Good Neighbor: Horse Property 101

Marissa Brockette’s hobby farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee is an hour’s drive from Nashville. Photo courtesy of Marissa Brockette.

If you’re like many horse owners across the country, suburban sprawl and increased development have made your neighbors less likely to be farmers and more likely to be people unfamiliar with horses. This scenario can be difficult to navigate. But there are benefits to living closer to others, and by taking certain steps to prepare, you can pave the way for good neighborly relations.

The benefits of owning an equestrian property

Living in the countryside away from many people has its advantages. But horse owners who live in residential neighborhoods may also have merit.

Steve Archer and his wife Andrea live in Richmond, Texas, a city inside Houston, the largest city in Texas with 2.31 million people. They have run their reining horse training operation from this location for nearly 30 years. Their place used to be surrounded by farmland, but today their 10 acres are surrounded by housing estates.

Archer says the availability of good food options is a perk he and his wife appreciate.

“We’ve been married for 36 years and we don’t know how to cook, so we go to lunch together every day,” says Archer. “We love being close to so many restaurants. It’s good.”

own equestrian property
Today, Steve Archer’s 10-acre farm outside of Houston, Texas is surrounded by housing estates. He loves being close to restaurants and the value of their property has skyrocketed. Photo courtesy of Steve Archer.

Their property values ​​have skyrocketed as the land around them has developed. Archer sees this as their “exit plan” for when the couple are ready to retire.

Being surrounded by houses can be a great funnel for a course schedule. The Archers have a training operation which has given up to 150 lessons per week over the past few years. Today they reduced the amount of classes.

“I no longer have my number on our sign because my phone kept ringing [for lessons], but we’re still probably busier than most people,” says Archer. “If you had the motivation, you could do 300 lessons a week here.”

Similarly, Oak Brook Farms sits on equestrian property that has been around since the 1950s, and the boarding house has been in business since the late 1980s, nestled in the town of Oak Brook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The town has a rich equestrian history, according to Suzanne Galdun, longtime stable manager at Oak Brook Farms. The stables in the area regularly hosted polo matches, among other equestrian activities.

“We are the last remaining public stable,” says Galdun. “We’re in the middle of a few million dollar homes, and they’ve been there since the beginning. There are further developments taking place on a property next door to us.

own equestrian property
Even with clearly marked signs, like Oak Brook Farms outside of Chicago, Illinois, you may encounter curious visitors wandering around your farm. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Galdun.

Marissa Brockette, a horse owner, owns a hobby farm with three horses in Shelbyville, Tennessee, a town of about 20,000 people about a half hour from Murfreesboro and an hour from Nashville. His parents bought the property in 2004. They started with 24 acres in one neighborhood, then bought the next 12 acres, all behind a country club.

“It’s good, because we’re the only horses in the area, so we don’t have other horses passing, and we don’t have to worry about [equine] too many diseases,” Brockette says. “It’s a nice, quiet area, and we can do our own thing. Everyone kind of leaves us alone.

The inconvenients

If you own an equestrian property and have land surrounded by residential homes, Archer says you’ll likely end up spending more than you would in a less developed area.

The Archers have to deal with strangers walking towards their property, but good fencing and locked gates have deterred unwanted visitors inside their property.
Although it is in a residential area, Oak Brook Farms is at the end of a dead end street so it does not cut through traffic. But it shares a road with the rear entrance to a housing estate, so speeding can scare horses that get hacked near the road, and curious passers-by sometimes stop their cars near the arena, which which can distract riders.

Oak Brook Farms welcomes many walk-in guests, despite a sign that says “Admission by Appointment Only.” Galdun says the staff discourages such visits.

own equestrian property
Archer keeps his farm very clean and has had no complaints from neighbors. Good fencing and locked gates keep people from walking up to the horses. Photo courtesy of Steve Archer.

“We have lessons, locals know we’re here, and some will drive up and just want to look around,” Galdun says. “For liability and safety reasons, we don’t let people walk away.”

Brockette says passers-by sometimes stop to feed their horses too, which she does as soon as she sees him.

“I’ll go over there and talk to them, introduce them to the horses, and tell them not to give them treats,” Brockette said. “We haven’t had too many problems.”

Being landlocked by residential properties means Oak Brook cannot offer turf participation – all land is dry. Galdun says that might prevent some potential boarders from keeping a horse there.

make it work

Galdun says if you live surrounded by houses, proper manure management and disposal is the most important step, along with fly control. And even though Archer’s farm is meticulously maintained, he says the only problem is his manure pile.

“I can only ask them to remove it a few times a year. But I haven’t really heard anyone say anything about it – they see the big picture, and it’s very nice.

“Honestly, we had no problems, but I really think it’s because we keep it looking so good,” Archer adds. “I could see if it was a dump, it could be different.”

own equestrian property
Research how far your horses may be from your property and maintain open communication with your neighbors in case they have any concerns. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Galdun.

Manure disposal is also a challenge for Oak Brook Farms. The facility’s compact 6-acre layout does not allow manure spreading and dumpster collection is expensive. Because this is the only equestrian property in the area, the farm cannot share pickup costs. So if you are considering owning a more urban equestrian property, you will need to know your city’s regulations in this regard.

Another thing to consider is the methods you use to train your horses. Especially if your facilities are visible from the road or your neighbors, Archer says you need to take a hard look at how you handle your horse.

“You can get in trouble with animal activists or non-horses who don’t understand your methods,” says Archer. “Everything I do to a horse when I’m riding, I always think I want that horse’s life to be better. But people can take it out of context. You have to be aware of what it looks like to others.

Be aware of your area’s zoning and know how many horses you can have on your property. Brockette advises knowing the rules in your neighborhood, especially regarding horses and the distance you need to keep them away from your perimeter.

own equestrian property
If your facilities are visible from the road, you will need to consider passers-by watching your training methods who may not understand the context or want to feed the horses. Photo courtesy of Abigail Boatwright.

Galdun says Edward Vendel, the owner of Oak Brook Farms, has always been active in the local village, attending village meetings, so he is a familiar face to many in the area.

Oak Brook Farms has signs displaying the Equine Liability Act so customers are aware of the dangers inherent in horses. The fact that the facility is virtually inaccessible to unaccompanied persons has reduced the risk of accidents with neighbours. Additionally, you should speak to an equine insurance agent about any liability insurance you may need for your property.

“Nothing in particular happened,” Galdun said. “We have a gate at the end of the driveway, and we’re mostly fenced in. There’s no traffic on our street.”

Staff and boarders are kind to visitors, and when walking down the street they are cordial to neighbors – all steps to increase goodwill in the area.

Galdun recommends surveying your neighbors to see if they’re worried about horses approaching their property. Clear communication with your neighbors is your best opportunity to foster goodwill and friendly relations when owning equestrian property.

“Having this conversation so people on both sides have understanding and expectations will help everyone not be surprised by anything,” Galdun said.

This article about the challenges facing horse owners originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of illustrated horse magazine. Click here to subscribe !

About Wanda G. Warren

Check Also

Community through collective ownership in Oakland

In 2015, after the economy began to fully recover from the Great Recession, the tech …