Nestled amid the hustle and bustle of Mount Vernon’s traffic-congested Route 1 exists a serene, rural patch of countryside in which Woodlawn Stables calls home.
Located on 60 rolling acres directly across the street from Woodlawn Plantation, Woodlawn Stables’ facilities consist of three barns that house school horses, an indoor ring arena, an outdoor lighted sand arena, an outside jumping course, and turnout paddocks with run-in sheds.
Mother-daughter team Joan and Cindy Mitchell have operated the facility since 1991. Both women have always had life-long passions for horses and riding. Born and raised in the Mount Vernon area, Cindy said she grew up riding and taking lessons at Woodlawn Stables since she was eight years old.
Cindy’s mom, Joan, has also always had a love for the riding world. When the opportunity came up for she and her daughter to take over the lease at Woodlawn Stables 20 years ago, she said, it was just the right thing to do. “I quit my job and we basically bought the ‘farm,’” said Joan, who previously ran a multimedia company that focused on children’s books.
“Riders love coming to our little urban oasis here at Woodlawn Stables,” Joan said. “With all of the constant changes going on up and down busy Route 1, people always say how nice it is that some things just stay the same … it is almost like taking a step back in time.”
Mother and daughter have always shared the workload together, explained Cindy. However, as mother Joan starts to slow down her schedule a bit, Cindy has begun to take over more of the facility’s day-to-day operations.
“It’s really a 24/7 job,” said Cindy. “People don’t realize that the horses don’t ‘go away’ when you go home for the weekend, or have two weeks off during the winter holidays. You do this type of job because you love it, even if it’s 365 days a year.”
Along with daily riding lessons, a number of other horse-related activities take place at Woodlawn throughout the year, including horse shows in April, May and June, summer camps, trainings and clinics.
With 50 school horses/ponies and nine instructors working at Woodlawn Stables, there’s opportunity to accommodate a variety of student levels and age groups. To date, they offer instruction to nearly 250 students in English balance seat riding, six days a week, year-round.
Both Cindy and Joan take great pride in their well-structured riding program, as well as the top-notch, quality care for their horses.
Their school horses, typically Quarter Horse or Quarter Horse Cross — breeds known for their quiet temperament — have been carefully selected as proper mounts to work in Woodlawn’s riding school.
“By not renting our horses to the general public for trail riding, we keep them in top shape for our students,” said Cindy. “Our whole reputation is based on these horses being good and safe at their jobs. When a horse has earned a spot in our program, the horse has earned a spot for life. These horses are amazing, and we feel like we owe them for all that they do.”
Woodlawn Stables also currently boards 14 privately owned horses.
“We do all of the feeding, haying, watering, etc., and the owners are responsible for their individual horse’s care,” Cindy explained.
Horse owner and rider Ellen Swanson said the horses residing at Woodlawn Stables are “the luckiest horses in the area.”
Swanson, who has two sons, ages 25 and 23, said she used to take lessons at Woodlawn Stables “many years ago, back when she was in middle school.” Nearly six years ago, she decided to return to her favorite passion as an adult. She began taking group lessons once a week, and then gradually moved to twice a week. Swanson said she eventually started to lease a horse, and officially became the proud owner of Symphony, a thoroughbred chestnut mare, two years ago.
“The horses residing at Woodlawn Stables receive such amazing care,” Swanson said. “As a horse owner, I have no worries whatsoever, and I always know she’s [Symphony] in good hands. The horses have a really good life there.”
Swanson said she loves regularly escaping to serene Woodlawn Stables to ride.
“It’s like ‘getting away’ to the countryside, without the long drive,” she said.