New Mexico: Horse infrastructure and water?

Can you guys tell me about living in New Mexico with horses?

I have a job I can do from anywhere and, thanks to that, I moved to Aiken, SC in order To Horse Properly. That is to say, I love being in a place that has good horse infrastructure-- good vets, good farriers, good pros, a lot going on and a basic depth of knowledge and standard of care among horse owners that are as good as mine or better.

I have lived in good and bad markets for horses and I know enough to appreciate a good, deep, long-standing horse community; I have PTSD from living in places where my standards were higher than those of most other people.

But! I’m not in love with the culture and the politics of the Red South. I have spent a little bit of time in New Mexico, including a summer in Santa Fe and I think that place would check some boxes for me that Aiken does not.

But I don’t remember the horse scene being deep enough for me. I also didn’t have a horse when I was there and so I didn’t get to see deeply enough into it.

I’d like to have a couple of horses that I continue doing English stuff with-- dressage and some low, old lady show hunter stuff, but I’d also like to work with a legit Vaquero-style pro and learn to make up a bridle horse.

And then let’s get down to the brass tacks of water and money. Where do I need to live that I can buy or build a horse-friendly farm for $750K or less? And where do I need to live to have enough water and/or access to irrigation?

What do you think? Where would you send me?


NM would not be where you want to go for top notch, high standards of horse management, trainers, farriers, vet care standards.
Things are a little more acceptable at rudimentary levels.
Then, if you don’t mind, the horses don’t seem to mind either and thrive anyway.

Not sure it is West enough for vaquero stuff, you may want to keep going to find that in the real West, NM is SW.
You will find a much cheaper standard of living, but you may not find the high services you may be looking for either, is a trade-off, may want to call it the pioneer spirit, do with what you have.

I would say, to be familiar with high standards and still be happy in the looser ones in the W/SW type environment is more of a state of mind.
Some adapt and love it, it has a truly free, silent, quiet, reflective living quality you don’t find in other places.
Some hate it right away, doesn’t speak to their souls and can’t wait to leave.
Once they have known it, they yearn for a bit of that, but from far away.

Why not rent for a bit while you decide what you are looking for?

1 Like

I think this is your killer. Water rights are SO COSTLY. I’m not sure there’s anywhere in the state where you can irrigate without spending an arm, leg AND your firstborn for the rights.


Madison Wisconsin, 75.5% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election,has plenty of water also

1 Like

I got curious–just what is the wettest (by precip) city in NM?

Apparently it’s Cloudcroft:

It’s east of Alamogordo, not far from White Sands.

Still awfully dry. That golf course looks awfully sad, and no one has a lawn.

Snowiest is Red River, up north. No grass there, either.

NM is a tough place for pasture.


Yes, but snow and ice. BTDT with the Finger Lakes and I’d do it again if I weren’t a single old lady with only cats to help me with the snow plowing. That could end badly…

1 Like

Austin Texas would be another similar place ( 71.4% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election) no snow to speak of, cats are welcome usually unless the coyotes are hungry but most of California is moving there


Madison, WI.

NM is fun to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

I do love the feel of NM and I remember liking the people.

But! I have also lived in places where nice people whose behavior made it hard for me to care for my animals well will end in resentment. That said, I’m a grown-up and I can be OK watching others not do so well by their animals, to a point.

Renting would mean moving the whole herd and me across the country, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to board, so I need to study this problem from afar a bit before I travel there and rent in some short stints.

Good info on the difference between Vaquero riding and the Western riding that’s in the SW.

Yeah, Austin would be an obvious choice but I think I’m already priced out. I have $750K, not $1.2M.

How about up in Northern NM?

I visited a friend’s (deceased) mom’s ranch up near Watrous and it seemed grassy enough.

But they were three hours from Colorado State and, while she had some high-quality cutting horses, access to vet care was limited.

I do understand the pioneering nature of life in “the Republic of New Mexico,” but I wanted to pick the one part that had a little more horse support to it.

Watrous is five and a half hours from CSU, in good weather.

About four and a half to Littleton Large (or whatever they call it now, I can’t keep up :joy::joy:)

Are you looking to avoid snow? There are some fab ski resorts in northern NM. They definitely have winter!

1 Like

Just a couple of quick comments since I only have a minute…

I grew up on the east coast but have now been in NM for almost 20 years. NM definitely can’t compete with Aiken in terms of depth of horse infrastructure, but as Bluey said it’s a tradeoff in terms of affordability. It was an adjustment for me but I love it here.

I board so I can’t speak in terms of cost of horse property and irrigation, but I think you’d want to look along the Rio Grande or one of the other rivers. As others have said, relying on precipitation won’t get you any pasture, just dry lots, but there are lovely (LOVELY!) irrigated properties along the Rio Grande and other rivers.

I suspect in order to access the infrastructure you want, you’d want to focus on central NM - from a bit south of Abq to a bit north of Santa Fe. For me, I find the horse infrastructure in central NM adequate - nowhere near the number of options you’ll find in places like Aiken but there are some good options for vets/farriers/pros. The Las Cruces area could be an option but I’m not familiar with that area, and it gets HOT down there. I think northern NM is delightful.

I don’t think you can beat the weather in NM. Yep we have some great ski resorts but it’s mainly the mountains that get the snow; I know someone that skied in the morning and golfed that afternoon!


NM can’t compare to Aiken as far as horse-concentrated stuff, but also I don’t think it’s a heckhole (I say that as someone who lives near NM but has never lived in Aiken).

I think near Santa Fe is your best bet.

It has an active dressage and H/J community – they have several shows including at HIPICO which is a nice facility.

The community is nice, and is liberal, which you’re not going to get in the southern part of the state. I think it’s pretty expensive to live there, but you’d probably have to troll real estate sites to look.

There are quality western horseman around, maybe not vaquero style per se, but for example Trevor Carter is in Clovis (about 3 hrs from Santa Fe) and he’s a very good horseman.

I’d maybe poke around the northwest side of Fort Worth, too – like the larger area around Bowie. The horse population near Fort Worth (centered around Weatherford) is concentrated with good quality horse stuff. The weather’s good. There are great horseman of all kinds out there, I think you can drive to find anything you want within about an hour or two.

The politics are probably gonna lean red so might not be good enough, guess it depends on your tolerance and how you balance all the things.

1 Like

Outside of Tucson, about 45 min - 1 hr away there’s a treasure called Sonoita (and its neighbor, Patagonia). It’s close enough for a Costco run from Tucson, but it’s higher elevation so it’s cooler and there is prairie. (There are pronghorn there.) It isn’t bluegrass, but it is grazing. It’s only 45 minutes from the showgrounds. I’d love to live there, but my son is severely autistic and I need to be closer to doctors and therapists.

Here’s a nice looking 20 acre ranch with green grass (!) and a 3 br house for 650K.

Another property in Patagonia on 70 acres for $799K. Doesn’t have horse facilities.

You could also go a little farther south and east to Sierra Vista/Hereford. Sierra Vista is a military base town. Hereford is a ranching town just south. It is about an 1.5 hours from Tucson, but only an hour fr the Pima County Fairgrounds where just about all of the shows are. My stepdad lives in Hereford and loves it. It’s often (like Sonoita) about 10 degrees cooler than Tucson. He even has a mini apple orchard. They get a little snow in the winter. If you get a property near the “river” you can get beautiful cottonwood trees. It’s near the border, but my stepdad hasn’t had any problems with migrants.

For 5 acres, a beautiful home, a pool, but no horse facilities yet:

For 4 acres, an average home with modest horse facilities at 279K:

My stepdad lives on Ramsey Canyon Road. It’s really nice. 4 acres, nice house, no horse facilities yet, 550K:

Bisbee is a funky town East of Hereford over some mountains. It’s higher elevation and may have prairie grass.

If you want to come visit the area, my aunt and uncle have an air bnb you could stay in and I could show you around. Feel free to PM me or email:


We live in the Southern part of the state but I was born in a little town just North of Santa Fe. There are areas where irrigation is available when there is water but mostly you will not have pasture at all. My remaining family lives in SF now and no longer get irrigation water, it’s been dry or diverted for the last couple of years. It’s all about dry lots here. FYI wells are metered in SF city and county to measure water consumption, I don’t know how much you are allowed. Buying a place with land in Santa Fe is very costly, I would suggest you look at real estate prices and taxes (all taxes). Not much for Equine vets, there is one equine hospital but they are there to compliment the large animal vets and do provide surgical options but not a lot of routine care except for some clients. Not much for shows except in ABQ and not as much for Hunters or Dressage but a lot if you rope or barrel race. Hippico used to have GP jumping and dressage shows in SF but sadly it’s for sale now. Limited opportunity for training and really nice training barns. Here is what came up for Santa Fe when I put 5 acres and horses in the remarks.

Santa Fe Real Estate - 10 Homes For Sale | Zillow

Santa Fe Horse Properties For Sale | Santa Fe, NM (

A good website for livestock and horses: New Mexico Livestock Board (
They are a bit more restrictive on some things like brand inspections (though they don’t require brands just must identify each horse and you get an inspection certificate that you are supposed to have with you when hauling).

Also, check animal control/restrictions, some towns/counties limit the number of household pets you can own.


I used to live in Aiken, and I’ve been 4 years in ABQ with horses. You can actually get a colic surgery done in ABQ, and you could not in Aiken when I was there. Grass hay runs about $12 a small square bale. TWELVE dollars!!! Everything but alfalfa has to be trucked in, so it’s super nice and finding the balance between fat and ulcers is tough.

Turnout isn’t really a thing here, and there’s no grass when it is. You can also buy a little horse property right in town, and trail ride down 100’s of miles of ditch bank trails right out of your gate. There are no flys. I don’t care what anyone from here says, if you’ve lived in the SE, there are NO flys here. Mostly no bugs, except one spring there was a legit plague of moths. Like UNBELIEVABLE volumes of moths for like a week I think. It was unreal.
The sun in Albuquerque is actively trying to kill us. It is so close you can feel the radiation. There’s also at least 2 hours of pretty much every day of the year that’s it’s nice to be outside. Might be at noon, might be at midnight, but the weather is mostly amazing. Dry heat is less terrible, but only when you’re in the shade. There isn’t much shade.

There is racism here but it’s less overt and mostly directed at brown, not black people. The black population here is vanishingly small, so it would be hard to find much of a target if that’s who you were going to hate. Plenty of racism against the Native American and Hispanic recent immigrant population to make up for that. I work in the financial sector, so it feels every bit as conservative to me here as it did in Georgia/Carolina, but that’s almost definitely because of my professional surroundings. People love to hate the governor. It’s not any cheaper than Aiken. Aiken/Augusta is probably the cheapest place I’ve ever lived.

Coyotes will eat your cats, even in town. Cars and trucks last forever here because there’s no moisture or salt to cause corrosion. They also get stolen all the time. My hair is amazing here and will hold a curl for days. Gardening here is stupid easy. There are no weeds if you just put the water where you want it, squash bugs are really the only bugs that do much and even so you’ll get a bumper crop because the sun is on high and the growing season is like 9 months of the year.

People are friendly. You can look like a big shot here with just a bit of riding chops. There are some good trainers to work with. The show scene is mostly AA h/j or rodeo stuff, but there’s a fun little summer event series in SF in the summer. Super far from any solid horse markets so I wouldn’t want to have to sell something fancy here, but people do. I like it well enough to stay. If you had a covered arena this would be heavenly!

1 Like

I lived in Las Cruces for several years, it’s not Aiken, adjustment #1.

My barn in LC also doubled as a pecan field in winter and had access to water rights. That being said, there was no real pasture and hay had to be fed 24/7. THAT said, cheap CO /NM quality alfalfa and grass hay was available. I’ve never been able to match the quality with the price anywhere.

Depth of horse culture will come in the Albuq. area. That said, I had access to a German GP level trainer in LC and a great dressage trainer in EP, Tx. For showing, you’ll be looking at Alb and surrounding areas. There are many great trainers in the area but you’ll have to find them. The best ones I knew didn’t have great websites.

I think you’d be looking for a legit vaquero-style pro in many places in the US. I’ve done Working Equitation clinics with German former World Champion in NC, never heard of it in other places. You might find it in Western NH people dotted here and there.

I live between Santa fe and ABQ, I have irrigated property, too! That water is not expensive, but also controlled pretty heavily. I pay $21 ayear for one acre foot. We can irrigate 2x-4x a month from March to October, depending on supply. This year we’re getting 1x every 3 months, and probably no water after June.

What everyone else has said is true, especially re: bugs.
I’ve been here too long to know about comparable hay, I personally think $12 for a small bale is high. I also know that Arizona has more showing infrastructure, (purely more numbers and more wealth).

The pasture turn out comments are also true, but lush green timothy grass isn’t the only grass that’s good for horses. The native grass here is pretty nutritious but hectares are needed to support grazing only.

Prices for horses are pretty cheap here, though they’ve seen an increase. Housing too, had increased.

But I love it here. Except this gawd awful wind we’ve been getting this week.

I clicked because I have a fascination with New Mexico.

But reading your post, I’m going to throw Maryland into consideration as a place where you would be happy.

You and I sound a lot alike. I have lived a lot of places where I was driven mad by a lack of horse resources. We have Aiken-like access to resources here, probably better in my opinion because it’s not seasonal. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s too expensive. There are certain places in Maryland near the cities that are insanely expensive, but there are also lots of very affordable places that still have great access to trainers, vets, farriers, feed, etc. Plus, everything horse-related tends to be pretty reasonably priced thanks to the competition.