It looks like all our kids and grandkids will be living in the Denver area soon. We have been tossing around the idea of moving closer to them for years, so maybe now is the time?? I would love to have some feedback from breeders in Colorado. Is it possible to have grass fields on a small farm within an hour or two of the city? How is the dressage community/shows/breed shows? Any great repo vets in the area? Young horse starters? Know of any small farms for sale or lease? Thanks in advance for any info you can share!
The dressage community in Colorado is doing fine. Rocky Mountain Dressage Society is the second largest GMO in USDF. Much of the membership is lower level, though there certainly are some very nice horses and riders in the area. No problems getting enough shows and scores needed for all USDF qualifying, year-end, etc. The breed shows are NOT well attended by spectators though.
The best repro vets are an hour or two north of Denver--Royal Vista Equine is probably the best. Others use CSU Veterinary School (Fort Collins) because they're fine and much less expensive than private vets. Littleton Equine Medical Center is in Denver and is very good in terms of medical/lameness--they don't do much repro though.
Horse starters--Of course, there are many. I would probably use Colts Unlimited--which is out of Wyoming. Pretty long drive but they'll pick up your horse when they're in town for shows, etc. Colts Unlimited is more geared toward hunter/jumpers but do a good job getting them under saddle without stress.
The big factor is land. Rolling pastures with grass require irrigation or must be many acres/horse. This semi-arid environment will not support 24/7 grazing on a small acreage without irrigation. Expect to pay a lot of money for a place with good grass and good irrigation. Really, a lot of money. There's good land all around the Denver area. You can find more affordable places north and south/east of the city. These tend to be out on the plains and in less attractive small towns. Towns like Larkspur have lovely horse places and cute towns but the costs go up dramatically. Some places, like Larkspur, have serious problems brewing with future water supplies. In Colorado, it's always wise to find out as much as you can about where you are in the irrigation rights and what the future holds for water. You could buy an irrigated place at premium cost and then find out you're last in line for water--which means you won't get any during times of drought. Most people buy twice or three times the land you would need in Michigan and rotate horses through each pasture or sacrifice a large turn-out area (that WILL turn to dirt) and put the horses in there at night and when the pastures are stressed.
For breeders, one problem with Colorado is getting people out here to look at horses. We're in the middle between both coasts--kind of hidden away. It's all in what you have though. The bigger breeders in Colorado are mainly producing foals with jumping breeding. Look up Harmony Sporthorses and Crooked Willow Farm. I imagine we could use some dressage-bred foals--but I don't know the foal market too well right now--with the economy, etc.
Opel provided a good assessment, but I will add a few more as I was born and raised in Colo and my parents still live there.
She is right, you will not have much grazing land as it is too arid. That being said, compared with the East and MidWest, the hay in CO is generally gorgeous and much greener (both grass and alfalfa) than we can get out here. Mainly because it is arid, they irrigate the hay fields cut and bale quickly because it is so dry (ie, not humid) and sunny.
Especially compared with MI, the weather is much nicer and lots of sun! Generally riding is more comfortable both in the summer and winter because it is not humid (feels less hot or cold).
Since I have left, CO has really had a much bigger expansion of the dressage scene. But be prepared to drive a while to get to shows -- the states out West are BIG
Last edited by Edgewood; Dec. 17, 2009 at 02:02 PM.
Agreed. Great hay, not too expensive compared to elsewhere. Let's face it-- most horse people supplement with hay year-round to save their pastures. It's not a big deal. Lovely, sunny weather for all seasons. Yes, we get snow but it melts quickly. Usually within a week.
Thanks for the info Opel and Edgewood!! It would certainly be a big change with the water issues.... I am going to read up on irrigation rights. In Michigan I seem to spend a lot of time mowing and trying to get the water OFF my pastures. Good to know about the hay
Water rights is exactly why I thought my place would sell in 10 minutes. Not so!
You will need to buy hay all year long but there is some lovely hay to be found.
I live just east of longmont, kind of a mix between being close to everything you need and being far enough away from everything you don't. Work with some local growers so I get my hay 5 minutes up the road. If you are a small breeder it works perfect. The horse atmosphere has been getting better and better each year. When I first moved to CO some 15 years ago it was not as active as it is now.
Weather is great but bring your sunscreen.
I live west of Denver and have been breeding horses on a small scale for 20 plus years. Yes the ground, especially where I live, has no root base so the horses hooves will tear up the ground faster than they actually eat it down. Rotation and "sacrifice" areas are the way to go. Yes good hay is around, just have a good sourse. Mine is actually grown in the mountains and is really good grass hay. Unfortunately, to have horses out 24/7 in pasture to keep the costs down you will not be living very close to the metro area--say at least 1-2 hrs away.
Contrary to one post, Littleton Large Equine does have a fabulous Repro vet besides being nationally known for their lameness/surgery facilities. Dr. Jessica Dunbar has been my vet since she came to Colorado, and is one of the best repro vets. Of course there is Royal Vista and CSU but if your breeding a few horses, traveling with them is not as cost effective as having the vet come to you. She is well versed on embryo transfers, insemination of fresh, cooled and frozen and she collects stallions a well.
There are many people around that start young horses. Personally I use an ex jockey that has started all but one of my young horses and I recently sent a 2 yr old to an ex jumper rider who starts the show hunters for many hunter/jumper people. Both are excellent, depending on your goals and I am sure there are other people around too. Also there is definitely not a shortage of professional hunter/jumper trainers in the area who can continue their education!!
The problem in selling horses here is that they need to be 4 yr old and started before you can even get people out to the barn. But we do have a big hunter/jumper "A" circut. While these show are going on, you can get a stall, ride on the ground, show a little and expose the youngsters to major riders and trainers from across the county. This is one way to sell locally.
Our weather is great 15 degrees below one day and 65 above the next!!!. 2 feet of snow one day, it melts and the roads are dry by noon!! Not like Michigan or Wisconsin for sure (I know because my husband is from there)--no humidity and blue skys 360 days a year!! Come on out--we need more horse people!!
The big factor is land. Rolling pastures with grass require irrigation or must be many acres/horse. This semi-arid environment will not support 24/7 grazing on a small acreage without irrigation. Expect to pay a lot of money for a place with good grass and good irrigation. Really, a lot of money.
Ouch, you seem to be right on the mark with this Opel!! I have looked at some internet sights and talked to a realtor and it doesn't look too promising I don't need a huge house but I do need a nice size barn with foaling stalls. A loafing shed and iffy fencing isn't going to do it, there are priorities! I have seen some nice acreage for sale and could start from scratch. That means I would have to lease something for a while, or board my mares.... Who am I kidding, that would blow my mind, lol!!!
I am very impressed with the RMDS! I would be great to be a part of such a well run organization.
I do have people fly in to see my foals and I do sell out of state, so I hope that wouldn't change too much. Of course I could always keep the youngsters until they were undersaddle if I had more room....
It would be nice to see the sun more often. Michigan weather is pretty horrible, grey and freezing in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. We do have some fabulous fall color though!
Hi railmom, I live an hour north of Denver in Fort Collins. Like everyone else said, weather is good, land (and any with decent grass) is expensive. I would love to live in Berthoud/Longmont, but it's not practical for my job, and Fort Collins property is considerably less expensive. It's fairly easy to have the horses live outside all year round. I keep mine in paddocks with run in sheds, have a few pastures that I rotate on, and only bring them in the barn during foaling season or in bad weather. I am fortunate to live about 15 minutes from CSU and use them for breeding, but there are a couple of other good repro vets around. CSU is very affordable compared to other vets around.
For young horse starters, one of my good friends works in Longmont and trains/teaches. She has had taken three horses each of the last two years to the National Young Horse Championships.
There aren't a lot of breeders around. I take my babies typically to Holsteiner or Oldenburg inspections, and I'd say there were about 6 foals at each inspection this year. I wish there was a regional breeders group. Most of us are small breeders, and there are some exceptional broodmares in the area.
As far as sales, I've sold a few of the lower priced ones locally, but everything else has gone mostly to California. If they are priced competitively, buyers will still buy.
Finding property that is laid out well for breeding is tough. If it has a decent barn or fencing, it seems the houses are ginormous (which we didn't want or need) and expensive. The houses that are smaller seem to have completely redneck horse setups with falling down sheds and barbed wire. We ended up buying an unfancy house on land, and built our barn, paddocks, fencing, arena, etc. We'll probably end up doing this again when we move in a few years.
I will put in my two cents worth. Born and raised in Colorado, I wouldn't dream of living any place else. Weather is gorgeous. I live south east of Boulder (in Broomfield) so I am very handy to Denver and the Metro area. The Boulder area is quite expensive, though. I have also been breeding for almost thirty years. I will be hosting my 18th Oldenburg inspection this coming summer and am on the Board of ISR/Oldenburg NA. I would say that half of my babies sell in state and the other half out of state. Never had a problem selling. I will admit, I prefer to sell when they are well started undersaddle, so they generally sell at three years of age. My husband is an Equine Veterinarian that services a wide area. We do a very large reproduction business every year...stallion management and collection, breeding and foaling. I would highly recommend Colorado for the breeder. Good luck in your move!
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Centennial Valley Equine Hospital