As the Cheltenham Festival comes to a close for another year, we spoke to our sponsored jockey Martin Harley about what he would recommend for anyone considering buying equestrian property. Here are his top tips:
• If you’re buying an older property, make sure you understand whether any elements of it are listed. A listed outbuilding for example cannot be knocked down, which should be taken into account when considering the layout of your yard
• Understanding the drainage of the land is crucial to keeping future expenses under control. If the property has a ménage, check the drainage and soakage. An area with bad drainage will be more expensive to run in the longer-term
• It’s also important to check the land for lime. Swab the topsoil to understand the composition of the soil – this will make a difference to the way the horses train on the land as well as how the mare and the foal feed on the land
• Check the quality of the stables. Stables will also require good drainage but most importantly, make sure they are in good stead as they will undergo a lot of wear and tear on a daily basis
• A paddock should be top of the priority list for a homeowner with horses. Paddocks give the horses the chance to graze and have a run around. I always find that well exercised horses are happier horses
• When looking at the land that comes with an equestrian property, you should aim for an acre per horse. So if you have four stables, you should be looking for four acres of land with the property. This gives you ample space to allow the horses to graze on half of the land and leave the remaining half to rest
• Also make sure the property is located in an area with easy access to other suitable areas for the horses to exercise – local farmland for example. It’s always a good idea to initiate good relations with local farmers who will allow access to their land for this reason
• If you want to be close to a racing or eventing hub, you will pay a premium for acreage. By looking slightly further afield, you are likely to get more land for your money and you can make cost efficient decisions regarding how you choose to use the land – for example, growing your own crops and cutting your own hay
• If you are running an equestrian business, a home office in the property is an important consideration. I spend a lot of time at home on my computer and it’s a relief to have a dedicated space for work that I can mentally switch on and switch off from as required
• A good tack room in one of the barns outside is also worth considering. If it’s not part of the property already, think about whether you will be able to build one on the land. Leaving saddles and bridles in an adjoining tack room much better for your home than trudging through the house with them!
From Martin's personal experience, he commented:
"I’ve got my own horses and have recently bought my first house so I’ve been through the decision making process required to find the best home for me and my horses. On the priority list for all budgets should be a paddock for the horses, giving them enough room to run around and exercise adequately each day – an acre per horses should be a good guide to the size. Good quality stables and a tack room are additional essentials for me. For bigger budgets, luxury facilities such as American style barns, horse solariums and heated tack rooms are all available nowadays and are fantastic added extras. Equally, when I’m not racing or training, I’m checking emails. I therefore wanted a space to work from at home that didn’t interfere with my downtime. Dedicated work space is an absolute essential for me now as it keeps me organised and having a home office means paperwork is not sprawled all over the kitchen table anymore!"
Our own equestrian expert, Dan Bennett also commented: “Buying the right equestrian property is all about thinking ahead. Prioritising stables in good condition is a sensible approach as good stables can be easily maintained with some hard work; buying a property with enough land is crucial to successfully managing your horses over the longer term - giving the land time to recover from over usage or a bad winter is of the utmost importance and will save you money in the long run if you don’t have to rent land from elsewhere.
“And then of course there is a decision to be made about the family home attached. For many equestrian buyers, the facilities for their horses come first and the family home comes second! However, thinking about the location of the property in relation to transport links and local amenities will mean that everyone in the equation is happy and will preclude the necessity for another move any time soon!”