House shopping and looking at horse amenities
My husband and I are house-shopping. We are either going to get a house and continue boarding my horse, or we're going to get a house that we can keep my horse on. We've found a few places with varying degrees of horse-readiness. From just the land - no barn, no shed, no fence - to fenced off with separate mud lot, 4-stall barn, and pond.
My question is, what all should I be taking into account when deciding if the second option is right for us or if we should just keep boarding.
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My first consideration would be whether or not I was willing/able to provide a companion animal for my horse if I went with the second option.
I can't offer advice on boarding vs. home, as I've never boarded.
I can't imagine not having the horses out my back door. The work is never ending but it's well worth it. There's no days off. If it were me, I'd look at price of the place with all of the amenities you want, then figure what it would cost to add all of those amenities to a place without them. Land set up would be important too, quality of current pasture/possible pasture/soil type, drainage, etc. I do agree with Mac, if you do go that route a companion would be an important thing to consider.
I'm not worried so much about a companion because my husband said we'd either get a pasture puff, a goat our fingering along those lines. I'm more concerned about quality of soil/pasture and what to look for, what to look for in drainage, is a pond a plus/does it require a lot of maintenance, etc. All of the properties we've seen are 5-6 acres total with at least 2 acres fenced off or available for fencing and all are on public water with a septic system.
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For the soil/pasture stuff, a good place for info is your local ag extension agent. I know ours offers testing really reasonable and he is always willing to identify plants/grasses (and I even took him a really odd looking spider to identify once).
We added a pond because some really wet years the ditches and our tile can't keep up, it's made a big difference. It's a double win for my hubby because he can have fresh fish for dinner about anytime he wants :wink: Maintenance on my pond isn't bad but we lucked out and hit multiple springs when digging so it stays pretty clean. Grass carp keep the algae down.
I didn't even know a local ag agent existed, lol. I would've had no clue where to start for testing. Now, for that, would I have to already own the property? One of the properties we found has a pond, but we haven't seen it in person yet. From the Google Maps satellite image, it looks like there's a fair amount of algae in there and from one angle there's a horse that looks to be drinking from it or investigating it. I know a friend of mine has a pond, but she puts chemicals in it to keep the algae under control. I wouldn't think something like that would be good if there are animals around that may drink out of it, though. I also read that grass carp (maybe?) help keep algae under control.
Another thing we were thinking about is what we'd need as far as extra maintenance. We know we'd need a new mower, but what else? Manure spreader? Anything else?
Just my opinion after wrapping up a similar search. The horsey piece is my dream, and my husband is supportive, but it was not his top priority.
We both agreed that, living in New England, we wanted an old, historic home, so that took priority. It quickly became apparent that places advertised as "horse properties" in our price range were typically new construction, trailers, or somewhat dated mid-century construction. Our realtor told us that, in our area and in her experience, horse folks either put all their money into their barn and fencing, or they put money in their house. But they didn't put money in both. I would say that was born out in our search. We saw some gorgeous barns all up-and-ready, but the houses tended to be a mess and had lost all the historical features we were looking for. We also saw plenty of houses loaded with character, but with barns that were not ready for anything to live there.
In the end, we went for house first, buying a sweet 1790's cape that was impeccably cared for. Wouldn't you know, it is the only house we looked at that didn't even have a falling down barn to work with. There are 5.5 acres out back, so we will be starting from scratch on the barn & fencing in the next 1-1.5 years after the dust settles.
I don't write all that to say that the way we did it is the best- just that, in our experience in New Hampshire, getting the house we wanted with the barn and fencing we wanted wasn't really an option, so we had to initially choose one over the other (unless you approached 7 figures, which we were not in a position to do. I won't assume you aren't, so if you are, you probably have a much better chance to get what you want in both a house and a barn).
Through the barn where I ride, I've connected with someone's husband who owns a fence and landscaping company (with plenty of horse experience), and he was out here today to start clearing the debris from what will be the first pasture. I agree with the extension recommendation above- I am going to be talking to them next week for advice on how to start seeding the cleared area with a long-term goal of having usable pasture. The drainage issue will be the next conversation.
Good luck, and above all, have fun! Having recently moved from the Midwest (Michigan), my sense is that it's still a buyer's market there, so if you don't have immediate time pressure, my #1 piece of advice would be to be really honest with yourself about your priorities in both house and land, and look around to try to find what ticks most of the boxes. If you don't have to decide quickly, it's great to shop around some.
Make sure there is a GOOD well.
Or, can you hit water if you drill.
Bear in mind that horse amenities typically don't add to the value of the property, just the marketability. If they do add value, it's not dollar for dollar, ie, a 60K barn may only add 15K to the market price of the place. That means that doing it from scratch is by far and away the most expensive way to get it done. Anything that's been done - clearing, fencing, any kind of prep for the pasture, any sheds or outbuildings at all, are pluses.
We looked at two places today.
The first is on 5 acres, but the house is in the middle, then a moderately sized backyard, then the fenced off pasture and 4 stall barn (space for 8 full-size stalls total). I think the horses are only on ~2 acres beyond the backyard area. The property is on city water, but there is a "faucet" (it's the same "faucet" that barns all over the place here use with the 3' pipe with a handle - I tried looking for a picture, but haven't been able to find one) in the barn. Now, I was always under the impression that those "faucets" are associated with wells, but there wasn't anything stating that there's anything other than city water access and the realtor didn't know of any wells. The pasture itself is not in the best shape. It's split in half right now with electric fencing separating the two sides. One side is pretty barren with little grass. The horses are on the more barren side (at least for today) with hay put down for them to eat. The other half isn't too much better. It has a lot of weeds and little grass, but a lot less dirt showing. I couldn't really get a good idea of where any drainage runs off. There are trees at the very edge of the property line.
The second property is also 5 acres. The house sits much farther toward the front of the property. There is a metal barn with large sliding doors, 2 windows, and a side access door. It's got a large size gravel base, but no stalls. Probably only space for 4 stalls. There is no horse barn built, but there was one that has been torn down (we could still see where the barn sat on the property with the imprint showing in the grass and it wasn't as nice as the rest of the property). There was once wood fencing around 3.5-4 acres of the property for horses. The current owners tore it down, took down the front part of the fencing across the yard along with the gates, and put up 3-strand barbed wire (it's VERY new looking). There's also a fenced in area for chickens and a small coop (there were 4 chickens there) next to the metal barn. There are 2 obvious drainage trails - one runs through the middle of the "pasture" area. That would be a muddy area when it's rained, but I don't know how quickly it would drain or if there'd be standing water for a while. It's roughly $80k cheaper than the first place.
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