In its earlier history, Stave Mill Farm was a part of a distinguished racehorse stud named Nydrie Farm, owned by the Van Clief family. Nydrie Farm is part of American horse racing history, as the co-breeder of the 1947 Kentucky Derby winner, “Jet Pilot.” Going further back, the property was known as the Tom Coles Farm, and in the 1890’s British financier and sugar baron Harry Douglas Forsyth purchased it and built a vast manor house which he called Nydrie. Forsyth’s horse farm was scaled big like his home, and because lots of hay was needed, trees were logged from the woods on the property and a mill was built to turn the lumber into barrel staves. The manor house and mill are long gone, but “Stave Mill Farm” is going strong. The part of the original seven-hundred acres dedicated to the mill is now the site of our proud venture. After our move from Crozet to Esmont, it took just over a year to renovate and make ours.
Starting with an eight-stall, rudimentary barn, we teamed with The Gaines Group and Robb Construction to create a state-of-the-art twelve-stall barn which includes spacious common areas and a one-bedroom apartment. The vision driving our project was to have a boutique facility readily able to accommodate both our horses and the clients we share with Williams Dressage. Lucas Equine built our custom 12 x 12’ stall fronts and removable partitions, each with its own commercial-grade fan, lights, a generous ceiling height, and a Dutch door facing outside. Six of our stalls feature access to 12 x 24’ sand paddocks. All construction and design decisions were made with safety and comfort in mind for our horses; aisles paved with rubber bricks is just one example.
We approached the design of the covered arena with care and thought. King Construction built our arena to allow the outside to be experienced while riding inside, offering riders a unique experience while training. There is a generous opening to the structure which starts at a 5’-high kick wall surrounding the arena and ends at the ceiling height, permitting natural light and fresh air to suffuse the training area. A custom motorized curtain can be activated during the winter season or in inclement weather. At the entrance, facing the length of the arena, we’ve installed a viewing platform with room for at least 50 spectators, and the far wall is mirrored above the kick wall. There’s also ample lighting and a premium sound system, in addition to an integrated teacher/student communication system.
After researching a broad variety of footing options, we approached Nick Attwood to source and install Attwood’s Pinnacle footing, which features a dust-free polymer sand custom blended for dressage use. Since good footing is paramount to our horses’ well-being and successful development, we groom the arena regularly and laser-grade yearly.
PINNACLE™ by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces
Attwood Equestrian Surfaces’ Pinnacle is a proprietary blend that contains polymered sand. Requiring no watering, and completely dust-free, it is the first choice of equestrian professionals. With decades of own research on how a horse interacts with its training surface, Pinnacle has proven time again to provide superior support, cushion and grip needed for the horse to perform at its best, safely.
Our horses get the advantage of individualized turnouts in well-maintained paddocks with three-board fencing. A run-in shed furnished with fans and electricity is offered in each paddock. We also provide a sand paddock and two smaller grass paddocks for horses to use in bad weather or as rehab areas for horses recovering from injury.
In addition to open, grassy expanses, Stave Mill Farm has an abundance of woods. We took the initiative to clear new trails and restore existing ones for our horses to use on a regular basis. It’s important for everyone to have the chance to get out of the sandbox!
Haymaking and Compost
One of our aims for the farm is to be as self-sufficient as possible—producing our own hay for example, with the help of an experienced local hay farmer. Currently, we are undertaking the renovation of the former 35-acre hayfield on our property which once served Nydrie Farm so it can provide this service once more, to us. Our horses help with our aim for self-sufficiency by providing plenty of manure. Instead of disposing of this natural asset, we decided to take on creating our own Black Gold. It was our plan to do this relatively quickly, but we learned the full composting cycle requires 12 months. We’re already using the compost on our hayfield, but we anticipate the need to sell surplus supply from time to time.
Please contact us for more information.
Photographs by Caitlin Garvey and Kate Samuels.
Stave Mill Farm
6265 Alberene Road
Esmont, VA 22937