Comparing properties and trade offs

We are currently searching for a small acreage. Given these two options, which one would you be inclined to go for and why?

Both properties are similar sized and priced, the houses are comparable in terms of size and fitting our needs.

Property A is fully fenced with a 100x200 sand ring, 2 pastures, very usable 3 stall barn with attached runs. Also has an in-laws suite attached to a workshop. On a quiet dead end road that connects to a busy main road so would have to haul out for trails.

Property B is mostly treed aside from the nicely landscaped yard. Not set up for horses at all, but is walking/riding distance along a quiet road to a large nature reserve with a wonderful trail network, including well maintained horse trails. DH loves those trails and currently drives there several times a week to go running.

I currently have access to trails from the barn I board at and we head out at least once a week. I don’t know that we would get out as much if I had to trailer out. Having access to trails is the dream, but having to clear land and put in a barn and ring is daunting and expensive.

We will probably keep looking but curious to hear thoughts on the above trade offs.

If I wanted to keep my horse(s) at home, Property A easily hands down. You say the properties are similarly priced, and adding equestrian facilities to Property B would cost approx. $250,000 (including leveling and footing for the arena, building a barn, fencing, running water and power, etc.) For me, having to haul out to trail ride isn’t a deal breaker.


As you say, keep looking, you want all you want, no big compromises.
It will be a long time to put up with what you were not wanting.
Both sound lovely, just for different purposes and with faults you are not happy to live with.

Adding that building today is a real nightmare and getting worse.
Takes forever to get anything done and parts in.
Even paint base to mix your colors has to be waited for.
We are painting the barns and just could get another batch of paint after months of waiting, hoping it will be enough to finish.

Not sure is sensible today to buy a place you have to count on doing much work to fit what you want, by the time is finished, your needs may have changed.


We bought wooded acreage a decade ago. The barn and the ring never got finished. But consider your climate, is a barn really necessary? Here in GA a solid run-in shed is plenty. If I had it to do over I’d have several run-ins with a storage area on one side, would have put in a “paddock paradise” track system, and would not have built the pole barn but instead would have put that money into a hay storage building.

Either of those can work, it depends on what both of you want. Horses at home is a lifestyle. Is DH fully on board with this, and if not can you hire help when needed?

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I’d get a quote for clearing enough of B’s acreage to put up a barn & (outdoor? indoor?) arena.
Then get an estimate for adding the buildings.
That could decide which is best for your needs.

How far would you need to haul from A to trails?
I’m about a 10min haul from one County Park with trails & 20min from another.
After a while, the time it takes to hitch & load horses adds maybe another 1/2hr.
FWIW: when I’m planning to ride or drive at either, I have my vehicle hitched the night before, cart loaded if I’m driving, so all I need to do the next day is put the horse onboard & go.

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Property A!

The cost of clearing land then adding fencing, barn and arena is very high. The latter 3 don’t add as much value as they cost. Not to mention the amount of time those improvements will take


This is actually very close to what I would like to end up with. Although an enclosed grooming/tack up area would be nice for the coldest parts of winter. But a track system is 100% my plan.

Horses are a lifestyle. Over the years I’ve watched boarding barns close down and board options become fewer and fewer, with what options do remain having long wait lists. There are countless threads on how boarding as a business isn’t viable. Current BO is in their late 70s and struggles to keep regular help. It’s only a matter of time until they can’t do it anymore and I genuinely don’t know where we’d go. I think for the long term bringing them home is the sustainable option and setting it up to streamline the workload.


Get the property that is already set up for your critters, and you can all move right in and start enjoying life. Get the one that ain’t and spend, spend, spend, wait, wait, wait.
Doesn’t seem like much of a trade-off simply for improved trail access, but like most things in life, YMMV.


How big of a rush is there to get the horses home?

If you are wanting the horses home any time soon, I would go with Property A.

Clearing that land, then building the horse facilities is expensive and time consuming. It is always a better value to buy existing horse infrastructure.

However, if you are happy to keep boarding indefinitely and don’t have any real pressure to move the horses home, buy the location you want.


Would you spend more time riding on trails or riding in an arena? If trails are the preference, look at building a simple run in shed with a paddock. If you ride often enough, you’ll be okay until you can fence off a bigger section for turnout.

I lived in Virginia with a small acreage. I built just the run in and paddocks until I could afford more. The horses did fine.


I’ll be the dissenting voice thus far, speaking as someone who doesn’t really need a barn/arena/etc. Our horses have always been out on pasture, water tank, and a couple shelters, the places we were lucky we had a barn but we didn’t use it a lot. The last five years we’ve boarded our horses and had to trailer out to ride from there. I’d choose the tree place after doing some due diligence on the cost to make basic horse accommodations on clearing the trees and some pastures, and the cost of hay if that’s going to be an increased cost due to horses’ inability to eat trees instead of grass. If you can afford that going forward, the trail place would be my pick. Having to haul out to ride all the time can become onerous; we’ve been in that situation and sometimes just having to hook up or deal with traffic can be a tipping point. we’re much more likely to haul out to an arena for some focused work instead of hauling out for a relaxing evening or afternoon ride. In five years, ten… those trails and the reserve are going to be there and you’ll catch up with your horse infrastructure. And build it the way you want it to be. And your DH will have the trails to enjoy in the meantime as well. As in many things real estate, location location location. Your horse stuff doesn’t have as much value on paper (not real life) as the house, land and location. My preference between these two is assuming that the costs are managable and your energy reserves can work on the horse accommodations while you go.


Thanks for this perspective. One way to look at it is I can either haul to trails or haul to an arena. Over time I can build an arena, but I won’t be able to build trails. We are looking for a forever home so thinking long term about this.

I am already factoring in feeding hay. Current horse does best on a dry lot with low sugar hay and gets very limited grass time.

No rush time wise but it would be more about finances and continuing to pay board while also taking on the expense of building the infrastructure.

Absolutely. And whatever expense you estimate, you can safely double it with all the other incidentals that crop up. Same goes for time— if you think you can get something done in 3 months, realistically, it’s probably going to be more like 6 months (or more).

If horses at home is 100% the goal, I think you’re much better off compromising on trail access and buying the facilities in place.


I would go with A just because I know how expensive building a ring and fencing is.

If you add the facilities to B would it increase the value enough to cover the cost? If not, it would be a no-go for me.

If you move to A how far are trails and do you ride more in a ring or trails now?


These are very valid points.
How old are you and Hubby? Young and full of energy? I once was, but now I’m old and the prospect of starting in on long-term projects, especially ones that involve me doing some or most of the work have lost their appeal.
And we use our barn, the critters use the stalls, and we live in an Equestrian community with “bridal paths”. Not the most exciting riding, but a place to ride. Personally, I have zero use for an arena, but The Missus wants one . . .

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With these pieces of additional info I would vote for B (or keep looking if even with improvements it wouldn’t quite be what you want). If you aren’t counting on grazing for nutrition, you don’t need to put as much money/effort into clearing trees and establishing pasture. I’d start with a run-in shed plus small dry lot then add to that as you can. You may never need/want a full barn. Before buying, I would also suggest getting an opinion from a good arena builder on possible sites, in case there are constraints you don’t realize.

You can get a lot of decent riding done on trails in the meantime. When I moved my horses home my arena wasn’t built for another 3-4 months. I was competing Grand Prix dressage at the time and made it work. IIRC I worked him on the trails 1-2 times a week, hauled out for a lesson once a week, and paid to use a neighbor’s arena 1-2 times a week. Granted your footing and climate will influence how feasible this is and I don’t know what your riding goals are.


Bringing horses home, option A. Barns and paddocks and rings take time and money, and starting with treed property has its own set of complications.

I started with a hay field and a random nice Barnmaster barn being used to store hay equip. I built a house, but also had to fence, run power and water, build an arena, then fix the arena, then put in french drain to fix the arena again, etc. I don’t know if you work but I do, and with my schedule and everything else, I lost a solid two years off riding because I was too busy and lazy on my off days to haul away to ride, and after that I only had a round pen for another year. I moved horses home Aug of '17 and it wasn’t really until late summer/fall of 2020 that I was really riding again.


So for me trail riding is an absolute priority. I would be happy to keep my horses on a big field or in a wooded lot, with run in shelter and a round bale as needed. But fencing is indeed expensive.


I’d take A. But like others, I know how much it costs to clear land, fence, build a barn, arena, etc. Even on the super cheap, no frills side you are looking at 100k minimum. Plus, turning landscaping and trees into a pasture is a multi-year process.

Do you show or ride in the ring often? Having an arena ready to go would be a huge benefit then.

I’d also wonder about how often you will trail ride when you have your horses at home. Does anyone else in your family ride, or will you plan on heading out alone? Despite having access to miles of trails, I rarely use them because I have no one to go out with. Even when I lived directly on the Moss foundation I rarely ventured out more than once a month. When I had a tighter knit community of trail riders around me down in Florida, I’d go out 2-3x a week.


Just an opinion based on your description – with only a 3 stall barn, Property A doesn’t have enough amenities in place to put it over all of this wonderfulness.

I am a huge fan of trees on a property. Everything you describe here is what I would love about this one. And it would be important to me that DH already loves it, too.

Yes it will be a pain and expensive to build everything – but sounds like you may end up doing some of that with Property A anyway. Depending on what you want to do with it eventually.

In my case I’ll take the setting every time, and just soldier on through the rest of it. That’s not the right answer for everyone, though. :slight_smile:

All that said … way up thread (post 2?) Bluey makes excellent points about the eventual $ difference plus the struggles of building things these days. But where I am located the building might go slowly, but it would happen. Things haven’t totally shut down.