A Day at the Races - My Family Travels

Less than an hour outside of our nation’s capital sits Virginia’s horse country: apple trees, rolling hills, vineyards, stone fences and colonial mansions. While most equestrian activities are geared toward those big enough to ride a stallion, it’s amazing how much fun kids can have at a horse race.

The Point to Point and steeplechase races deliver an intimate look at the horses, jockeys and Virginia hunt country life up close.

There are scores of races scattered throughout Virginia hunt country. The spring Point to Point horses race in widely varying figures over hills and fields and parkland. Spectators are scattered throughout the course, often within feet of the jockeys’ path. Kids feel like they’re part of the race when the mud flies high above their heads as the horses thunder by.

For us, the Point to Point race at the Oatlands Plantations near Leesburg (35 miles from Washington, DC) was wonderful: eight races, a grassy viewing field, picnics ranging from Kentucky Fried to Champagne, all nestled near a 19th-century plantation with four acres of formal gardens. We “bet” against each other simply by choosing our favored horse name– Madeleine was the Angel in Disguise, Jamie was the Nasty Knight and so on. Between races we played hide and seek in the gardens and then returned to our pole position for another round of betting (Dad won $13).

In autumn, the steeplechase races showcase the Virginia foliage. The running of the Morven Park Races in Leesburg draws over 10,000 people, all spread across the hillsides above the course.

The parks and racetracks are surrounded by pastoral countryside, wineries (of varying quality) and picturesque towns dating back to the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. And of course the horse farms, where Angel in Disguise rests before performing at the next race.

Some races charge individual admission, others charge by the car-full. Or, in the case of our family, the SUV-full!

For information, log on to http://www.oatlands.org/index.htm, http://www.morvenpark.org/mprace.htm or Virginia is for Horse Lovers.

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