The Insider’s Guide to Buying Equestrian Property

There are some spectacular horse farms and ranches for sale at any given time, so you’re likely to have a wide variety of properties to consider. You may be tempted to dive right in and start touring the areas you’re considering for your property, but we encourage you to be deliberate in your process, because we know the time you put in up front will pay big dividends later on.To help you, we’ve put together this quick read – a primer of sorts.So, let’s get started. There’s quite a bit to consider when searching for horse property. We’ll start first with some general questions, and follow that with a list of important considerations to keep in mind when searching for properties. Here we go:1. What’s your level of interest in horses?Of course, you like horses, or you wouldn’t have made the decision to buy horse property.But beyond that, the spectrum ranges from wanting property that can accommodate one or two of your own horses, to a commercial horse facility that specializes in professional training, boarding, breeding, or more.And keep in mind too, that your level of interest may progress, say from beginning novice to a fully involved professional, which may lead you to a new property or property upgrades.2. Where do you want to be?Naturally, there may be many variables that influence this decision, with the basic ones being things like a desire to be near friends and family, or to live in a particular school district or county, or near a particular city. But beyond that, keep in mind that your answer to Question #1 will also bring its own considerations, such as:Desire to be near facilities that accommodate your horse related interests, such as open state land, trails, or particular training or show facilities for specific types of horses
Desire to be near the ‘hub of the industry’ for your particular horse activity. This is particularly important if you’re a professional serving a market, or if you’re aspiring to achieve levels of accomplishment in the horse industry. The ability to network easily with like-minded horse people may be a consideration.3. Do you want to build new on vacant land, buy an existing horse property, or buy an existing property that can be renovated to accommodate horses?You can specify one or be open to all of these possibilities, and your preference may be influenced by some of the factors to consider as you keep reading.


For now, know that each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages.- Building new will enable you to have exactly what you want, but it will also take more planning and lead time, and may be more expensive.- Buying an existing property is likely to be quicker, and possibly less expensive, but you may not find exactly what you want.- And buying an existing property that can be renovated may bring some advantages of the first two options, but require planning, patience and vision that not all buyers have.4. What is your price range or budget? Will it be a cash purchase or financed? Is it contingent on the sale of other property?Like the answers to Question #3, each of these alternatives has its own advantages.If you’re paying cash, you should be able to close on your purchase sooner, and possibly negotiate a better price.If you’re financing your purchase, it’s best to be in touch with a lender in advance, to confirm your buying power and being the application process.With those broader questions behind us, let’s get into more specific questions and important factors to consider:How many acres are you looking for?Think about the layout of the farm – the residence, barn, stable, paddocks, round pen, and storage for equipment, hay, feed, tack, bedding, etc., as well as pastures and hayfields (unless you plan to purchase all your hay), riding arenas and on-site trails.Are there zoning or other restrictions that need to be considered in the areas where you want your farm?If you intend to maintain grazing pastures, you’ll want to allocate two acres per horse. Be sure to select properties where horses are a permitted use or allowed under a special use permit.And be aware of boundary line setbacks, which can vary by unit of government.Know your soils.Know what the soil types are before purchasing the property.During wet seasons, poorly-drained clay and loamy soils in areas of high horse traffic are a maintenance nightmare and can be a health problem for horse’s hooves.Ideally, barns and paddocks should be on well-drained sandy soils, or if they are on fine-textured soils, they should be graded to promote positive water drainage away from barns and high traffic areas.Many farms will have a variety of soil types, which should influence the layout of the farm based on the uses for which the soil types are best suited. High loam soils are great for hayfields and pastures to help withstand drought. Agriculturally marginal soils can be used for trail riding, training areas, and turnout areas where horses are kept on hay instead of pasture.What would you like the topography to be like?The lay of the land has both practical and aesthetic relevancy. A picturesque horse farm on a rolling, tree-lined landscape has enormous aesthetics appeal.However, from a practical standpoint, some level ground is desirable for building and training areas. Also, hayfields and pastures do best on level or gently rolling tillable ground.Topography controls how well surface water drains from the property. Wetlands, swamps, and ‘pothole ponds’ characterize poorly drained areas, which contribute to ecological diversity, but have little practical use on a horse farm.Access to waterA horse farm operation will use potable water in both the residence and the barn, and depending on the number of horses, the gallons used in the barn may far exceed the amount used in the residence.Most rural areas don’t have access to a public water supply, so it’s important to have a good well (or wells) available, or that an aquifer exists, underlying the property, from which a good water supply can be developed.The primary uses of water on the farm are for watering and washing horses, general cleaning, dust control in training areas, and, in some cases, irrigation.Irrigation used to keep pastures green or to water hayfields can exceed all other uses. If available, surface water, from a pond, lake or stream, can often be used for irrigation purposes.Availability of other utilities and servicesOther utilities and services covers wastewater disposal, electrical hookup, heating energy source (natural gas, LP gas, fuel oil), internet availability, cell phone coverage and solid waste disposal. All are important to consider.In rural areas, septic tanks and drain fields are the most practical way to treat and dispose of wastewater. However, not all soils are conducive to the use of these systems. Percolation tests may have to be done to determine whether the soils are suitable.Natural gas is the preferred energy source for heating, but many rural areas will only have propane gas available. Horses generate a lot of body heat, so the need for space heating may be limited. Heating wash water and preventing horse’s drinking water from freezing can usually best by done with electricity.
How is the coverage?


Having good internet connection and cell phone coverage is becoming increasingly necessary. Some remote areas may still have connection problems.How will you manage the stinky stuff?Horse farms generate a considerable amount of solid waste in the form of manure, and you’ll want to consider how manure will be managed when planning a horse farm purchase. Options are spreading it on the land, perhaps giving or selling it to nearby farmers, or having it hauled to a landfill by a contract waste hauler.Existing and Planned StructuresWhether you’re buying an existing horse farm or one with existing structures that can be renovated for horse related uses, inspect closely (1) the quality of the structures, including buildings and fences, (2) for the possibility of nuisance problems that result from poor layout or adoptive use, (3) to determine the cost of renovations necessary to fit your intended uses of the property.Get Help!Find an agent that truly understands equestrian properties – if they don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re talking “horse”, they can’t adequately represent your best interests. Do your own due diligence to find one with the necessary knowledge.And last, but certainly not least, consider the neighborsHorse people are generally quite neighborly and easy to get along with. Generally, they like to network and socialize with people who have similar interests, like horses and country living.That said, there are people who enjoy outdoor activities with little regard for environmental stewardship or the sensitivity of others, so before purchasing, it’s prudent to ask some questions about the neighbors, or better yet, to meet them personally.Whew, there it is.Hopefully, that list of questions and considerations was helpful, and not too daunting. Yes, there’s a lot to consider before buying horse property, or any property for that matter.But, as the saying goes, it’s also not rocket science, but rather simply a matter of doing your homework and due diligence. And of course, in that regard, it’s also important to work with a qualified and competent Realtor

Horse Training for Beginners

If you are new to horses and riding, the idea of actually training a horse can seem rather intimidating. Horses are big, have minds of their own, and can at times seem very unpredictable. However, if you are willing to take the time to learn about how horses think and behave, you can train your horse through many issues in a way that is safe for you and the horse. The one warning that I will give here is that there are some behavioral issues that take experience and skill to work through, but the only way to get that experience is to start slow, start working through things and always be aware of your horse and what he is telling you.

Start By Watching
If you are new to horse training, the first step is to start watching horses in the field and as others are working with them. Get used to reading the language of the horse, what does it mean when the horse swishes his tail, or when he raises his head and tightens his ears? Learning to recognize and translate the horse’s body language is the number one part of being successful at training and, more importantly, keeping yourself safe. You need to know when the horse is not paying attention and needs a wake-up, or when the horse is being pushed to hard and is starting to get defensive by preparing to kick or bite. Is the horse defiant and aggressive, or is he just scared? I can’t say it enough? reading the horse is the key to training and the key to not getting hurt in the process of training. You cannot learn to read a horse by looking at pictures or reading books, you have to go out and watch real horses and be aware of what they are doing and feeling. You have to get inside the head of the horse. This is a skill that takes a lifetime to master, but start now and you may be surprised how quickly you will begin picking things up.

Basics of Training
There are two ways to train, and this applies not just to horses, but to ourselves as well. You can train with positive reinforcement, so that the horse is working towards a reward. Or you can train with negative reinforcement, so that the horse is working to avoid something. Most good horse training involves a combination of the two. Food can be used for positive reinforcement, but for horses, rest, comfort, and safety can be positive reinforcers as well. This is where having a relationship and a connection with the horse you are training will make the training easier and more effective. A relationship can mean simply that the horse trusts you because you behave consistently and the horse can see you as a companion, not someone to be feared.

Horses learn to respond to cues, just like dogs and even people. For example, most riders, when they want the horse to move forward, squeeze with their lower legs. This is a cue, the trained horse will respond by moving forward. A cue can be anything, the physical pressure from our heel or hand, a spoken word, or a non-physical pressure applied with our eyes and body language. The cue itself really doesn’t matter, as long as it is consistent. Most horsemen use some kind of pressure, whether physical or non-physical. So you apply the cue, the horse begins to move to find the right answer to get rid of the pressure. When he finds the right answer, we release the pressure and give him a reward, which can be patting and praise or a food reward if appropriate. For example, we point the lead rope and the horses nose towards the trailer and tap him on the hindquarters with a stick, these are two cues asking him to move forward. He may fidget side to side, or move backwards, but will eventually take a step forward. This is the response we wanted so we immediately drop the pressure and praise him. The praise is positive reinforcement, which we discussed in the previous paragraph. You should also give the horse a rest period, even if its short, after he gets a difficult training concept, to further establish the behavior.

The kind of training that you want to recognize and stay away from is where the horse is solely motivated to behave a certain way to avoid pain. This may be that he goes forward quickly because he knows he will get spurs in his side or a whip if he doesn’t. While difficult to discern, horses that have been trained solely through pain may behave nicely but they are mentally shut down and display little personality, curiosity, or affection. You want your horse to enjoy training, just as the family dog jumps to his feet when the leash is pulled out.

Shaping Behaviors
Behaviors will not happen perfectly the first time. Training a horse to behave a certain way or to perform a specific movement takes time and the action must be shaped until it is performed just as you want it. For example, when training a horse to perform a flying lead change, the rider commonly starts with asking the horse to perform a simple lead change with maybe 10 steps of trotting. This is at first rewarded, and over time the trainer becomes more specific, asking for fewer and fewer trot steps until eventually the horse just performs a flying change without the additional steps. Obviously there are a few other skills that the horse has mastered to perform this flying change, but the basic principle is the same, the trainer shapes the movement to his liking. Another example could be correcting a horse that is pushy on the ground. The first step is to begin asking the horse to move his shoulders away. At first this will consist of physical pressure on the lead rope and with the trainer’s hand pushing on the shoulder. When the horse moves his shoulders away from the trainer, he is rewarded. After several repetitions, the trainer will ask the horse to move from just pressure with the lead rope. Again, the horse will be rewarded when he responds correctly. Finally, the trainer will ask the horse to move just by applying the pressure through body language and the horse moves. If the horse is asked to move away with body language only the first time, he is not likely to respond, but after the consistent increases in pressure, he learns what behavior is expected, learns how to do it more correctly and so learns efficiently without undue stress.

Is your Horse in the Right State of Mind for Training?
For training to be effective, the horse must be in a good state of mind. If he is scared or distressed, the training will not go very far. The best training takes place when the horse is calm, content, and curious. When the horse comes out of this state, the trainer needs to find a way to redirect and refocus his attention. If the horse becomes fearful due to a training object, such as a whip or stick, then back off and spend some time desensitizing until the horse is more relaxed again. If the distraction is something else (maybe another horse is running in a field close by) then look for a way to get the horses attention back on you. You could keep your horse moving, or ask for simple exercises that you are confident your horse can perform. If something that you did scared the horse, or if he is getting frustrated with the training, then stop and spend some time rubbing him or just walking leisurely until he relaxes and you can go back to the training, starting with another simple exercises using plenty of rewards to make the session fun again. Do not waste your time working with a horse that is extremely stressed or excited. The horse will not be able to focus on your training, and you are sure to get frustrated.

This same concept applies to you as well – if you are frustrated after a day at work, or just feel yourself losing patience with your horse – stop! It is better to pick up the training again on another day then to push past your own mental limits and possibly do something that you will later regret and that will set your training back.

Learn more about training horses at my video blog: http://www.crktrainingblog.com.

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