Over the Fence: Sleigh Riding

Washington Christmas Ornament

“The Appearance of the Weather, reminds me of the use of a Sleigh”

— George Washington,
December 16, 1782

It’s nearly winter here in the nation’s capital and the taste of cold in the air makes me wish for snow and a sleigh ride. George Washington loved horses. If he didn’t feel well, his personal physician was likely to recommend that the president get on his horse and ride for two hours to make him feel better. Our first president’s love of horses can be found in all kind of nooks and crannies as you wander throughout his historic plantation, Mount Vernon – in portraits, in the 200-year old stables and in historical accounts that name him as one of Virginia’s best horsemen during his time.

Equine power fueled Mount Vernon with as many as 100 horses and mules working on the plantation at one time. He bred America’s first mules, breeding a Spanish donkey named “Royal Gift” (a gift from King Charles III of Spain) with his own Virginia mares. He rode horses into battle, fox hunted, and raced horses in nearby Alexandria. Washington is also credited with creating the American Fox Hound breed of dogs. I have often thought it would be fun to explore Mount Vernon on horseback. Alas, they don’t allow visitors to bring horses — but you can stroll the grounds with your dog!

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