Scent can be such a powerful memory trigger. For me, the smell of hay instantly takes me back to childhood when I had a horse named Banjo.
While recently visiting the main barn at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, a flood of memories came rushing back. I could see my 12-year-old self brushing Banjo’s mane, cleaning his stall, and tacking up for a ride on the old logging trails at the base of Equinox Mountain in southern Vermont.
I stopped riding a long time ago for a variety of reasons. But I still love being around horses, which is why I was eager to visit Vermont’s UVM Morgan Horse Farm. Located in a small community just outside of Middlebury, the farm is a National Historic Landmark located on 215 acres in . The farm’s main barn was built in 1878 for Colonel Joseph Battell’s prized Morgan horses.
Battell was a pioneering conservationist who began breeding Morgan horses in the late 1800s, and his interest would prove instrumental in saving America’s first breed of horse from extinction (the Morgan horse is Vermont’s State Animal).
In 1907, Battell gave his farm and Morgans to the U.S. Government. From 1907 to 1951, the U.S. Government operated the farm, focusing on breeding, training, selling, and exhibiting Morgans. The farm was eventually given to UVM, which has overseen it for more than 60 years.
The UVM Morgan Horse Farm is home to 60-80 registered stallions, mares, and adorable little foals. Open to the public, the farm is dedicated to perpetuating and improving the Morgan breed, and to providing educational training and experience for students and those interested in equine science.
My horse Banjo wasn’t a Morgan (he was a mix of Quarter Horse and Arabian), but my sister Jeanne used to have a Morgan named Peter, who was brilliant, full of personality, and very strong-willed.
Spending time riding Banjo on those old dirt logging roads has given me a lifelong appreciation for horses. It also created a lifetime of cherished childhood memories, and a love for the earthy, sweet smell of hay.
**If You Go: The UVM Morgan Horse Farm is located at 74 Battell Drive in Weybridge. The farm also hosts annual events and programs.
This piece was originally posted on HappyVermont.com.