagling, a sport from Great Britain. Ah to be a horse at Rokeby!
Before dining at the historic Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, we made one more stop at Heronwood Farm, where the main attraction for us wasn't the horses. At Heronwood, besides breeding award-winning thoroughbreds, they breed alpacas. You know, those funny looking animals whose hair is used to make warm sweaters and scarves.
All in all, the stable tour was definitely more than just thoroughbred farms, it was a quirky and diverse and a beautiful way to spend the day.