BELFAST - For several years, a “for sale” sign by a sloping field on Route 3 called attention to the “million dollar view” across Penobscot Bay.
Today the sign is gone and the property has been transformed by Amy Miller into an eye-catching commercial horse farm called Seahorse Stables. The million dollar view is still there for weary eastbound drivers. Meanwhile, riders can avail themselves of a million dollar view on horseback.
Construction on Seahorse Stables started about a year ago. Today the extensive complex includes a 5,500 square foot barn with 15 stables. An 80-by-200-foot riding ring that will eventually be enclosed, a separate building with an apartment and hay storage and likely enough fencing — for isolated turn-out pastures and riding corridors — to stretch from Miller’s farm to her husband Dan’s business, Belmont Boatworks, a little less than two miles to the west on Route 3.
Miller rode when she was growing up in the Chesapeake Bay area. After a hiatus that included other business ventures, getting married and having children, she was drawn back to the sport. When her daughter was five, Miller signed her up for lessons with Jessica Pilley, a trainer who cut her teeth in the competitive equestrian circuit in Pennsylvania.
“She was just really good with my daughter,” Miller said.
The lessons rekindled Miller’s own interest, not only in riding, but in the community of fellow riders.
“It’s just a good group of people to be around — horse people. It’s fun. It’s just a really good way to make friends,” she said. “I thought, why don’t I build a safe place for people to ride.”
Miller hired Pilley as a trainer for the newly-minted Seahorse Stables.
On a recent afternoon, Miller’s daughter Nina, now 10, was standing on the back of the horse with some help from Pilley. The circus-like move is part of a discipline called Vaulting. It isn’t a formal offering at Seahorse Stables — Pilley specializes in Hunter-style riding — but there was some time between the departure of the construction crews finishing work on the property and the beginning of the afternoon’s lessons.
Miller’s four-year-old son Henry took a turn next, tucking his feet underneath him as he rode. Pilley followed at the end of a short lead.
Having two young children has kept Miller on her toes around the farm. Seahorse Stables has a heated playroom and library for kids, and there are many young riders among those who have already signed up for lessons. But with horses and riders moving between the barn and the riding arena, Miller kept Henry close when he wasn’t on her hip.
“Luckily they like to be here,” she said. “If they didn’t, it wouldn’t work.”
Later, outside the barn Henry rode his bike in loops through a wide mud puddle while Miller talked to Jasmine Keithan about her new horse, “Linus,” who was boarding at the farm. The black Frisian grazed in an enclosed pasture area between the barn and Route 3.
As Keithan walked him back to the barn, she talked about how she recently returned to horseback riding after time away.
“It’s been a long time since I had horses,” she said. “So, he and I are getting back in the saddle together.”
It was late afternoon and the clouds broke, casting a magic-hour glow across the front of the barn and riding arena.
Miller said a major part of the appeal of the property was that it was cleared. This outweighed the minor disadvantage of not having wooded trails, though Miller said she has been talking with neighbors in hopes of arranging some use of the woods that surround the property.
The view wasn’t lost on her either. When she was considering a design for the barn and other buildings that would later fill the rear of the lot, Miller said she felt an obligation toward that first look across the bay.
“I could have done a tarp and it would have been sufficient,” she said, “but this is such a pretty piece of property. I wanted the barn to look nice on the property as well.”
Ethan Andrews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org