To the Editor:
The following open letter is addressed to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland.
I am writing to you with a very simple message: Woodlawn Stables must not be destroyed.
It is impossible to exaggerate the positive impact that this facility has had in our area (I say “our,” even though I now live in Philadelphia, because I grew up in Northern Virginia).
I spent every spare moment of my childhood at Woodlawn Stables, from the age of eight until the day I left for college, and it was an education I value deeply. I learned to ride and train horses. I learned to throw a bale of hay that weighed nearly as much as I did. I learned the specific dietary requirements of 60-plus horses, as well as their supplement and medication needs. I learned to assist the farriers and vets with a nervous, half-ton animal than needed reassurance and patience. I learned to administer intramuscular injections. I learned how to drive a truck and trailer. I learned how to teach young children the art of cleaning a stubborn pony’s hooves. I learned to wield a shovel and pitchfork with prowess. I learned to answer phones politely, to balance books, to order supplies, to manage clients, and to work more than 12 hours a day in the heat of the summer without complaint. I learned all of this before I had even graduated from high school.
There is not a moment of my current life that has not benefited from this education, and I speak for endless scores of young women (and men) who have received the same invaluable resources of strength, patience, perseverance, and business acumen. I am deeply indebted to Joan and Cindy Mitchell, under whose direct and constant guidance I blossomed all those years ago, and I cannot impart upon you enough how devastating it would be should their livelihood be sacrificed in lieu of finding an alternative solution to a traffic issue.
It is not simply about property lines and boundaries: this is about a culture that enriches lives by teaching work ethic, empathy, and responsibility: destroying it would be unconscionable.