Ben and Jen Bailey, Owners, Innkeepers
Story by Cathy Shouse
In 2001, Jen and Ben Bailey did not know what their future held when they purchased the property for what is known today as Salamonie Bridle Stalls & Carriage House in Wabash County. At the time, everything from the house to the barn was “dilapidated.” They set out on a winding trail of transformation by hitching together a strong work ethic, a varied skill set, and a vision that evolved over time.
Ben had an animal science degree from Purdue University and worked for Bailey Construction, his father’s company. Jen’s career path involved various office work.
“We, along with our family, renovated our home first, then moved on to the barn,” Jen said. “Our property is surrounded by ‘Salamonie State Property’ and the ‘Bridle Trails,’ horse trails that are located directly behind our home which are utilized by horseback riders and hikers.”
Jen said the “logical thing to do” was to board horses, which they began in 2003. It must be noted that theirs was not just any barn, but a historic “bank” barn, a style that can be accessed at two different levels. They installed a new roof, new windows, painted the exterior, and built seven horse stalls.
As they constantly improved and grew their business, they added two daughters along the way, now ages nine and eleven. But when it came to the next business step, a bit of a struggle developed between the adults. Expanding from being “just” a horse boarding facility to opening an “inn” to the public would call for some creativity and lifestyle changes.
“My husband had the idea of building an apartment in the haymow of our horse barn. I told him for years, ‘No way!’” Jen claims. “Eventually we did build the apartment known as ‘The Carriage House’ in 2017. It doesn’t come full circle until I truly sit and think about my life then versus now. I traded in my high heels for muck boots…best decision I ever made.”
Two hammock swings in a tree just outside the Carriage House, as well as Adirondack chairs and a fire pit, invite visitors to put their feet up and relax on the property. Up to six travelers can be accommodated at a time. Ozzie the rescue dog and Tiger the barn cat are part of the ambience, along with chickens Jen tends. The horses often graze in the pasture, and guests can view them from the living room and bedroom windows of the carriage house, located on five acres of land.
The Salamonie Reservoir is just to the east, so close you can hear the boats frolicking in the water. There are hiking trails all around and the Baileys always send guests to the local farmers market as well as shopping in downtown Wabash, which is well-known for the unique boutiques and specialty shops. The nearby Honeywell Center hosts concerts and shows from top headliners, and there are several festivals and special events throughout the year in Wabash county. There are also foodie tours, and other attractions in the area. Jen said, “You could say we have the best of both worlds. Everything is at our fingertips.”
Guests have come from Chicago and Indianapolis, as well as Maine, Oregon, Texas, and even Great Britain. Some guests confess they come strictly for the peace and serenity. When asked, the Baileys are happy to offer an “up-close pet of the horses.”
The Bailey’s attention to detail is seen throughout the property. They wash all laundry in organic dye-free soaps, and their toiletries are organic as well. They have Egyptian Cotton towels and sheets in the Carriage House for comfort; however, they have mismatched dining chairs and a few antiques to round out the space so guests can experience something unique. They can host up to six guests, with two bedrooms; one with a king bed and the other with two full beds. There’s one bathroom with a tiled shower and a fully-stocked kitchen with stainless steel appliances.
“We take great pride knowing our guests picked our property out of all the lodging options out there,” Jen said. “It’s truly humbling and we go to great lengths to ensure they have everything they need so they can relax, smile and feel human again.”