"Welcome to horse country," said Susan Allen, the wife of former Virginia Gov. George Allen, while introducing Ann Romney. "Do you know Virginia is for lovers? Virginia is for horse lovers, too."
Ann Romney is well-known for her love of horseback riding and has staged events in the past at riding stables, usually to throw a spotlight on the merits of therapeutic riding.
"I should tell you that I feel right at home because I'm in a barn," the prospective first lady said, beginning her speech. "So let's talk some horse sense."
She retold several stories about Romney that were highlighted at the Republican National Convention last week.
"I loved the [Republican] convention," she said. "I love the chance for people to see Mit as someone besides a business guy and a turnaround guy — which he is — I love people highlighting his personal life ... and what kind of guy he is."
But she also veered from her usual stump speech to talk about her love of horses.
"I was one of those crazy horse girls. I think you call them barn rats," she said. "Then I got away from that, went on with my life and did other things. Then I got diagnosed with MS [multiple sclerosis] ... and I thought to myself, I better remember what I love in life."
She said horses "brought me peace in my life, brought me purpose again in my life."
She went on to draw a personal connection between her fight to find "a speck of joy," and hold on to it during a hard time in her life, and the millions of Americans going through hard times.
She said she "salutes" her "horse companions" for helping her get through tough hours and salutes the men and women who keep fighting through the difficult times the country is facing.
"By the way, it's a military state," she said of Virginia. "I know a lot of veterans are coming home and they're getting on horses to help them recuperate from some of their traumas."
She also urged women in particular to "remember the joy in life and keep fighting to find it."
The event followed a fundraiser featuring Ann Romney on Thursday night at the Virginia home of actor Robert Duvall. That event cost supporters from $2,500 per person for a reception up to $25,000 per person for dinner at the Duvall home.