Have a 3/4 Chevy 4X4, standard transmission diesel. Need that to get through some years and still have to add weight to the box so I don't get stuck on the roads. Also have a Jeep but the wheel base is a bit narrow and short to navigate roads already broke open by other 3/4 ton trucks. Duals are a mixed blessing in snow - they often ride over the snow and get you good and stuck although in some conditions the added weight of the duals is great; duals in town are a PITA. Whatever you get, make sure you have enough ground clearance and a good skid plate.
Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!
We have a 1 ton 4x4 crew cab, single axle diesel. Great for hauling just about anything and pulling things out of the snow and mud. Our favorite vehicle is an older Nissan 4x4 pickup that goes through and over anything. That's what we use when snowed in at home and have to get to town.
We have two Ford trucks, a 96 F250 and a 99 F350, both with the 7.3. No dually.
We've had nothing but Ford trucks over the years, never had one let us down and we use them HARD. We just kept upgrading to bigger engines as we got bigger trailers and more horses. We would still just be using the 96 except it only has two doors and so we got the crew cab.
We've always lived in MT and most everyone we know have horses/trailers; the professionals I know are driving Dodges or Fords, the family members are all driving Fords or Dodges... my brother drives a Tundra but he doesn't have horses or heavy trailers.
Good tires and 4 wheel drive are how you deal with bad roads. And slow down!
Thank you so much for the great information. Without too much detail, my DH and I are now looking to move to MT, after some debate about moving closer to the east coast (there is another thread I started on that a while ago!) for some things, plans change (ie: jobs change!), and we traded in our '13 F350 dually for an '14 F250 SRW (4x4, of course) this AM in prep for the move. Made my heart sick to say bye to my dually though! I am planning on the snow to make up for it, in MT. Haha.
Curious now, those of you who live in Montana-if you don't mind, you can PM me if you prefer, but I would love to pick your brains about MT. What are the big 'horse populated' areas in MT? Bringing an equine business, and my DH's job being flexible in different areas of MT, curious if there is an obvious 'equine area' over another?
Don't know where in MT you are are moving, or what discipline you are looking for. I'm about 30 min from the MT border in WY. There is a little lower level eventing in Billings, and also a pocket in Jackson Hole, WY. Although it seems to be a pretty horse-heavy area, I've really struggled to find vets/farriers that understand that my little TB mare is NOT just a tool or "livestock"...hope you land in an area with good professionals!
I would say it's broken down into "areas" and I would say the Kalispell area or the Bozeman area are the best places for horses. Those areas are also known as "the Flathead" area or "The Greater Yellowstone" area for googling purposes... There is a horse presence in nearly all of Montana but those are the two places where people who have always dreamed of living in Montana seem to end up and buy their 20 acres and two horses... or more. There's money in those towns, good facilities, good vets, trail riding to dressage to rodeo... I think in a lot of the other areas, Great Falls, Billings, Missoula... there's either a smaller scene or, as someone said before me, horses are still viewed more as livestock which usually isn't a money maker for anyone with an equine business.
The Kalispell area is growing very quickly and IMO is out of control! lol It's so sprawled out and I really don't like that... but it's very horsey especially with the mountains right there. It has pretty stable weather compared to a lot of the state. Some wind which is inevitable when you have mountains and lakes right next to each other, snow, more pine trees than hay fields so you want to be sure of your hay supply. It's more affordable than Bozeman, both for property and cost of living. Rebecca Farm is a big eventing draw there and I know there are AQHA competitions there too...
The Bozeman/Greater Yellowstone area is beautiful and very trendy; it's more expensive but you get a lot for the money too if you can afford it. There are lots of jobs there, lots of hay, lots of money. Every aspect of riding is there too. Bozeman's sprawl is much better contained and the valley is a lot prettier b/c of it; Kalispell is just wall to wall traffic and stores and a field and a trailer court and a box store and another store... it's exhausting and the traffic is horrible. Bozeman has put a lot of effort into control all of that and while it's not perfect I prefer it a lot. Montana State University is there and it's a very artsy dynamic outdoorsy town. If it had half as many people and cost a little less we would have stayed forever. The Gallatin River Ranch has a big equestrian barn where my daughter took lessons for a while but I'm not sure how active it is any more, change of staff. There's http://www.bdctclub.com/ for dressage (I see George Morrison was there), Circle L Arena as a starting point for western type riding, just tons. Backcountry Horsemen are huge in both areas for trail riding and pack trips and outfitting (which is my scene).
Check the craigslist ads for each area; craigslist is a valid respectable advertising medium here in Montana! It will give you an idea of the area and the cost of hay and prices... If you look at real estate online obsessively like I am doing now (moving from the NW corner of the state to Great Falls this fall) make sure you expand the search to within 20-30 miles. Both areas are huge and you have to get that far out to get into the horse properties. Without knowing what your business is it's hard to say which one might be better; it seems to me that Kalispell might have more gaps that could be filled but Bozeman is just always growing and expanding and would be a great place for anyone to make a move if they have a good idea.
The weather can be hideous near Bozeman (or Kalispell too but Bozeman gets colder)... wind, rain, snow, blazing heat, -35* to 105* ... I've seen it snow in July a few times, I've had the garden freeze in May and again in August... it's extreme! Kalispell is a little more tempered I think... but not by much.
cowboymom, thank you so much! Very valuable info I will share with DH tonight.
We seem to be attracted to the Plains area, a little lower from Kalispell, right? How is that area?
We are moving from SC.
We love the MT weather though, so it will be a nice difference.
The one biggest thing I am seeing right now between DH and I is the amount of land we are looking for-my min. acerage is 40-50, his is more like 20. However, being that his job will not be a farm-based business, unlike mine, I am thinking it's not really up for debate-ha.
We are coming from experience on all sizes of land, currently from our 40 acre farm, which is quite manageable.
Personally, I am happy to buy land all day long, knowing it secures our future and not having too little to expand, unruly neighbors, etc. but he seems to stress over it.
Plains is in the Clark Fork river valley and is separated from Kalispell by a mountain range. There is a road over it but in the winter it can be debatable. You would be close enough to do shopping in Kalispell or Missoula but you would be isolated from them as well, by distance and geography. Plains (also called Wild Horse Plains) is part of a string of towns, Paradise (which is tiny, maybe a bar? ) then Plains then Thompson Falls which is a nice little town if you like small towns. And I mean small. You would need to go to Missoula or Kalispell for a lot of things; shopping, seed, equipment, repairs, doctors, and maybe vets.
Don't underestimate how the geography can isolate you-the mountains beside the river there are STEEP, straight up! So land is at a premium; the good river bottom farmland is the exception, not the rule.... If you have the money you can get beautiful land and since it's more remote and not many jobs the price might average out. That used to be an logging and ranching town; as you know, those industries have been kicked in the head pretty well so the town is less than it used to be, as is my hometown. The locals are going to be a mix of the diehards and the newbies, retired folks. That can make for a funny mix...
It's a pretty spot but you want to be ok with isolation; there is a small grocery store there but the prices will be high. If you feed quality feed to your dogs and horses you're probably going to have to go to Missoula for feed... I think most folks there go to Missoula instead of over the hill to Kalispell. Small hardware store but to buy in bulk for improvements, fencing, ect you're going to think of Missoula.... and that's an hour and a half a way or so, couple hours in the winter. It's different.
land in the foothills there can be very very dry and rocky. the river bottom is nice but once you rise above it you're in dry bunch grass and rocky, poor soil. They can be right next to each other-beautiful river bottom and prickly pear cactus! Look more up around Thompson Falls for good farmland if you are ok with remote; if you'd rather not be three hours away from Costco but still have a nice place then look around Ravalli, Frenchtown... Polson, along the lake.. Creston... Stevensville is really nice.
The weather there in Plains/T Falls and a lot that whole west side of the state is pretty mild, it is cloudy and overcast a lot. Think Seattle. Not much wind, lots of rain, temperate.
If farmland is a high priority you are looking in a place where it is in limited quantities.
Figure out what the highest priority is-land quality, remoteness, mountains, accessibility to resources, ect... it's so varied here... Here it's not the size of the property as much as the quality and it changes from mile to mile!
Thank you so much for the info! Since the last post, DH's job offer has changed to WY,.....which I am not so sure about. I have several friends (with horses) that are saying no way.....I am thinking I have to agree, but any thoughts? There are several job offers, so possibly other areas as well, and we are trying to do our research for all..... Geez!
Jackson Hole is GORGEOUS! Just like the best of what you can imagine from Montana... I would say it's somewhere between Bozeman and Aspen, CO for expensive and beautiful. I think a good horse scene there, lots of outfitting and trail riding anyway... I would go to Jackson Hole if I could afford to live there...
Lander, you may not like as much, I've only driven through it so can't speak to it much!
Wyoming isn't that bad, it's a lot like Montana in a lot of areas, dry and windy!