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Looking at a horse property in the winter

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  • Looking at a horse property in the winter

    We are going to look at a horse property this weekend. Right on schedule, we will probably have a foot of snow by the weekend. I'm not sure how I am supposed to be able to tell anything about drainage, layout, pasture quality, etc.

    We have only purchased one house in our lives, and it was a family estate type deal. I don't know what I should be looking at! I think if we like it, we'll get it inspected before making an offer. But what do I do to make sure it is properly zoned for what I want to do with it? (a horse or two, maybe chickens and/or some other livestock for our own use.) How do I tell if it is going to be underwater all spring, etc? It is 5 acres, half and half pasture and wooded. The woods are hardwoods. Black walnut is common in the area, but will I even be able to identify it in the winter w/no leaves? My horse is founder-prone. Any special restrictions on proximity to the pastures?

    Once we figure out if it will even work, I would have to figure out how to make a chunk of it into a dry lot since beasty can't eat grass anyhow!

  • #2
    Hey there... how've you been??

    I'd ask your realtor to find out how the property is zoned. They should be able to call the town and find out. Also ask about it being wetlands....

    You can ask general questions about the pasture, how it has been maintained, does it flood, etc. but who knows what kind of answers you may get! Also take a look at the general layout of the pastures.... how are they constructed, are there gates between fields, easy access to the barn, etc.

    Think about the tasks you will be doing every day and how the layout of the land may affect it. Had a friend who bought a lovely farm, barn was on a slope which seemed like no big deal, well mud season made that slope deadly.

    As far as trees and such, can't help there, I'm clueless.

    One necessity (IMO) in our neck of the woods-- water in the barn! You don't want to be lugging buckets in snow to and from house/barn.

    Storage is a big thing too... space for hay, equipment, bedding, etc.?

    ABSOLUTELY get it inspected if you decide to go forward.

    I'm sure others will have much more advice, these are just my thoughts having looked at a few places this year....
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


    • #3
      Don't know where you are but it wouldn't hurt to look at it under the snow, but
      you might want to wait to make a decision until the snow melts. Hopefully, you are somewhere the snow won't be there all winter. If you can get back just
      after it melts, you should be able to get a good feel for the drainage. Wouldn't
      to ask if pictures are available when things are green.

      Take boots so you can tromp through the snow and take a good look at the exterior of the buildings as much as you can.

      Make a list of the questions you listed earlier so you don't forget. And if you can, look at other properties before making a decision. Don't forget to ask about water and electric to the barn--we didn't with our first one. Had water
      but no electric and had to have that done when we moved in. Feeding by flashlight was not on my list of the joys of farm life.

      Good luck!


      • Original Poster

        I don't know if this is a huge mistake, but we are going to look at it with the realtor who is selling it. We haven't been seriously looking, so don't have our own at this point. I think they'll still be able to answer most of those questions.

        Great point about water (and electricity, probably) in the barn. Pics don't look like there is electric, but it's hard to tell until we get out there. We'll definitely check on the water, that hadn't even occurred to me! Oops!

        I don't care for the fencing (electric tape,) but I am going to have to make the dry lot anyways. I am thinking that it should run me <2k for three board fencing and a strand of electric for a suitable paddock. Safergrass recommended 100'x100', so that would be 400 feet of fencing, I'm hoping that won't be too horribly expensive.

        We aren't in a hurry to move her since I absolutely love where she is boarded, but anytime we see a horse property w/existing barn and fencing, we are compelled to go look With her living an hour away, and the new addition on the way, I see complications in my future if I don't figure out some way to streamline life a little bit! (all of you who keep your horses at home can laugh at me now )We'd like to find a place in the next year or two.


        • Original Poster

          BasqueMom - Just saw your post. The snow will probably be there all winter . At least I'll get a good feel for what it will look like 6 months of the year, right? Great point though about when it melts. If it at least starts to melt, I can probably get a feel for how it will flow, where there might be standing water issues, etc.


          • #6
            snow makes even a garbage dump beautiful.

            if what you can see is neat and tidy and well kept, hopefully so is the rest that you can't see. If what you can see is unkempt or strewn with junk, be prepared for spring to reveal a clean up job the size of chernobyl.
            "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


            • #7
              We went house shopping last winter so I can chime in! We also made an offer with a couple feet of snow on the ground. Do I wish we would have seen it in the spring, sure... would it have changed our minds? Probably not. First off... fine, go look at it with the seller's realtor, but I would make it known that if you proceed you will be using your OWN realtor. That realtor wants to help his clients sell the house for the most money possible. KEEP THIS IN MIND WHILE YOUR LOOKING AT IT!!! Whereas our own realtor pointed out things that we might not have noticed that would probably need to be fixed or updated, it is not in the seller's realtor's best interest to do so. If you do end up liking the house, find your own realtor and go look at it a second time before making an offer pending inspection.

              As far as the horse aspect of it- Do not take someone's word that it is zoned for horses. If you are intent on bringing your horses there, look it up for yourself. There will be some zoning dept. in the city/county govt. A lot of cities have this info online. Ours was a "horse property" in that we were planning on making it one. It had no barn, fencing, water, etc. but we went into that knowing. Come spring... one of the "pasture sites" was under a lake from all of the flooding and snow melting. I thought to myself "what did we get ourselves into" but luckily it hasn't done it again.

              Definitely wear WARM clothes and boots. You want to really be able to look at the barn and outside. Make sure you know where the well and septic are in relation to the barn and pastures. We didn't know this at first and have odd shaped acreage. Come to find out there's a strip that runs behind the house that we were going to fence in and use to connect two pastures to each other (narrow skinny acreage) and sure enough our septic tank is back there and that part is useless.

              It really depends how perfect you expect things to be. We couldn't find houses with a horse setup we liked, so we knew we'd have to do a lot. So to us, having poorly laid out pastures, bad gate locations, etc. was laughable, because it was a heck of a lot easier to put up new fencing if posts were in the ground already than building a new barn and doing everything from scratch, KWIM?


              • #8
                If you like the place when you go see it, and then need to get a good idea about stuff like drainage, vegetation, etc., you could try to take a look at published topographic maps and soil classification maps for the region.

                Depending on where you are, try the local college library, especially if they have a geography, environmental science, ecology, or similar department.

                Another item which might be useful, if available, would be old air photos. Oh and I'm not sure if you would have this, but in Ontario we have Conservation Authorities - if you have something similar to that, they could tell you what type of trees are there.


                • #9
                  Ask the neighbors, several neighbors about the property, the area, schools, etc. You will be able to find out so much more than just talking to the realtor.


                  • #10
                    Before you buy, make sure you check with the local Boards to find out if there are Stable Regulations, horse/livestock limits or Conservation issues that could affect you. In my town, the Board of Health handles stable permits and we have a comprehensive set of stable regulations.
                    Good luck with your purchase!


                    • #11
                      Ask if they have recent pictures of the property without snow.