Ride Away with Me to Windsor...
When I first heard about the seaside village of Windsor, located in the endearing town of Vero Beach, FL, it became a place that in my mind, only existed in an Equestrian's dreams. I
spent much of my childhood and teenage years living in Stuart, a couple of towns south of Vero Beach, and grew up exposed to the horse world. The only Equestrian communities I was familiar with were located down south in Wellington, or to the north in Ocala. As my interest in Windsor was piqued and my inner "horse-crazy girl" was chomping at the bit to see such an idyllic place, I knew in my heart I had to experience it firsthand, and share its beauty with my fellow lovers of all things Equestrian...
Shortly after reaching out to Windsor, I was elated when I received an invitation to visit for lunch and a Stable tour. The date was set, and I decided to bring along my amazing photographer and horse comrade, Jennifer (JC Photo Orlando), who has also been my best friend since the 3rd Grade. As we approached Windsor, the anticipation and excitement built as we were met with white fencing bespoke of a horse farm about a half mile from the entry.
Windsor greeted us the way you would only expect to see in a fairy tale. We entered under a dense canopy of oak limbs, and were face to face with a sprawling green Polo Field to our left, and happy horses grazing in their paddocks to our right. Ahead of us was the unmistakable Anglo-Carribean architectural aesthetic that separates Windsor from the rest. It was sunny and warm, and the air had a certain seaside crispness to it. From my first moments in Windsor, it was apparent that the Equestrian lifestyle was forefront in the minds of its creators. A village wholeheartedly dedicated to the grand passion that we Equestrians share, on a location where time stands still and you can hear waves and whinnies in the background truly took my breath away.
Jane Smalley, Director of Marketing for Windsor, met us at the Concierge's lounge, a room thoughtfully decorated in a sophisticated seaside palette where black and white equestrian photography on the walls blended seamlessly with seagrass wall covering and beautiful white orchids. Jane led us out the door and down the steps to a dazzling white golf cart that would be our 'meeting room' for the next two hours. Jane, originally from England, has been with Windsor for many, many years, and I knew right away by her enthusiasm and knowledge for Windsor, that she was the perfect guide on this adventure.
Windsor knows its guests very well, because Jane suggested the first stop on our tour be the Stables. After a short ride passing a picturesque lake, we came upon 'Wheelbarrow', one of the six larger than life steel sculptures by Irish artist Michael Craig-Martin, currently calling the landscape of Windsor home. In the distance, on the Stick & Ball field there was a private Polo lesson taking place between Max Secunda, Director of Equestrian Operations, and a member. We stopped and admired the Windsor resident gallop his athletic, bay mare down the field, skillfully swinging his polo stick and striking the ball with incredible finesse and precision. Next item of the day for Max was trying a half dozen Polo Ponies that had just been trailered in that morning from Wellington. Before taking the first one for a spin, Max graciously spoke to us about the fine game of Polo, the Windsor Charity Polo Match, and other Equestrian offerings, such as dressage, jumping and trail riding, available at Windsor. Polo, a sport for all ages, is one particularly close to the hearts of Windsor owners, Hon. Hilary M. Weston and W. Galen Weston, and at the center of life at Windsor.
After chatting with Max, we set our sights on the elegant Stable - a structure with clean white walls and stylish shutters painted the perfect shade of sea blue. With room for twenty-six horses in high season, the Stables also house a large, yet understated Tack Room, Feed Room, Wash Racks, and Bathrooms. There was a quaint overflow barn, allowing the facility to hold more horses if necessary, and we were particularly impressed with the roomy stalls. It's no doubt the horses live as well as their owners at Windsor! We also had the pleasure of seeing Max's Office, a space filled with the luxurious smell of leather that had framed posters of past year's polo tournaments on the walls. A gorgeous red woven rug, other handsome pieces of Equestrian decor, and riding photos made this space so completely unique and one of my favorites at Windsor. Adjacent to the Stables was a grassy, fenced in dog park where from 4:00 - 5:00pm everyday, members can bring their dogs to run free and have a puppy playdate. Equestrians are accustomed to having their dogs at the barn, so having a dog park so close to the Stables makes it a welcome and considerate amenity.
The next stop on our tour was to the iconic Town Hall building designed by architect Leon Krier. The steeply pitched roof can be seen above the surrounding Windsor skyline, and just outside of the massive pale aqua front doors is a direct view of the Stick & Ball field. The building serves as a non-denominational chapel, and its stunning, yet subtle architectural details make it a highly desired venue for weddings, lectures, and concerts. Jane told us they open all of the many doors to the building during the Easter Sunday service, and remarked what a divine experience it is with the salt air and sunshine being welcomed inside. Heading back into the golf cart, through the oak canopies, and into a private bougainvillea-lined tunnel, in less than five minutes, we were at the Beach Club. Although there are countless venue locations at Windsor to choose from, the Beach Club is more than equipped to host a large event and is a perfect place for a wedding. A stately staircase, sophisticated decor, and impressive pool area just steps from the beach, truly make it a place like no other. Members and guests can spend the morning at the Beach Club by taking a Pilates or Yoga class by the pool, enjoying a delicious meal in a private cabana, or stepping out onto the white sand beach where personalized beach chairs and umbrellas await. Jane told us the serene beach at Windsor happens to be one of the most popular nesting spots on the coast for the Florida sea turtle.
Our next destination was the tennis courts, and we arrived to the pavilion via crushed shell walkways with fragrant jasmine-lined walls guiding our path. Eight Har-Tru courts, an all-white dress, and appetizers of fruit and cheese set a delightful mood at the Stan Smith designed complex. Following tennis, we caught a glimpse of the quaint Croquet greensward, an age-old sport steadily increasing in popularity among younger players. On our way to see The Gallery at Windsor, we passed many happy golfers enjoying a tournament on Windsor's 18-hole links-style course by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.. Currently in the midst of a three year collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, the Gallery opened in 2019 showcasing Sir Michael Craig-Martin's Present Sense. In addition to the Equestrian lifestyle Windsor offers its members, the Gallery stood out for me as another completely unique amenity that puts life at Windsor in a league of its own.
And just like that, two entire hours had passed since we began our tour, and we had completely forgotten about lunch! In the interest of time, I suggested we get something casual to-go, so instead of eating lunch at the main Clubhouse, as Jane had originally planned for us, we headed to the Village Store. An ideal spot for members to catch up over a cup of coffee or grab a couple of provisions, the Store was another charming favorite of mine. The French blue cabinetry, accents of Equestrian decor, and daily specials cleverly written on chalk boards made the Store a place of comfort and camaraderie. Jane concluded our tour by stopping by the Fitness Center, where a workout on an elliptical or treadmill gives one a direct view of the Stable and paddocks below. At the top of the building lies a private balcony, where you can enjoy a massage - a welcome reward after an active day of Polo...
Whether you celebrate a day at Windsor with a massage, evening trail ride, gourmet meal, or walk on the beach, you will understand Architect & Urban Planner, Andres Duany, when he says, "Privacy is the greatest luxury..." I will never forget my day at Windsor. Its effortless perfection. Its quiet prestige. To experience Windsor is to experience the very best of the architectural design, wellness, beauty, nature, and the Equestrian lifestyle. For me, it was a personal celebration of the highest order. I will cherish my memories of Windsor always.
Windsor, you have this horse girl's heart...