I'm not in CA, but more or less the equivalent high desert environment in Utah.
Once you get used to the lack of conventional "pasture," and realize that even if you have a decent acreage you are going to have to feed hay all year round, it's really rather a great environment.
Very few bugs, pests and diseases thrive in the high desert, for instance. If the summer heat doesn't fry 'em, the snow and cold in the winter will finish them off.
Poop dries out in hours, makes keeping paddocks clean a breeze.
You do have to be a bit careful not to turn your land into a dustbowl. Restrict and rotate paddocks so that the horses don't tear out every living thing. If your area is like ours, forget the concept of irrigating, water is far too scarce and expensive and a lot doesn't go very far. Check into what your water rights are on your land and how many head of livestock you are entitled to water for.
I have a cabin in the area, in Arnold to be specific. It's not a place for horses. Getting there is mostly a two lane highway and the closest H/J shows would be Sacramento or Elk Grove, both of which would be a pain to haul to. I believe there was a barn in Copperopolis that tried to do schooling shows, but I'm not sure if they still do.
Horse property is reasonably priced, but I believe most people who have horses in the area mostly trail ride. I don't even recall ever seeing an arena on any property I've seen around there.
Last edited by jenm; Feb. 19, 2013 at 06:43 PM.
Reason: added info
Older thread but thought I would add my .02 anyway, having moved from VA to UT in the 90s. I cannot speak to California specifically but maybe some of my UT experiences will be relevant.
Yes, it's a change, but not altogether unpleasant. Where I am, and indeed throughout the west, alfalfa is the default hay, good grass hay (my preference) is pretty hard to find and pricier than alfalfa. That said, my BO does make the effort to buy grass hay- my horses, and many in the barn, get a combo of grass and alfalfa, and some get grass only.
If you are buying property- make sure you are buying property that comes with water! Not just culinary water but secondary aka 'agricultural' water. As 'old timers' say in these parts, whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting- and many big parcels, when acquired for subdivision or just taken out of ag production, the water rights get sold off- you don't want to be there.
Small horse properties are the norm, and I'm talking 1/2 acre to 1 acre for house and barn and paddocks etc. Which is why I have not, as yet, bought a horse property- I'll be wanting 5-10 acres w/ water so that I can create an irrigated pasture- it will not stand up to grazing as one gets back east because of the soils and desert environment- but if done right they can still get a decent amount of grazing during the growing season. To give you some perspective, where the rule of thumb is 1 acre per horse for grazing on the east coast, if you have 'native' vegetation in the sagebrush steppe environment, you need 50-100 acres for one horse (or cow) to survive (if that were the sole source of food).
I'm lucky enough to live in a state where there is much public land and thus many horse trails. Yes, one has snakes, mountain lions, bears, coyotes and such 'around,' but not a big deal for me! Flip side is- in many areas (including my house)- no ticks or mosquitoes or fleas (though to be sure you can find them, the surest way is to haul to a trail and forget you needed to bring fly spray). And there are very cool places to ride, year 'round.
JenM, I actually got curious and google Earthed the old ranch, which still exists although it looks as though the old horse barn is now a growing operation . The big arena is still there, IIRC they did cuttings there in the '50's, the round pen and the smaller pastures. Also the acres of rocks, LOL!
For the OP, google street view is much more comprehensive in CA, for an example I was able to street view our old cabin which was on a graveled one lane road in the 60's and has gotten a thin coat of pavement and not much else. They only do numbered roads out in the countryside here in KY. It might be possible to google and street view the parcel so you have a half an idea what you are looking at.
The site of the Twain Harte/Sonora ranch was/is about three miles south of our cabin and on a creek so had the potential for grazing, due north of it are the big rock escarpments (granite faces) and then the foothill chapparal where our cabin was, so the ranch was a nice horse property, due north was solid rock and then there was the sewage treatment plant off to the west of our cabin. The treatment plant was a horse boarding operation during the late 60's, self care pasture boarding on the property where they sprayed the treated effluent. Even then I thought Yuck!, but on the Santa Rosa plain there are cow pastures where they do the same thing.
Whoops, got a little OT, but what I mean is that within three miles the range could be from a good horse property to completely unuseable (although it was beautiful trail ride country ).
I can tell you that the fly problem was low, it rained in the winter only pretty much, but most of the mosquito borne diseases have arrived/been identified since the later '70's so I don't know if they are now found in CA, or where in CA.