Horsing around in the mountains
An hour north of Charlottesville lies some of this area’s most beautiful landscape. At the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Rappahannock County has stayed much the same for the 40 years this reporter has traveled through it. Protected by a land ordinance that prevents development on lots smaller than 25 acres, the undulating land remains a true Virginia landmark.
Home to the world-renowned Inn at Little Washington, the quaint, antique town of Sperryville, and Old Rag Mountain, this county offers a lot more than just sightseeing or hiking (although those could fill a full day, too).
The Bleu Rock Inn, located between Sperryville and Washington, Virginia, sits on a knoll surrounded by undisturbed rolling green hills. Of the many reasons to visit Bleu Rock, horse racing ranks with the vistas. On March 2, the Rappahannock Hunt / Point-to-Point races continue a tradition that began in the fifties. Each point-to-point race has its own unique stamp, but usually they involve a wide swath of land, an open course, and some powerful steeds hell-bent on the finish line. In many races, much of the designated course is out of the viewer’s vision, but here Janet O’Keefe, the first woman co-master of the hunt, says that nine tenths of this track can be seen from the field.
The all-day event includes junior, timber, flat course, and draft horse (also known as thunder) races. There will be no foxhunt that day, but the hounds will be there on exhibition. Even though this kind of event (weather allowing) begs for tailgate parties and general outdoor fun, there will be concessions available outside as well as at the pub inside the Bleu Rock.
Driving to the racecourse is a breathtaking experience, with the mountains rising majestically on either side of the two-lane road. Renovated old houses crown small knolls, overseeing rolling pastures. The Bleu Rock is one of these original structures, although throughout most of its 100-year life it was a working farm. Watching the horses go through their paces with the mountains in the background can only enhance the sheer exhilaration of a day in the country.
The Bleu Rock Inn is located off of Route 521, several miles past Sperryville. On Saturday, March 2, race post time 12.30pm. $5 in advance, $8 on race day. Free general parking; some reserved spaces are available. Tailgating requires a special-use permit, which can be acquired by calling the Inn at 540-987-3190. For tickets and any other information, call Janet O’Keefe at 540-547-2993.