10 Things to Consider When Buying a Horse Property
If you are in the market for a horse property, chances are you have a lengthy list of all of the attributes you want in your new property. These can be as specific as what features the house will have (though many equestrians will tell you, it’s not about the house, it’s about the barn!) down to the size of acreage. Through my years of experience in selling real estate and my firsthand experience of building my own horse property, I’ve come up with a list of ten things that are often overlooked when considering a horse property.
- Layout – If you keep your horses at home, but still work full time, this is one of the most important factors to consider. The layout of a property determines how much time you will spend doing farm chores every day and what tools you need to complete your tasks. For example, if your barn is on the other side of your
property, it will take you doublethe time to do night checks and in poor weather will likely require you to use a vehicle of sorts to access the barn. Or, for properties that are set up where the barn is not near the pastures, this will require you to halter each horse and walk them across to their pasture. The setup of a barn can dictate how quickly you can get through day to day chores. It’s important to go into a prospective property and evaluate the layout with a lens of what your realistic labor factor will be.
- Pastures – My rule of thumb when helping a client evaluate a property is to make sure that there is double the amount of pasture for the
amountof horses they plan to keep at the property. For example, if they plan to keep 2 herds with 2-3 horses each, they will need 4 pastures to be able to adequately rotate pastures. In Colorado, we are not always fortunate with rain and sometimes we will go years with very dry pastures. Proper rotation of the pastures will prevent overgrazing. Once a pasture is overgrazed, it is very hard to come back from that, so taking great precautions to avoid that through the use of cross fenced pastures is key.
- Fencing – There could be an entire novel written on different fencing types! This is perhaps one of the most important factors to consider when buying a horse property. Fencing is not cheap. If you are buying a property that has fencing in need of TLC, you must get a bid prior to buying so you know exactly what you are working with. This is the piece I often hear clients underestimate the most in terms of cost. The type of fencing you have is vital to your horses’ safety. A nice safe fence will be costly upfront, but it is nothing compared to the inevitable vet bill(s) and the potential danger of a run-down fence.
- Water – Without water, you really do not have a property! Thorough research of your well is an essential step when looking to purchase a horse property. The Division of Water Resources has a great website that can help you begin the research on the
welldetails on your prospective property. Knowing exactly what your limitations are on your well is necessary to make sure you aren’t overusing your water resources. If you are looking to purchase a horse property for use as a boarding facility, it is imperative that you involve a trust water attorney to make sure your property is structured (or has the capacity) to accommodate your business plans.
- Septic – The placement of a septic system and leach field is usually more of an issue on 5-acre parcels and less. The home will generally have a septic system (commonly identified by two lids coming out of the ground, some can be fully buried) as well as leach field that is appropriately sized for the home’s number of bedrooms. A common issue I see when showing horse property is that many people have horses grazing on their leach field or have even built buildings or arenas over them. This is not ideal and something you really should avoid when looking for a home to purchase. A leach field can be easily damaged when it is subjected to
heavy weightconsistently and they can be costly to repair or replace ($7,500-$15,000 depending). The ideal placement for a septic system and leach field would be in the backyard of the home away from all horse facilities.
- Arena –For those who are looking to purchase a property where you can continue your riding and training, the arena can be surprisingly pricey. If your property does not have an arena and you plan to add one, be sure to figure out the location and what type of base and footing you prefer. From there, be sure to get three different bids so you know you will have enough money left over after the purchase to complete your arena project. If the property has an arena in place already, take care to analyze the condition of the base, existing footing
anddrainage. It’s not always possible, but incredibly helpful, to visit the property after a fresh rain or snow to see how well the arena drains and give you an idea of how functional it is for future riding.
- Setbacks – The county dictates the setbacks of a property. This is the space between your neighbor’s property and where you can build. For example, when I built our arena, we were subject to the setbacks of being unable to build our arena within 50 feet of the front of our property and 25 feet on the side of the property. When evaluating smaller parcels, be sure to know what your setbacks are because 50 feet can radically change your plans if it turns out you are unable to build in that space.
- Trailer Access – If you plan to keep a trailer at home, knowing where you plan to park it and how easy it is to access it is a great thing to consider. Identifying trailer parking and access is something that can easily be done the first time you visit the prospective property. Ideally, you’d like to have one way in and one way out but if you only have one access point, having a space to turn around is very helpful. If you plan to have
boarders, consider that some of them might come with not only a horse but a trailer too, so taking into consideration where they will park their trailer when not in use is key.
- Manure Removal – Horse property ownership is a 24/7 battle of manure creation and removal! Knowing what your plan is for manure removal plays into the first tip to consider of
layout. Do you plan to dispose of your manure in a dumpster and have it collected by a waste company once or twice weekly? If so, be sure that the dump truck can adequately reach your dumpster in all weather conditions. Do you plan to dump into a muck pile and have the manure removed every few months by a manure removal company? If so, make sure that the manure truck can actually access the pile. Do you plan to spread your manure? If this is the plan, make sure you truly have enough land to spread that you don’t bog down your pastures with excess manure.
- Hay Storage – Ideally, a property should have a good area for at least 3-4 months of hay storage. This provides you the ability to purchase hay in bulk and store during the winter months and other times of low hay availability. The best-case scenario is a separate outbuilding for hay storage that is easily accessible to wherever you plan to keep your horses (paddocks, barn, etc.). Remember, it’s important to keep the hay dry and on pallets so that if you do happen to have any water on the floor it will not soak into the bales and cause them to mold. These are just 10 things to consider when you are beginning your search for your dream horse property. There are many other factors that must be evaluated depending on what your goal is for your property, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!
This article was written by Andrea Price Valenzuela of Price & Co. Real Estate. Andrea Price Valenzuela, owner of Price & Co, and Emily Baker run the Equestrian Living Branch of Price & Co Real Estate. They would be happy to help you find the horse property of your dreams. Like their page on