By Callie Broaddus | Middleburg Life
If you build it, they will come.
Or, at least, that’s the bet a few area equine facility owners and managers are making as they spend millions to bring their historic properties up to world-class competition standards. It may seem a silly question to ask, but why is there such a wave of investment into equine facilities now? Are these facilities all going after the same piece of the equestrian pie?
Middleburg Training Center
The most nascent of the large-scale facility improvements this article will visit broke ground early this summer, when Purcellville resident Chuck Kuhn purchased the derelict Middleburg Training Center for $1.5 million from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Kuhn, founder and owner of JK Moving Services, is well-known for his dedication to preserving open space. On October 12 of this year, Kuhn was awarded the Commonwealth Steward Award for placing more than 1,000 acres of Virginia countryside into easement.
When Leesburg-based attorney David Moyes contacted Kuhn earlier this year about the beautiful and historic Middleburg Training Center, he found a ready audience. “He grew up racing on this track as a kid, so that’s the guy that I have to blame for this,” says Kuhn with a laugh.
Moyes told Kuhn that developers were looking at the property, and he wanted someone to get it under easement. “That’s what sucked me into it, and that was the sole intention. So that’s what I was excited about, most passionate about. Now I’m excited about trying to get it back to where it was,” says Kuhn, elaborating that the training center was “the cat’s meow” during the 1950s and 1960s, when Paul Mellon built and operated the facility.
The property features 11 barns, 220 stalls, 22 paddocks and a picturesque 7/8-mile racetrack on 149 acres, all within a seven-minute drive northwest of Middleburg. “When we came in, the grass was three feet high, the track was a mess, the barns were a mess, and we’re slowly taking it down. So, we’re going to put about a $2 million investment into renovating the barns and the track,” says Kuhn, with pep in his voice.
“This was really about the conservation easement, protecting the open space,” he adds. “It won’t be the next retirement for me by any means, but I do think it can sustain itself. I think it can continue to grow, and I think it can be a profitable venture. But it’s going to take some time.”
Kuhn plans to rebrand the facility under the name Middleburg Equine Center, and he’s set his sights on bringing eventing to the property in a manner that compliments the events at Morven Park in Leesburg and Great Meadow in The Plains. “We’re starting to add quality tenants,” he says. “And then when we add the other disciplines, we’re going to get this thing alive again.”