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Meadowood Frequently Asked Questions



How did BLM acquire a horse stable?

BLM acquired the Meadowood property in 2001 through a land exchange with lands that were part of the former Lorton prison complex. In addition to 800 acres, the property contained a 30+ year old horse stable with related structures. At the time of acquisition, the stable housed only privately-owned, boarded horses.

How is the stable currently used?

The stable currently provides facilities for a therapeutic riding program, public riding lesson programs, and privately-owned, boarded horses. A BLM contractor provides the horse boarding services. In addition, stalls are provided when needed for BLM partners and volunteers. In the past, BLM has provided stabling and facility use for the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon. BLM volunteers bring adopted wild horses to support wild horse adoptions held onsite.

What is Simple Changes?

Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center is a non-profit organization that offers therapeutic riding lessons and hippotheraphy to individuals with disabilities. Simple Changes is accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).   Simple Changes operates at Meadowood through a Special Recreation Permit issued by BLM. Meadowood provides horse stabling, pasture, and facilities for the program

Do other federal agencies use the barn?

In the past, the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon stabled horses at Meadowood. At present, no agencies use the barn full time. The U.S. Army Caisson Platoon holds occasional training sessions in the indoor arena. BLM will provide pasture and facility use to the U.S. Army when needed. 

Is the barn open to the public?

Yes, the stable and indoor and outdoor riding arenas are open to the public. While outside public equestrian use of the indoor arena has not occurred to date, use of the indoor and outdoor arenas by non-resident, privately owned horses, can be allowed. The horse pastures used by resident horses are not open to the public due to safety concerns (e.g., loose horses). 

Are wild horse and burro adoptions held in the barn?

In the past, wild horse and burro adoptions at Meadowood have not been held in the indoor arena due to the larger number of resident horses. Adoptions were held in open fields, which subjected the animals and public to inclement weather. BLM has a need for a covered arena to provide shelter at adoptions for both the public and animals. There are no funds to build a facility for wild horse adoptions; therefore, BLM may reconsider use of the indoor arena for future adoptions and activities.


What are “natural resources” and why is BLM concerned about them?

Natural resources include soils, water, wildlife, fisheries, vegetation, and other natural components. In addition to providing for recreational use at Meadowood, BLM’s mission directs BLM to manage and protect natural resources. Recreational and other uses must be balanced with maintaining the integrity and health of the natural resources and sustaining a healthy ecosystem.

What are all of those plastic tubes at Meadowood?

The plastic tubes are called tree tubes. Tree tubes protect young seedlings from deer browse and dehydration, and increase our planting success rates. For several years, BLM has worked with volunteers, Boy and Girl Scouts, Fairfax County programs, and non-profit organizations to increase the diversity of native plants at Meadowood, stabilize soils and reclaim eroded or degraded areas. Increasing native shrub and tree species at Meadowood increases both food and habitat diversity for wildlife, and assists in decreasing erosion.

Why did BLM fence off part of the west horse pasture?

The west pasture and west side of the stables drain into a tributary to Thompson Creek. Heavy sediment loads and surface runoff from the pasture and stables have, over the years, resulted in a deeply incised receiving stream with a heavy sediment load, downstream erosion, trail damage, fisheries damage, and culvert failures.

BLM removed horse access and revegetated the steep, highly eroded slope west of and below the barn in order to reduce erosion. The drainage swale in the west pasture, which carried heavy runoff during storm events, was also fenced off from the horse pasture. The drainage swale has been the location of restoration activities by BLM and our partners for several years. Restoration of the site includes: planting numerous native grasses, shrubs and trees to increase surface infiltration and reduce surface flow, constructing sediment traps, repairing the culvert and upstream water catchment, and construction of a universally accessible (usable by people with disabilities) trail through the restoration site to allow people to see the various types of trees and shrubs being planted and learn about the ecology of the area.  

Why did BLM enlarge the “pond” near the barn?

Over the years, the water catchment area or “pond” filled with sediment from the horse pasture. Removing the sediment and reconfiguring the “pond” serves several purposes. It can again act as a sediment catchment, preventing sediment loads from the horse pasture from entering the receiving stream. It will increase the diversity of habitat within the restoration area. During years of normal precipitation, the “pond” will hopefully hold water through the late winter and spring, functioning much like spring or vernal pools which provide breeding habitat for amphibians (e.g., frogs, salamanders). During the dry summer months, it is likely that the water will diminish substantially or totally.

What is the BLM doing with all the rock near the pond?

Rock check dams constructed of natural river rock are being placed across the drainage in order to slow surface water runoff, allowing more time for water infiltration into the ground, and to capture sediment before it enters the “pond” and Thompson Creek. In addition, rock is placed at the outflow of the pipe and emergency spillway of the “pond” in order to protect the stream channel from further erosion. These measures are necessary because over many years, the use of the watershed for pasture has led to much larger volumes of water running into the stream channel than normal, and this has eroded the soil where it flows.

Why did the BLM close the pasture on the east side of the stable area?

The small rear field contains steep, erosive slopes and wet low areas, both of which were adversely impacted by horses. The stream channel below this field eroded uphill to the point where it was close to cutting up into the pasture. This is due to large amounts of water coming off the steep hill side, and the drainage from the buildings up above. The erosion problem in this stream channel came to the attention of the BLM during planning for a connector trail between Meadowood and Pohick Bay Regional Park. This route provides the most direct access between the two public parcels; it leads to a road crossing that will eliminate the need for horseback riders and hikers to go along Gunston Road. The original idea for this trail was that it would be in the woods below the field, however the erosion of the stream channel had cut so far uphill that this wasn’t possible, without great expense. Another idea was to move the fence uphill, however that would have put more grazing pressure on steep slopes with little topsoil, which is not good pasture. The best stewardship of this land dictates that it be put back to forest cover, and the BLM and partners will do that through tree planting and natural regenerations of the trees. 

The BLM feels that careful management of horses and pastures is needed to minimize impacts to the watershed which have been occurring over many years, and we will not sacrifice natural resources protection for recreation use by equestrians or any other users.


Is the BLM putting in any new trails?

Yes, the BLM is developing hiking and biking trails on the West Parcel of Meadowood, which had no sustainable trails when we acquired the property. The BLM has done extensive rerouting and rebuilding of the inherited system of trails and roads on the east side of Belmont Boulevard. This work allows the trails to be used year around. It also reduces their impact on the watershed by making them narrower, removing culvert pipes which were prone to clogging, and reducing grades to make them less erodible, and easier to hike. Rerouting around steep eroding sections meant longer trails, and users can see more of the property. Where needed, trails were surfaced with crushed aggregate stone which compacts to a firm surface and allows trails to be used by horses throughout the year. Wherever possible, the previous trail surface of bank run gravel was left in place.