Land, and plenty of it
“As a general rule, you’ll need an acre of grazing land per horse,” says Louise Harrison, at Savills Equestrian. “But this summer, because of the dry weather, most people would have been short of grass and had to feed extra, or would be glad they had more land.” And it also depends what type of rider you are: “A professional show jumper or dressage rider might not turn their horses out because of the risk of them getting injured in the field, whereas somewhere like a stud, the horses are out grazing all the time, so they need a lot of grass,” explains Louise. “Free-draining soil is important, too, as it helps to avoid treacherous wet and muddy paddocks.
Again, the facilities you need will be determined by what type of rider you are: for example, a showjumper and a dressage rider will need different-sized arenas. This is one of the reasons why, Louise explains, some equestrian properties sit on the market for a long period of time, while others are snapped up almost immediately off-market – it’s all about matching the right buyer with the right property. Whatever your discipline, “The fundamentals are: stables, good-quality land, good fencing, and a water supply to the paddocks,” says Louise. “An outdoor or indoor manège or school is high on most people’s wish list, too.” Other things, such as a horse walker or spa, can be added later if needed – but if it’s something that requires planning permission, it’s easier if it’s already there.
Location, location, location
Areas such as the Cotswolds and the traditional horse heartlands of Lambourn and Newmarket are perennially popular, but Louise has seen a recent trend towards buyers looking to be within an hour or so of London so they can combine work in the capital with their hobby. There are other considerations, too. “Quite a lot of people want to be close to trainers or where they compete, so again that sometimes points to the Cotswolds or a bit further west, where you’ve got fantastic trainers such as Carl Hester,” says Louise. When it comes to the immediate surroundings, finding a compromise can be tricky. “Ideally people want to be close to the motorway to get to shows and events easily – but equally they want to be in the middle of nowhere so that they can go out riding with no roads”. Being able to get a horse box in and out of the property easily is also important, she adds.
Not forgetting somewhere to live…
For some buyers, the house is the most important consideration, while for others, facilities for the equine residents take priority. “One main category [of buyer] is the professional rider or person running an equestrian business, who needs a huge amount of facilities and space, and for them the house might not be the most important factor because they’re focused on the business and making it profitable,” Louise explains. “The other main category of buyer is made up of people for whom horses are more of a lifestyle and a hobby. They may still want all the facilities, but they’d like the grand country house, too. If you’re a rider at the lower end of the price spectrum, the house isn’t so important as long as it’s functional – you want as many acres as possible.”
Plus a little expert help
Finding the perfect equestrian property can be a waiting game. “Some of them are very difficult to come by, but equally there are very few buyers because it’s a very specialist type of property,” says Louise. That’s where Savills can help, with its dedicated equestrian team of 18 specialist agents in rural and residential departments across the country. “We’re all horsey. We all ride or compete,” Louise says. “Crucially, we understand a buyer’s needs, and understand what can and can’t be changed in a property to suit them.”
For expert equestrian property advice from the Savills Equestrian team, contact Louise Harrison