While I was excited to see the horse show at Upperville (separate post about it coming soon), I was equally excited to finally see the equestrian-themed small town Middleburg and the beautiful Salamander Resort & Spa.
Middleburg is a little over an hour outside of Washington D.C. in Northern Virginia, and about 15 minutes east of Upperville. It is nicknamed the “Nation’s Hunt and Horse Capital.”
Stone walls line the streets and farms throughout Virginia Horse Country. There is something very authentic and nostalgia-inducing about seeing acres of green grass outlined by stone walls and seemingly endless fences, all surrounding a stable quietly settled on top of a hill. I have to get out of my car for a photo every time.
A Middleburg address is so coveted that the post office has almost three times as many boxes (2000) as the town has residents (751). It’s a historic town steeped in tradition that has attracted prominent names, like the Kennedy and Du Pont families, among many others.
Just up the road from town is the stunning Salamander Resort & Spa, where I started my day.
A peek at the front of the resort as you drive in.
…but my first stop had to be the barn. It fits in seamlessly with the resort. They have 22 stalls total in three separate wings inside. They even have a meeting space for their equestrian themed team-building programs for companies. Sounds like my kind of corporate retreat.
If there weren’t any rooms available, I would really be okay with staying in this beautiful barn with the horses.
The barn’s lobby was very welcoming and just off the front patio which had comfortable chairs and benches to lounge on as well.
I started the morning at 7am with Salamander’s Yoga in the Stable program, which was a very unique experience that I recommend to anyone staying at the hotel. The horses were turned out on this particular morning so I didn’t get to hear their ambient noises during it. However, sometimes they will be inside during the yoga sessions and you can listen to them softly munching on their hay or letting out little huffs here and there as they shift in their stalls. Salamander offers the class two times a week at 7am, and once a week at 7pm, and each session is one hour long. The classes are also open to local residents. If the weather is too cold or rainy, there is also a room inside the barn where sessions can be held instead.
Yoga in the Stable is an enjoyable experience whether you’re a beginner (like me) or an advanced yogi. Our instructor did a great job of keeping each exercise flowing and offering alternatives to each position that make it easier or more challenging depending on your experience level. During the yoga session, I picked up on many useful exercises that also translate to being very helpful in the show ring, for example regulating your breathing, maintaining an awareness of your center of balance, and learning how to control different muscle groups independently of one another. If you fall in love with the Yoga in the Stable class, Salamander also offers a Yoga on Horseback session (yes, literally on horseback) twice a week for 30 minutes, which I’m sure is a one-of-a-kind experience.
After yoga, I received a tour of the barn. I had no idea until my tour that Salamander offers overnight boarding for you to bring your horse along with you on vacation. The equestrian center offers all kinds of a la carte services for while your horse is enjoying his stay. No word yet on if they screen Secretariat on a projector for the horses at night or provide turn down service with peppermints atop a pillow of fresh shavings, but I’m sure it’s not out of the question.
The path leading up from the equestrian center to the garden and hotel, on a foggy morning.
Spacious and clean wash racks with hot and cold water.
Obligatory tack room shot.
It’s all in the details. Even the bridle hooks were shaped like little foxes.
I loved the coolers with the Salamander logo on them.
This guy was resting in his stall.
After my tour, it was time to ride! Here’s my between-the-ears shot, out in the ring and ready! I rode their large pony, Gent, short for Gentleman’s Quarterly.
While I was at Salamander, I did a “takeover” of their Instagram account for the day and posted some of my favorite shots (also pictured above) to their official account. It was so much fun. Be sure to follow them @salamanderresort!
We rode throughout the resort grounds and then wandered into the trails toward where their zip line and tree top canopy experience is.
Rooms and suites overlooking the green lawn. There are four levels of guest rooms each with different equestrian themes, and each floor is also designed to reflect a different season – spring, summer, fall, winter. Photographs of horse scenes hang on the walls of each floor. Each room has a balcony and roughly half of all of the rooms also have fireplaces.
The resort is meant to feel like a personal estate, inside and out, rather than a hotel. It opened in 2013, but the design of each space is done in such a tasteful, thoughtful way that you would think it’s a property that has been passed down through generations.
Gent showing me around.
The backyard also features an insanely cool life-size chess set. It got quite a lot of use in the time I was there.
A view of the stables and the Bull Run Mountains in the backdrop as we returned over the hill from our trail ride.
After my ride, I received a little behind the scenes tour of another area of the stables – the hay loft, which was actually very neat. Here I am heading up the stairs off the main lobby that I showed you earlier.
The view from up above! There are a few very cool aspects of this space. For one, you can walk throughout the stable from above and see down into each horse’s stall. It also makes it easy for the staff to throw hay from storage directly into the stalls at feeding time.
The guests aren’t the only ones relaxing at the resort.
The other very cool aspect of the loft space is its use during cocktail parties and other events held by Salamander in the stables. The horses are turned out during events, and the stable aisles cleaned and transformed into an intimate and elegant setting, complete with soft lighting, tables, and even a sound system brought in. If there is a live band, sometimes they’ll play from up above in this exact space. How special would it be to have a reception or party here?!
The crew at the equestrian center with Gent the pony. Not only do they have awesome matching uniforms and sparkly Salamander logo hats (#ROOTD), but they were also super friendly and knowledgeable. I was sad to say goodbye after my ride because everyone was so nice!
The perfect view. As you can see, the stables are kept immaculate throughout the day and evening.
After a morning of yoga and riding, I made a quick stop off at Upperville, where Salamander had a great tent setup.
If I finish first in the Spa class at Salamander do I get one of these?
Salamander is also an official sponsor at Upperville.
The Salamander jump was a fixture in all of the classes in the main jumper ring throughout the week.
After the show, I headed back to Downtown Middleburg!
I loved all the little equestrian touches throughout the town like these fox signs.
Salamander has a cafe downtown called Market Salamander, where I ate a delicious lunch.
Market Salamander is also the perfect place to pick up sandwiches, sides, and beverages to take with you for a picnic at a local winery or steeplechase event, or in this case, to take to a day of spectating at Upperville.
Market Salamander is available to cater events and create custom menus for whatever occasion you have in mind! Sounds good to me.
My mouth is literally watering. This is Salamander’s Butterscotch Pecan Scone, and they are BEYOND DELICIOUS. I made the mistake of only getting one of them, which I ate half of with my lunch and tried to save the other half for an after dinner treat. Unfortunately I ate it in the car within an hour because I couldn’t wait any longer. They are so good. And I just realized you can order a box of them from ShopSalamander.com. Omg. #SendScones
Another view of the inside of Market Salamander. I love the painted clouds on the high ceilings.
There is also a very cute little room upstairs at Market Salamander. In addition to catering and creating custom menus, Salamander can also design your wedding cake. This room would work perfectly for tastings or to hold an intimate get-together pre/post event.
E. Washington St. is the main area downtown, which is very walkable and has lots of unique shops with antiques, equestrian-themed gifts, vintage toys, and more. It’s a lot of fun for just wandering, browsing, and texting pics of cool things to your friends and Mom, like I did.
The Upper Crust is another popular bakery in downtown Middleburg that has been around for a long time. Unfortunately they had closed at 4pm when I went by on a Monday, so I didn’t get to try it out for myself. It comes highly recommended, though, so I hope to make it there the next time I’m in Middleburg!
Cuppa Giddy Up is a popular coffee shop to grab something to-go, also on the main stretch of E. Washington.
An equestrian window display in downtown Middleburg for the acclaimed Tri-County Feeds, which is an amazing tack shop located about 20 minutes from Middleburg. It deserves its own photos and write-up a little bit later.
Not an uncommon sight: A horse trailer rolling through downtown Middleburg.
I have to pause for a second to figure out where to even begin writing about this place because it is that awesome and that much of a MUST-DO while in Middleburg. Introducing Middleburg Tack Exchange, located at 103 W. Federal St., which is just parallel to E. Washington and within walking distance.
Middleburg Tack Exchange is an equestrian consignment shop for high-end tack and apparel for both adults and children. They even have some small gift items, Breyer horses, vintage horse books, and more. Their shop is over 4,000 square feet and they really have everything you could ever need at incredibly reasonable prices. Downstairs there is also a sale section where I found like-new Tailored Sportsman breeches for $35. I can’t say enough good things about what an amazing selection of tack and apparel they have. I spent over an hour here on my first trip and then went back a second time a week later before leaving town. If you are looking for something in particular but aren’t located in VA, you can also call them and inquire about purchasing from them and having the item shipped to you!
They even have coats and related hunt items if you’re in town to go on a traditional Virginia hunt.
Me, just trying on various things and wishing I had more of a reason to buy basically everything in the store.
I also learned a personal lesson on my trip to Middleburg: Never, ever travel without all of your riding stuff – even if you don’t expect to ride. My horse is retired, but I still have all of his tack and my riding apparel from when I competed with him. However, I generally don’t bring it anywhere with me because even though I spend 95% of my time around horses, I sadly don’t get the chance to ride very often. So somehow it didn’t occur to me to pack a pair of breeches, my helmet, and boots when I left Florida in early May for this first leg of horse shows for the blog. A few weeks into my trip, I got an e-mail that I would have the opportunity to ride on my visit to Salamander. On a whim a few days before this ride, I decided to try on a pair of consigned tall boots while I was at Middleburg Tack Exchange and they ended up fitting me perfectly – foot size, calf width, height and all – and they were made of supple Italian leather in perfect condition. It was honestly like the equestrian version of Cinderella’s slipper that fit just right. So now I have a new pair of tall boots that I’m completely in love with and got for an amazing price. I also had multiple people pay me the ultimate equestrian compliment when I wore them, “Are those customs?” (And yes they will absolutely be in my car with me, along with all of my other riding stuff, when I leave for the next month of summer shows.)
Saddles at Middleburg Tack Exchange are located downstairs, and their saddle inventory can also be viewed online!
Really cool old hat boxes. (I have a hat obsession so I really like these.)
Another Middleburg landmark is the Tack Box, which is a tack store just down the street from Middleburg Tack Exchange. They had a great selection of items and I loved their window art for Upperville.
Also nearby in downtown Middleburg is the official office of the Chronicle of the Horse!!
Just like Middleburg the town boasts decades of history, the Chronicle of the Horse has been publishing industry news since 1937. When I was a junior rider, my mom made me a really neat decoupaged shelf using covers from the Chronicle of the Horse because I was/am a huge fan.
Although I didn’t snap a photo, it’s worth noting that right next-door to the Chronicle of the Horse offices is the National Sporting Library and Museum. The overview of the museum says it’s dedicated to “preserving, promoting and sharing the literature, art and culture of equestrian, angling and field sports. Founded in 1954, the institution has over 26,000-books dating from the 16th-21st centuries.” I didn’t have a chance to visit this time, but would love to check it out on a future trip. Admission is $10 except for on Wednesdays and on the last Sunday of the month, when it’s free.
One evening after the show, I ate dinner at the Red Fox Tavern at the Red Fox Inn, which was established in 1728 and features traditional old Virginia style decor. The downstairs dining is more formal, but on the second floor of the Tavern is the Night Fox Pub, which has affordable pub fare in a more casual atmosphere.
The dining room on the first floor feels authentic and historic. I can imagine that the candle light bouncing off the handcrafted wood makes for a romantic setting in the evening.
Up the stairs, another dining room. These rooms can also be rented out for private events and weddings.
After exploring more of downtown Middleburg, I returned to Salamander for dinner at Harrimans restaurant at the resort.
More equestrian details at the resort. I love these big barn doors as you walk down the sidewalk toward the entrance.
This is the living room that you walk right into as you enter through the front doors of Salamander. I love that they did this instead of walking into a traditional “lobby.” It’s warm and inviting and all of the antiques and equestrian accents make it feel like someone’s personal living room. Welcome home, I’m just going to stay here forever.
The equestrian artwork throughout the resort is honestly breathtaking.
There are several nice terraces surrounding the resort where you can relax outside and overlook the rest of the property. Here is the view from one terrace that overlooks the garden and stables. If you are looking at this and planning your dream equestrian wedding, you are not alone.
A view of Harrimans restaurant from the outside, showcasing its dramatic panoramic views. The restaurant was named after the family who used to own the property.
The dinner I had with my boyfriend at Harrimans made for the most special evening of my trip. This is by far one of the most equestrian themed areas of the resort. As you can see immediately upon entering, there is stable-like ironwork throughout.
Walking into the restaurant. The intricate equestrian details won me over instantly. The decor was the perfect balance of adhering to a “theme” but still maintaining a very upscale, refined atmosphere for a very memorable outing.
Another view inside Harrimans.
All of the tables have great views of the sweeping lawn and even the stable lit in the distance as the sun sets.
The names of the cocktails are all famous horses, so I had an extremely difficult time deciding if I wanted to pick a drink based off of my favorite horse, or off of the ingredients in the drink. I ended up choosing the Red Rum for the ingredients, but was also feeling biased toward Hickstead. #EquestrianProblems
All of the food we ordered was delicious and presented beautifully. Everything had a very intricate taste while also remaining light and healthy. Dishes enjoyed (clockwise from top left): The Spring Collection Salad, Mozzarella Caprese, Yohanan Farm Pastured Chicken, Agnolotti “San Leo” Dumplings.
Drinks: Adios Butler and Red Rum
Dessert: Red Velvet and an amuse-bouche collection of treats. The Red Velvet was especially amazing.
Even the chairs have equestrian hints, with handles and horseshoe frames.
Harrimans has a beautiful private dining area adorned with equestrian ribbons and trophies. How fun would it be to have a special barn dinner here or a celebratory dinner after a show?
Harrimans also offers smores kits for dessert that you can take out to enjoy at the fire pits in the back. I saw one family with two adorable kids gleefully roasting marshmallows, surely making memories that will last far beyond their stay at the resort.
Someone else was also enjoying dinner near the hotel.
Back into the living room and it’s time to take off my boots by the fire after an AMAZING day at Salamander and in Middleburg!
My trip to Salamander was obviously very focused on the equestrian aspects of the resort, but they also have a variety of other activities including cooking classes, a spa, zip lining, winery tours, golf, tennis, falconry, and more. It’s a great place to even just take a weekend trip if you live close-by in the D.C. area. Their event calendar for the summer can be viewed here.
I hope you all enjoyed following my day at the Resort and in Middleburg! Next up on the blog will be scenes from the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, which I’m also excited to share.