Equestrian communities designed for trail riders are springing up all over the country. Is such a community right for you? Read on for pros and cons, property-hunting tips, and profiles of several top communities around the country.
Pros & Cons
Like any horse property, equestrian communities have their pros and cons. Here, we list the most common. For help, we consulted Michael Donovan, principal of Equestrian Services, LLC. This company provides turnkey equestrian amenities for communities and assists in creating efficient, well-planned equestrian facilities. We also checked in with Don Warner of Warner Realty Group, who's been working with equestrian communities in the Tennessee area for more than 40 years.
• Ease of trail access. Are you experiencing decreased opportunities to ride either due to time constraints, increased family commitments or even simply lack of land to ride on? Equestrian communities offer miles of trails throughout the community, which makes day rides easier. "The Oaks [in Lake City, Florida] has over 15 miles of trails," says Donovan. "You have all these riding opportunities within your community. You may never ride the same piece of ground twice."
• Consistency of care. If you live in a community that has a central barn with staff, you can have your horse cared for by fully trained and certified barn managers. "There's no drama," says Donovan. "It's very professional. You have guaranteed consistency of care in our communities."
• Well-maintained trails. Equestrian communities are known for their immaculate trails dedicated to trail riders. "You don't have to worry about a three-wheeler behind you, or running into a pack of dogs," Donovan points out. "In our communities, the trails are professionally maintained."
• Safety. We all hope that our neighbors will look out for our house and vice versa. But sometimes that's difficult, especially if you're living in an isolated area. "The nice thing about being in a development is that you have the protection of a gated community," Don Warner tells us. "When you go out of town, you have someone there to look after your property and, in some cases, care for your horses. They are very safe places to live."
• Covenants. You might be turned off when you see the word "covenant." The last thing you want to think about when you're planning your dream home or vacation getaway is a long list of do's and don'ts. However, Warner says these covenants, such as minimizing tree clearing, can actually be a blessing in the long run. "When you don't have those kinds of restrictions, you're going to be sorely disappointed," he notes. "You've got to protect what's next to you, etc. If you choose to be behind a gated community, I highly recommend [covenants]. It just takes the worry out of it. It truly does."
• Lack of variety. Living in a community may give you acres to ride on, but, says Donovan, "a lack of variety is a problem with the trails in some of these communities. No one wants to ride the same trail around the property over and over, or on a trail that only runs alongside of the road. These are things to look out for."
• Equine care. Just because someone has an equestrian community, doesn't necessarily mean they have the know-how to care for your horse. "It used to be that you'd get some land, put up a barn, and call it an equestrian community," says Donovan. "But many people didn't know what they were doing. The barns don't have proper ventilation, for instance, or there's simply not enough pasture. The health of the horses is something that has been overlooked."
• Cost. The price of equestrian paradise can come quite high. Some of these communities run in the $500,000-plus range for the land and home. This, of course, doesn't include the yearly homeowner's fees, which depend on the extent of care for your horses.
• Covenants. On the flip side, restrictions imposed by covenants can be suffocating, because life is always changing. One structure per plot of land might be fine today, but down the road, you might want to build a guest house. It's nice to have some flexibility.