It crossed my mind when transporting horses to Scottsdale, AZ years ago that if we got stranded in that beautiful desert we would be in desperate straits quickly with thirst and starvation eminent for man and beast. Conversely, here, in this part of Virginia, a loose horse could happily wander into any field and fatten itself up on some of the nicest pasture in America and more than likely find a cool spring from which to drink. Virginia’s Piedmont is natural horse country where a horse can survive for nine months out of the year on nothing more than the grass that can’t help but grow.
Most horses get a little more attention than that but few would likely prefer the palatial facilities replete with chandeliers, NPR and mineral water their owners so generously provide to a good romp and carefree, headlong gallop with their herd across acres and acres of their favorite food. Horses can be very happy in Virginia. It’s their ideal environment; beautiful rolling fields of good grass, four distinct seasons with a mild winter and a profusion of activities to keep them feeling useful. Fox hunting, show jumping, polo and equitation, Dressage, endurance, steeplechase and trail riding, English, western or bareback… It would be hard to find a more versatile sport or past time. Our obsession with horses can take many forms, from the professional who makes a living educating and exhibiting their client’s horses at the highest levels to the single mom or angst ridden teen who finds a perfect solace in the company of this magical animal.
Many people thinking about moving to the country have a dream of having a horse or two. It can be like dating. You can meet a nice horse, get on its back and ride around a ring giggling, wondering how good you look together, then you try another. It’s quite a process and so full of characters, both human and equine, that stories will be made by the score and you will become more and more interesting with your cocktail party anecdotes and barn yard humor. Or… you might feel something spark inside you the moment your eyes meet, you sense the thoughtfulness between the two of you and as you slide into the saddle, your legs feel the warmth of its flanks and your hands feels the softness of its mouth through the reins. Together you decide to walk, trot and canter, to hop over the fallen log without a thought, to stop and admire the view, to sigh. Those who have felt the sense of accomplishment, the thrill of victory, the determination and occasionally the disappointment of a horse realize the beauty of pride without ego, of elegance without vanity and of a being capable of bringing out the best in its human partner.
It’s not hard to keep a horse. You can board at any number of places from cheap pasture board where the horse all run together and find their own order for as little as $50 a month, to full board with turn out and all the vet, farrier, training and lessons thrown in for as much as $2,000 a month. Different strokes for different folks. You can also find a nice little place out in the country with a few acres or more and keep your horses yourself. It’s a pleasure keeping horses for many people. Feeding, mucking, grooming, mending fences and knowing when to call the vet and when the little nick or lameness will respond to your expertise all become part of your life and your daily schedule. It’s a nice place for the nurturing type and perhaps a good prescription for lonely empty nesters.
If you have thought about getting a horse, don’t rush. Do your research and take the time to meet the most respected people in the business. Ask vets for referrals and ask your friends. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people out there so get second opinions and always get a vet check. Owning horses can be a delightful diversion or a consuming obsession and it’s not for everyone. They keep you tied down and have no consideration of your hours or vacation schedule. They also live a very long time, easily into their 30’s when well cared for and happy so be prepared for a lifetime commitment and perhaps true love.
About the Author: John Ince has been specializing in Charlottesville Real Estate brokerage for nearly 30 years. Following a ten year career training, breeding and showing Arabian horses, he joined Charlottesville’s leading farm and estate firm in 1983 and developed his niche around Charlottesville horse farms and the beautiful farms and estates in the seven counties surrounding Charlottesville. John founded Charlottesville Country Properties Ltd. in 1998 and joined the team at Nest Realty as a country property expert in 2012.