22 Jul What to Know Before You Buy a Horse Property
By Seth Randal
Owning and stabling a horse can be a an incredible joy, and also a tremendous responsibility. With Idaho’s agricultural roots, equestrian life is a big part of the Gem State’s culture. Capital Group works with many current and prospective horse property owners. This week, we’re highlighting important information for anyone considering purchasing a horse property.
Charlene Cooper is very involved in Idaho’s equestrian community. She’s 1st Vice President for the Idaho Horse Council, a board member for the Western Riding Club, and an officer for the Idaho Quarter Horse Association. Capital Group spoke with her for an honest assessment of what you should know if you’re considering buying an Idaho horse property.
UNDERSTAND THE COMMITMENT
Charlene says she sees a lot of common mistakes among new horse owners, starting with not understanding the level of commitment. “First they have no concept what it takes to own this big of an animal. They think they’re fun, they’re cute, until they see the work involved. It’s time consuming, they require food, water, veterinary care, trimming, grooming, all those things involve time and energy.”
“It’s like a dog or cat except they’re 100 times more work because they’re 100 times bigger.”
UNDERSTAND YOUR MOTIVATIONS
Do you want to have horses for your child? Children and horses can develop particularly strong bonds, and working with the animals may help instill responsibility and patience. But Charlene discourages people from getting a horse “for the kids” before performing due diligence. Especially, make sure the child has a true interest and an understanding of the work involved.
Before buying a horse, Charlene encourages parents, “Go to some place like a training facility, let your kid take riding lessons, find out if they’re really interested. There are a number of places in the Treasure Valley that give riding lessons.” It may even be possible to get lessons for free. “Some training places will allow a kid to work in trade for their riding lessons. That can help you find out if the kid truly, truly wants to do this.”
“Nobody buys a car first and then gives their kid driving lessons. Horses are very much the same. Find out if your kid has an aptitude for this, an interest in this, before you get a horse.”
Charlene says the upside can be amazing for both the child and animal. “There’s an old adage, ‘the outside of the horse is good for inside of a kid.’ For a kid that truly has a bond with a horse, it can be a loving caring thing that can teach a kid responsibility, give them a work ethic. Sitting on a couch with your iPhone or iPad will not give you that sense of responsibility or belonging. Kids like being close to horses, and horses love that. Often times a brush is as good as a pill for a horse.”
Charlene says it’s important for anyone buying horse property to have a financial cushion. “It’s not something you go into with a shoestring budget and be successful with,” she said. “There are ongoing expenses that occur, ready or not, like having a kid. You need to have some money set aside that will fix these problems. Not if they will arise, when they will arise. Understand the costs are ongoing and many family budgets can’t afford things that can occur with big animals.”
HAVE ADEQUATE SUPPLIES & EQUIPMENT
Any horse property needs to be properly equipped, particularly for Idaho’s diverse climate, according to Charlene. “It’s important that adequate fences are in place, adequate shelter, and a means to get water to horse whether it’s -20 or 100 degrees.”
“The most important thing a horse needs is water,” Charlene says. “A hose on top of the ground will not water horses in the winter. You can’t keep it from freezing, so you have to have means to get adequate supply of water to horses in the winter.”
Charlene also emphasizes the importance of food storage. “Where will you keep feed? Hay out in the open often goes bad. It gets wet and moldy. Horses will not eat moldy hay.”
LOOK INTO RESTRICTIONS
Before you commit to owning a horse property, it’s important to look into any potential neighborhood, city or county restrictions.
Capital Group consulted with Ada County Development Services about restrictions for horse properties. In Ada County, which includes rural areas outside of local city limits, they are pretty open with regard to where you can have livestock. Most parts of rural Ada County allow livestock, including horses, with the exception of higher density rural areas and industrial districts. The Ada County code dealing with livestock is 8-5-3-62. Other county codes dealing with health, safety, nuisance and noise can also impact horse owners.
“If you have waste sitting around, what do you do about the flies and mosquitoes?” Charlene asks. “Ada County has some restrictions about how to get rid of manure. If you have close neighbors, they shouldn’t have to put up with the smell of leaving piles of manure around. It’s not OK.”
Charlene says most of the people she knows compost their horse manure. But depending on the county, some take it to the dump. You’re encouraged to check the regulations in your local area.
Local cities also have specific restrictions on what animals you can and can’t have within city limits. If you have questions, it can be best to contact your city’s planning or development department.
TALK TO OTHERS
Using your resources is critical to being a successful horse property owner. Charlene says it’s “Very important to know someone with a horse so they can help you with the pitfalls you might expect to have. Horses require worming, their feet to be trimmed, place to keep your tack (saddle, bridle, halter, grooming supplies, etc.).”
“A local veterinarian is an important resource, someone reasonably close to where you live. They can help with things like how much food does horse require on daily basis, worming, etc.”
Charlene also suggests consulting local clubs and online resources for information about owning horses and acreage. Some great Treasure Valley resources include the Backcountry Horsemen of Idaho and local equine clubs. The Western Riding Club is the oldest such club in the state.
Charlene encourages people to learn about horses and their care before they actually making a purchase. “The buying the horse is the cheap part, owning them is the expensive part.”
Despite the challenges, owning a horse and equine property can be extremely fulfilling. Charlene says, while she didn’t grow up in a country setting, “I’ve always loved horses.” Now, helping keep Idaho’s horse industry healthy and successful is a major part of her life.