MORTON, Ill. — Virginia McMahon took up horseback riding as a young girl, developing a passion that continued as a member of her college equestrian team and through her years as an elementary schoolteacher and into retirement as a riding instructor.
She finally realized her dream of owning her own horse barn, which was completed in December 2020, in East Woodstock, Connecticut. “I always rode horses my whole life,” she said. “It’s my salvation and my escape.”
Prior to moving to Connecticut, Virginia and her husband, Christopher, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Maritime Service, lived on Long Island, New York, where they leased a barn for eight years so she could teach riding.
Their daughter, also an avid equestrian, helped out in the barn, but once she went to college, Virginia decided to close the business. “I lamented to my husband I would love to have my own barn, and that planted the idea that maybe we could work something out,” she said. “We began looking for a setting where we wanted to live and retire.”
The couple purchased a 42-acre property in East Woodstock, which they named Stargazer Farm. There they renovated an old farmhouse and built a new horse barn. The corrugated steel structure, designed and constructed by Morton Buildings, includes a 170-by-80-foot indoor ring and 175-by-100-foot outdoor ring.
The facility has 18 horse stalls, each 10 by 12 feet with mats and individual fans, two indoor grooming stalls, and indoor and outdoor wash stalls. There are also two tack rooms, a storage room, office viewing area, utility room and hayloft with functioning hayloft door.
Other features include:
- 60-foot round pen.
- Grass riding field and large grass pastures.
- Individual paddocks.
- Grass and wooded riding trails.
- Flex fencing in paddocks and pastures.
“Everyone loves the barn. It’s fantastic, and the farm is very beautiful,” Christopher said. “We looked up and down the East Coast before settling on this area.”
Virginia currently has six horses and ponies for conducting hunt seat equitation lessons for all levels, ages six through adult. She also conducts summer pony camp as part of the community’s summer recreational program for kids. The rest of the stalls are rented by boarders.
“I enjoy teaching riding and imparting information about being a better horse person,” she said. “It’s a blast, really a lot of fun!”
When she has time, Virginia continues to ride for enjoyment. Christopher isn’t into horse riding himself, but he does help out with the business.
The family’s equestrian tradition recently extended to a third generation. The McMahons’ granddaughter, age three, also rides.