A friend who honed his turn of phrase while editing The Economist calls the countryside around Millbrook, New York, the faux Cotswolds. Wellies and Barbour jackets are the uniform, while the favored mode of transport is a Land Rover, bearing passengers that frequently include a Jack Russell terrier or golden retriever, en route to a meet of the local hunt, polo match, or sporting-clays shoot.
For a snapshot of country pursuits in the 230 square miles that make up the Millbrook hunt country, take a typical Saturday this past September. A rider sufficiently ambitious might have joined Parker Gentry (joint master of the Millbrook Foxhounds) at Hollander Farm for breakfast, pursued fox on horseback, popped by the Millbrook farmer’s market for just-picked-this-morning basil, shot a round of clays at Orvis Sandona, played a late afternoon chukka at Mashomack Polo, and finished with dinner at Charlotte’s before collapsing in an exhausted heap.
There are some differences, of course, between the Millbook countryside and the Cotswolds. There, they drink warm beer by the pint. Here, the vin du pays is a Millbrook chardonnay, which is as drinkable as any white wine aged this side of Normandy.
However, identifying this bit of equestrian Camelot as Millbrook is misleading. Within the 1,216 acres of the town of Millbrook you won’t find a single farrier’s anvil or tack shop, and the only time the hounds make a public appearance is at the head of a holiday parade. Most of the classic country pursuits—riding to hounds with one of the two local foxhunts, the two nationally known three-day events, lessons with Olympic riders, the sporting clays at Orvis Sandona, and the Mashomack Club polo fields—are variously located in the surrounding towns of Amenia, Stanfordville, Pine Plains, and Washington, which the real estate ads describe as Millbrook hunt country in order to add a zero to the end of the sale price.
That all of this takes place 90 miles from Manhattan is nothing short of a miracle. Nancy Stahl, joint master of the Millbrook Hunt, recalls when Ben Hardaway, the legendary master of Georgia’s Midland Foxhounds, came to ride. “He told me,” remembers Stahl, “that this is a magical place, and we have to build a Hadrian’s Wall to keep development out.”