In the heart of Millbrook’s hunt country is a gem of an estate ideal for horse lovers.
It’s even billed as one of the area’s “finest small equestrian properties.”

But at some 25 sprawling acres, complete with a charming three-bedroom main house, a two-story guesthouse and a well-appointed barn complex, the possibilities are endless.

While owner Carol Smerling doesn’t have horses at the moment, she did in fact buy the Dutchess County property for that purpose.

“I’m a rider, and I always wanted a farm,” she says, mentioning the famed Millbrook Hunt trails as another enticement. “This property is only one of seven in the whole area that has access to the hunt trails.”

From the start, Smerling – a longtime licensed associate real-estate broker already living in Dutchess ­– admired the property.

“The whole thing that matters is location,” she says, explaining that the farm’s not only on a much-desired road, but as it’s also surrounded by some of the region’s larger estates, it basks in Millbrook’s trademark privacy.

And while Smerling may not have a horse right now, that’s no indication that her love of animals has waned – it’s just the opposite.

From the moment visitors pull into the long driveway of the casually elegant property, one gets a sense of the importance of animals to life at Caring Keeper Farm. Rescued dogs playfully bound out in greeting, leaping about in the shadow of a pasture where rescued donkeys and mules take in the morning air.

These days, six donkeys and mules and a trio of dogs call the peaceful surroundings home.

The farm, though, wasn’t always in this state.

“When we came here it was just a falling-down shack,” Smerling says. The road ahead would include a complete reworking of the main house and a major expansion that created the barn complex and a roomy guesthouse. “It probably took us five years to get it where it is now.”
“The donkeys come in and out at will,” Smerling says. “They can do whatever they want.”

Donkeys and mules came to her attention back when Smerling still had a horse.

“Donkeys are the best babysitters for a horse. They are great companions.”

That early interest led to a passion. Smerling has adopted from and continues to support Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization.


As Smerling looks back on her time on the property, she seems thankful to have been able to do so much to help so many animals.

As the donkeys come up to her and nuzzle for a carrot, she says this has been made possible by the nurturing they experienced at the farm.

“This is what love does,” she says. “It’s a labor of love.”

Smerling, who is downsizing and plans to resettle nearby, pays the final compliment to the comfort and peace of not only the animals, but that she herself has found at Caring Keeper Farm.

“I’d like a small version of this.”


The home itself, built circa 1960 in the Cape Cod style, underwent a complete redesign. Smerling and her husband, Ted, worked with local architect James Crisp on the project that transformed it into a jewel box.

They moved to the property in January 1996, and by that Thanksgiving the family was able to relocate from the modified garage, which in turn would become the guesthouse.

“The footprint is fairly close to the same,” Smerling says of the work done to the house. She does, though, point out that a 900-square-foot addition now features the airy and spacious great room that flows into an open chef’s kitchen. The entire space is filled with light, with French doors opening onto an expansive patio.

“The house is great for entertaining,” she says. When her husband was still working for IBM, parties would often spill from the dining room to the great room right out onto the patio and beyond. “We’ve had parties of 100 people here.”

But the grounds weren’t just for guests. “I think we spend most of the summer outside.”

The tasteful interior is highlighted by an airy sensibility created by countless windows and soaring ceilings. Even the two upstairs bedrooms, one that opens onto a deck, feel spacious and soaring.

“The architect said ‘Raise the ceiling to 10 feet and the place will look bigger’ – and it does,” Smerling confirms.

The home also boasts Waterworks baths, two fireplaces, radiant-heated flooring in rooms with French limestone or ash and a large stained-glass panel built into the wall that overlooks the great room.

“At night it’s nice when I have the lights on,” she says of the backlighting that brings a toasty glow to the abstract pattern.

The main floor also features a formal dining room, a study in elegance large enough to easily accommodate a table for 10. A screened-in porch became a spacious office complete with exposed beams and a separate entrance, while the floor also includes a cozy study and a generous bedroom.

“Windows, windows, windows are a big thing,” Smerling says, adding that the property’s privacy made one decorating decision easy. “I’ve never put drapes or curtains anywhere in the house, which is nice.”


The guest or caretaker’s house, which mimics the main in style, is a two-level, one-bedroom home built around a two-car garage.

Another bright interior, the space features a full kitchen adjacent to a living/dining room complete with fireplace, a spacious bedroom and an on-site laundry.

A bonus is this second home’s privacy, as well.

“They could be here and we don’t even know it,” Smerling says, as the guesthouse door and its stone terrace face the pond and barn, not the house. Adjacent to the cottage is a generator that serves the entire property, which has drains imbedded throughout to address the region’s high water table.

A woodshed built by Smerling’s husband, an amateur carpenter, and his handcrafted birdhouses dotted throughout the professionally landscaped grounds add a personal touch.

For horse lovers, focus will likely be drawn to the equestrian facilities, which include a three-stall barn with a wash stall, a heated tack room, a hay loft/storage space and two fenced paddocks.

For more information, contact Carol Smerling at or (914) 456-5439.

[stextbox id=”gold” caption=”CARING KEEPER FARM AT A GLANCE” mode=”js”]• Millbrook
• 3,074 square feet
• 25.2 acres
• Bedrooms: 4
• Baths: 3 full
• Amenities: Close to railroad, park, shops and school, deck, eat-in kitchen, radiant-heated limestone floors, first-floor bedroom, fireplaces, pond, privacy, skylights, stable/paddock with three stalls and heated tack room added to main barn, two-story guest house on property, two large fenced pastures, direct access to Millbrook Hunt trails.
• Price: $2,495,000[/stextbox]
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