BY PIPER WHELAN
Whether you’re buying your first horse property, changing your focus or looking for your dream ranch, there are many elements to consider in your search for the perfect property. In this article, we list some of the most important geographical factors to think about when identifying your needs, and what to look for when viewing properties.
Work with a real estate professional specializing in rural properties who also knows the area well. Not only will they know what to look for and be familiar with the area’s land use bylaws, they can better meet your needs by understanding the lifestyle you want.
Start your search with a trip to your county office to learn about the land use bylaws for rural properties. The regulations on property use, environmental considerations and how many animals are allowed per acre vary by each county or municipal district.
The purpose of your horse property will determine a number of factors, including size, best possible layout, necessary facilities and land use regulations on agricultural businesses and livestock units per property. It’s also important to think about what you may want to do with your property in the future, and factor in the extra acreage that may be needed for any expansion.
Think about how much land on the property is actually usable. A larger property covered in trees and water may have less usable space than a smaller property without those features. Depending on your needs in a horse property, you want to ensure the property meets those needs. Are you looking for trails for riding? A large, flat space for an arena or barn?
Land with good drainage is particularly important for grazing livestock. Pastures need dry footing, and creating well-drained areas can be expensive. Land with a slight slope, around a 2-5 percent grade, is considered ideal for pasture because it drains well and is less likely to lead to major erosion. Look for the high spots on the property, and ideally you will find wide, narrow drainage paths for slow-moving water. You want to avoid flood plains, as well as low-lying areas where rain tends to pool.
Sufficient water access is a necessity. The generally-accepted standard for abundant well water supply is no less than 10 gallons per minute. Regulations depend upon the county and the number of animals per acreage. Will you need to dig a well or dugout to have enough water for your horses? Be sure to examine all the water access points, and know that the further you have to haul water to your livestock, the greater the time commitment.
When examining pasture quality, check for the growth of good forage. Land with substantial weed growth and marsh vegetation are less suitable for grazing, and be sure to check for plants that are toxic to horses. Reseeding a pasture takes time and money, but is generally a good investment. Check the soil quality — clay-based and rockier soils are less productive. There are many good grazing resources, such as the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association, to give you an idea of proper pasture management and rotation based on acreage and number of animals. Also consider whether or not you will have to produce hay. How much hay land will you need? Will you have to purchase additional hay?
Next week, we will discuss infrastructure considerations when viewing a horse property, such as renovations, building from the ground up and fencing.
Visit our Real Estate webpage to check out current horse property listings.