Environment is Important in Planning Your Equine Facility

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Ron Wallace has been a horse farm manager for more than 30 years. But he's not your normal horse farm manager; his business is to help select horse property, create or renovate the facilities, establish a management team, then gradually remove himself from the picture and leave the farm running smoothly. Wallace shared some thoughts about general planning that should go into the decision of buying a horse property in the previous article "???." In this article he helps you consider the positives and negatives of the environment of your property. You can find more about his company Equine Farm Management at www.EquineFarmManagement.com.

You must realize that you cannot make a farm fit the environment; the environment has to fit the farm operation you want.

Is the climate suitable to the type of farm operation you want to run? Are there climate abnormalities that you have to face? What happens if it rains too much? What happens if there is a drought? Is your area prone to storms, flooding, poor soil, extremely high or low temperatures, windy conditions?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to find out before you start your horse farm so you can plan how you will handle each of these situations.

Is the land suitable to the type of farm operation you want to run? Is it rocky, hilly, sandy, or swampy?

If you will utilize grazing for your horses, does the soil support grasses that are suitable for horses and horse traffic? How many horses per acre will the land support? Will you have enough horses to keep the grass grazed down or will you need to mow? Is there sufficient land to rotate pastures?

Horses and horse owners being drawn to a geographic location isn’t anything new. Lexington, Kentucky, became the place to raise Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds because of the fertile limestone soil and abundant water filled with desirable minerals. Ocala, Florida, is a similar limestone-based location.

What natural or other environmental resources do you have on the farm? Is there natural water (ponds, lakes, springs or wells) that could provide water? Or could those same features possibly mean boggy ground or constant flooding and require additional fencing to keep horses away? Do you have “city” water available? Are there restrictions on city water usage?

It’s much more difficult for a horse farm to be developed in the middle of the desert, or on a rocky cliff, because the soils and terrain aren’t conducive for horses. Most “horse” places develop because they are ideal for that breed or discipline. That’s not to say a fabulous facility can’t be created outside those "zones," it’s just harder to succeed.

It’s not just the horses you have to think about when evaluating the land. Can that environment support buildings, water lines, fences and septic systems? Or is the soil so rocky or unforgiving that putting in those features will be exorbitantly expensive?

You need to consider the aesthetic value of the land, including trees, streams and buildings. There also is the need to evaluate your neighbors’ properties. How they are tended and mended can make a difference in your property holding its value. Keep in mind that some beautiful trees are not good for horses (such as black walnut or cherry). Those trees will have to be fenced off or removed from pastures.

The human environment also needs to be considered. Often you have clusters of breed or discipline proponents in one area. That can be a benefit to ensure the support services needed for your industry. Having other horse folks around also gives a larger voice to any concerns you might have, such as zoning changes.

Zoning can be a big headache. You don’t want to purchase land or a farm where industry or urbanization is creeping in. Both can cause unique problems to your horse operation.

There are many environmental factors that need to be considered before you dive head first into a horse property. Understanding what you want to develop, and planning for the success of that horse facility, will go a long way in making the project go faster and easier.