Horses Archive

Buying a Horse Farm in VA?

 

Admit it, you’ve dreamed about owning horses since you were a kid and buying a horse farm in VA! Or maybe you haven’t, but you’ve had to explain to your son or daughter why Santa can’t fit a pony in his sleigh. Or maybe you’ve come into more land than you know what to do with, and you want to start your very own horse farm. Regardless, we’re here to help! Central Virginia is a great place for horse farms; the sprawling pastures and rolling uplands are well-suited to the rigors of horse-rearing. And rigors there will be; it’s not the easiest thing to get into, but with a little hard work and careful planning, it can be a very fulfilling endeavor! So let’s get started!

Land

It may sound obvious, but it’s worth saying that land is one of the first and most important components of owning a horse farm. Indeed, the amount of land one needs to operate and maintain a horse farm is often underestimated. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends at least 2-3 acres of grazing land per horse, and that’s with good, efficient pasture management.

What exactly are you buying and what are you getting for your money? Obviously, the land you’re buying must be zoned for agricultural use. Are you looking into buying a pre-existing horse farm? If the land you’re considering was already used for horse farming, you can assume that zoning is in order, but the previous owners could have been grandfathered in, so always check.

And what about the existing infrastructure? Is there a barn? Are the horse-farming resources in good working condition? If you’re building your own infrastructure (like arena, stables, etc.) determine which way the water flows and avoid building in wet areas or areas where water settles. It would be wise to walk around the property after a heavy rain and identify the places where water collects. Remember not to get too attached to one plot. Sometimes it’s easier to start fresh than to renovate and repair.

Barn

Stable1280x960The barn is the central nervous system of any horse farm, so this is definitely an area in which you must invest money and careful consideration. If you’re building your own barn, avoid low-lying areas (like the bottom of a hill), because runoff from rain and snow can weaken your foundation. It helps to use the center of the barn to store supplies like food, hay, and bedding. Storing hay in the center where there are multiple points of entry helps with rotation.

Breathe. See how good that felt? Ventilation is one of, if not the most important consideration when it comes to the structure of a barn. You need fresh airflow, especially with horses urinating and defecating inside the barn, not to mention the fact that the bedding gets pretty dusty. It helps to have multiple entrances to the barn, at least one on either end.

Va Horse Farms for SaleThe commonly-accepted size for a horse stall is 12 square feet; big enough for a horse to lay down, stand, and turn around comfortably, but small enough to clean and maintain. Rubber mats are a good call for the floor of the barns. They make cleanup easier, and they’re more comfortable for the horses themselves. If you’re going to install these, make sure you do it before the horses move in, so that the ground is still relatively even. Consider getting stall doors that open up on the top halves, or just an open stall with a stall guard. Wood or mesh work great.

It’s great to have automatic waterers but they also make it difficult to determine how much water your horse is drinking. Automatic waterers shave time off of your labor expenditure and you will guarantee that your horses have access to a consistent supply of fresh drinking water. If you opt for manual waterers/hydrants, make sure you take measures to prevent them from f reezingin the colder months. It’s nice to be able to access a feed bucket with ease, so consider a swing-out parcel with a bucket attached. Many people line the bottom of their feed buckets with metal, to prevent rodents.

So there you have some tips. Everyone has a different vision for her or his farm, and hopefully this little guide has helped you flesh out yours. There are few places better-suited to equestrian pursuits and horse farming than central Virginia! Contact us to have an experienced horse farm agent help you locate the horse farm or land that is best suited for your needs.

Your Horse’s Health: Buying a Horse Farm in Virginia

Horse Health Care: Considerations when Buying a Horse Farm in Virginia

Horse Farms in Virgnia for SaleWe can etch idyllic images into the stone tablets of our minds, of the beautiful sprawling horse farms in Virginia, with proud Arabians and Thoroughbreds charging the lush green landscape. If you have always dreamed of owning a horse farm, central Virginia can hardly be beat. You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to put this together; there is a general spirit of equine appreciation with numerous foxhunts, trail riding clubs, training facilities scattered throughout the greater Charlottesville area.

In our haste to manifest these splendorous visions, we must not forget the day-to-day considerations through which good horse farms are made and maintained. We don’t mean to lecture you from our high horses (yikes), but good equine healthcare is important and can sometimes be overlooked by inexperienced newcomers or farmers who want to save a few bucks. Here we’ll outline some important things to keep in mind.

Lodging

Good health starts at home, no matter the species. Keeping horses on open pastures is the most common way to establish healthy practices. If you’re raising horses in central Virginia, there should be no shortage of open pasture to house your friends. Keeping horses out at pasture is linked to fewer behavioral problems and actual diseases, compared to stabling horses in stalls and such. This may be the guiding principle behind recess. It’s ideal (both for horse health and and pasture integrity) to have two acres per horse if you can manage it. Sometimes you’ll need additional acreage, if there are questions of soil quality, topography, or if you’ve got other animals using the property. The higher the stocking rates (# of horses on your property), the more pasture management you should be prepared to oversee. This entails mowing, fertilizing, and everything in between. Your horses should of course have access to clean drinking water wherever they are. For fencing, wood or diamond mesh are recommended. There is no one optimal fencing material; it depends on the age and disposition of your horses. But one universal consideration: make sure your gates fasten securely. Avoid gates/mesh with gaps big enough for horses to get their hooves stuck.

Of course you can’t just buy and maintain a plot of land and call it a day. Horses need solid shelters during inclement weather and for protection from the extreme cold and heat. If you’re new to the area, you should know that owning a horse farm in Charlottesville (or more likely the Greater Charlottesville area) means you should be prepared for rain, and lots of it. We aren’t very susceptible to hurricanes here (with a few exceptions), but sometimes we can get hit by severe rain from tropical cyclones and other inclement weather systems. Your shelter could be natural or man-made. Either way, we recommend between 100 and 150 square feet per horse. If you’re building shelters for your horses, you should optimize the drainage system and face the structure away from the prevailing winds. Proper ventilation is also vital. Try to make sure the structure is at least 50 feet from any property lines and 100 feet away from your neighbors.

If for some reason pasture is not a viable option, look into a drylot. There’s barely any vegetation on these; they tend to be used when pasture is unavailable. Make sure the drainage systems are highly functional, so as to avoid having horses standing around in the mud. Drylots are constructed with a stone base and covered with pulverized stone or clay. If you’re trying to manage obesity in horses, drylots are good because the horses can still walk around and expend energy, but they don’t have the option of idly grazing.

Stables should only be used in cases of extremely limited pasture, inclement weather, health issues or injury. Barns should be located close to turnout areas and in an area where you can easily turn around horse trailers and larger trucks. Optimize drainage and ventilation as best you can and make sure there are no gaps where horses may get a hoof stuck.

Diet and nutrition

Horses need the right balance of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, and the proportion depends on your horse’s age, weight, and status (not marital…gestating, lactating, etc). With regards to evolution, horses came up grazing for several hours on sparse forage. They have small stomachs (2-5 gallons) and high metabolisms; as a result, they’re best suited to eating small amounts of food continuously. This makes pasture the ideal situation, and especially on central Virginia horse farms, where many horses are bred for recreation, pasture is often sufficient. If you don’t have access to pasture, feeding hay isn’t bad. General recommendations are between one-and-half and two pounds of hay per 100 pounds of body weight daily (at the very least). Horses are used to eating small amounts several times a day, so remember to split up the feedings. This will help with digestion and weight control. See our previous article about gauging weight.

Horses need salt to balance their diets; table salt (NaCl) contains both sodium and chloride, two important electrolytes. Even non-working horses need at least 10 grams a day. Working horses may need twice that. Electrolytes are important when it’s humid and horses are sweating or when it’s cold and horses aren’t drinking as much water. The pastures on many Virginia horse farms quite often have some level of electrolytes, but you should have salt for horses on hand, especially for those on a hay diet. If sodium is low, the cells are unable to hold water. This exacerbates conditions like anhidrosis (an abnormal lack of sweat in heat), and causes muscles to tense, stiffen, and tremble during use. Before starting any type of supplements though, always consult with your veterinarian.

As previously stated, horses have limited intake capacity. Pregnant mares, hard-working horses, and growing young foals may require grain to supplement their diets. Whether your horses graze pasture or eat hay, it may not be enough to sustain horses in these conditions. Manufacturer recommendations are based on body condition and exercise.

The amount of protein horses can synthesize depends on what amino acids are available. Lysine is usually depleted first, and so you’ll often see feed with “added lysine.” The average horse on a horse farm in central Virginia probably needs between 8-12% protein in its diet, 12-18% if it’s a young growing foal or a pregnant mare. Proteins go toward building muscles and hooves, and they are associated with rapid cell development, so it makes sense for these two groups of horses.

Vitamins can be important supplements, but horses synthesize a lot of their own so they may not be necessary in large amounts. Be wary of overdoing it here: water-soluble vitamins get excreted in the urine, but an excess of fat-soluble vitamins can contribute to obesity.

Minerals are inorganic materials. The amount of vitamins and minerals depends on age and status. Most commercial feed meets these needs, as does forage. Biotin, zinc, and copper can improve horse strength. But don’t overdo it.  As always, talk with your vet first to create a nutrition plan that is suitable for each of your horses.

Contagious diseases and parasites

Horses are susceptible to many specific types of disease, especially pregnant mares, aging horses, and young foals. Any type of control program should reduce a horse’s exposure to disease-causing agents. One especially notable disease is equine infectious anemia (EIA) also known as swamp fever. It’s caused by a retrovirus and transmitted by blood-sucking insects such as the horse-fly. It’s also transmitted by reusing syringes and needles and symptoms include high fever, anemia, general weakness and fatigue, and swelling of lower abdomen and hind legs. It’s a serious affliction, capable of inducing miscarriage in pregnant mares. Make sure all new horses have a negative Coggins test…this ensures that they don’t have EIA. As a general rule, new horses should be reared in an isolation barn for 30 days. It may seem harsh, but it’s one of the only ways to protect your current stock from any unwanted diseases of which you may be unaware. Isolate for ten days, horses that seem sick, until symptoms disappear. Make sure you rigorously clean and disinfect all stalls where sick horses have been.

Proper contagious disease control also includes the use of vaccines. Ask your veterinarian about these, since they vary based on the age and status of your horse. Every adult horse needs vaccines for tetanus, rabies, west Nile virus, and eastern/western encephalomyelitis.

Generally all equestrian events such as horse shows, fox hunts and group trail rides will request proof that your horse has been vaccinated for the flu and equine herpes virus 1 and 4. Once again, talk to your vet about specific recommendations.

Parasites are just as much a legitimate a concern as disease in horses. Worms slip by without much notice until they are truly entrenched in a horse’s bodily systems, and by the time symptoms manifest themselves, they’re much more difficult to address. The most common are roundworms, strongyles, tapeworms, and botfly larvae. Young horses are more susceptible to worms. Parasite eggs are passed in the feces of infected horses and absorbed by other horses through the environment. The passage of parasite larvae through a horse’s body causes tissue damage in the lungs, intestinal walls, and blood vessels. When the worms mature, they cause intestinal irritation and obstructions. Talk to your vet if this happens; chances are you need a combination of anthelmintics (dewormer) and improved management practices. What type and how much dewormer to use depends on your horse’s weight, age and other factors. As far as management practices go, it’s all about proper handling of feces, as unpleasant as it sounds. Make sure you clean feces from stalls regularly, and avoid spreading manure until properly composted.

Hoof and dental

A horse definitely needs his hooves in order to be of much use, so it’s important to pay attention. Good hoof care will help guard against lameness, imbalance, and other problems. If you handle a horse’s feet early on, they’ll get used to it. Horses should have their hooves trimmed by a farrier every six to 12 weeks; this is key for balance. Also be on the lookout for sharp objects than can harm hooves, or small gaps where a horse could get a foot stuck easily. Horseshoes usually aren’t necessary unless you are ride a lot or ride on rough surfaces. Failure to maintain hooves could result in thrush (a bacterial infection) and cracks in the hoof.

Horses need proper dental care as well, and that means regular dental checkups. The better their dental condition, the more likely it is that a horse will keep its teeth, and that they’ll eat better and more efficiently. Horses don’t exhibit signs of dental wear until it’s too late, so it’s important to be proactive and preventative here. Some of the problems associated with the horse’s dental condition include sharp points that cause lacerations in the cheeks and jaw and improper tooth alignment, which can lead to uneven, worn down, fractured or missing teeth. As with hoof care, if you introduce a foal to dental care early, they’ll become used to it. Teeth should be examined after birth and again after weaning; it’s around the weaning stage that you’ll be able to identify any dental birth defects. So there you have it…our guide to making sure your horses stay healthy.

If you are searching for horse farms for sale in Virginia, let one of our experienced horse farm Realtors be your guide.  In the meantime, you might like conducting your own search at www.CharlottesvilleHorseFarm.com.

Managing Obesity on Horse Farms

Charlottesville Horse Farms for SaleWhen we think of horse farms in central Virginia, it’s probably easy to imagine an endless green sprawl with rolling hills, clear blue skies, and horses galloping unrestrained against the rugged landscape. We’re probably less likely to think of horses sitting around in stalls with nothing to do. But horse farmers know the reality; horses, like people are susceptible to obesity given certain conditions. Certain breeds of livestock are considered “easy keepers,” because in conditions that cause most of the herd to lose weight, they are adept at maintaining or even gaining weight. So most of the time it’s better and more desirable than a “hard keeper.” Ponies, as well as most mules and donkeys fit this description, as do many of the smaller, more durable species of horse like the Mustang and the Arabian. Easy keepers are desirable because it’s easy to keep them well-fed, but maintaining nutritional and dietary needs can be difficult.

Reasons for obesity

The forage that we cultivate on our modern-day pastures is much higher in caloric content than what horses were raised on, from an evolutionary perspective. Imagine; the formative horses and their ancestors were raised on forage that was much less nourishing, both nutritionally and calorically. Not only that but the terrain was very sparsely vegetated. The result was a lean, resourceful animal who had to walk several miles just to find sufficient sustenance. Skip ahead to modern times, and we are by and large providing these animals with high-quality forages that are easily accessible, removing their incentive to walk around for miles. All grazing activity is kept within the confines of pasture fencing. So we have food that is nutritionally more nourishing than what horses are used to, combined with a decrease in energy expenditures. It’s the same for humans, especially over the last hundred or so years: we’ve seen the effect of increasingly sedentary lifestyles combined with widespread availability of food. Additionally, there have been advances in agricultural technology over the last century that have seen the phasing out of livestock bred for crop cultivation. The tractor has replaced the workhorse, and most horses now are kept for recreational purposes. This is especially the case on central Virginia horse farms; horses are used for leisure and recreation–activities like foxhunting or exploring trails on horseback.

What happens when horses become obese

It can be difficult to say when a horse is just a bit plump and when it’s actually obese. Not everyone has a livestock scale (although you can pick one up for well under a thousand bucks). Sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on whether or not your four-legged friend may simply be suffering from “big-bonedness.” And of course some body fat is needed. But when your horse actually does reach that point, it should be a cause for concern.

Excess fat detracts from a horse’s ability to exercise. It requires more energy to even move, and so they do it less. More seriously, excess layers of fat can insulate the body. During the summer, this could lead to heat stress because the fat detracts from a horse’s ability to dissipate heat. These extra fat layers can also result in the formation of lipomas, benign tumors that tend to grow in a horse’s abdominal cavity. Lipomas often form on the mesentery, a thin strand of suspended tissue that encloses the intestine. As the tumor develops, it starts to hang from the mesentery, forming what’s called a pedicle. This can prevent ingested material from passing while cutting off blood supply. Obese horses are also more prone to developing laminitis, a hoofed animal disease that can lead to inflammation, hoof sinking, foot tenderness, and inability to walk. This is most likely a result of irregular glucose metabolism.

Treating obesity

Not everyone has access to a livestock scale, but there are otherways to keep track of horse obesity. Weight tapes are pretty good at approximating the body weight of your horse. They’re also useful for tracking weight gains or losses over time. The Henneke horse body condition scoring system was created to develop a standardized scale with which to assess a horse’s body conditions. It assesses weight accumulation across six areas on a horse’s body: neck, withers, behind the shoulder, over the ribs, topline, and tailhead. It gives each of the areas a rating from 1-9: one is extremely emaciated and 9 is obese. Ideal scores are 4-6: you can’t necessarily see the rib but you should always feel it.

Diet and exercise are the two ways to address obesity in any species. In order to address obesity, you must build your horse up to the point where it’s expending more energy than it’s taking in (through calories). This has to be done gradually though; the stress of a sudden surge of physical activity is no good. Say you tend to keep your horses in stalls. Simply letting a pampered horse out won’t really do too much; often, the horses will just stand around waiting to eat. Forced exercise may be necessary at first. Get them to walk around in twenty minute jaunts several times a day, or ten minute runs. Riding the horse is more effective. Consider loaning the horse to someone you know who will want to ride it around. Walking for a long while is considered more effective than galloping for a short while. It’s a steady process; consistency is key.

Next you must think about reducing the amount of grazing your horse does every day. Taper off access to pastures, definitely less than four hours a day. Despite this advice, it’s important to keep the horses eating consistently. Horses that are let out once or twice a day, eat more than horses that are grazing sparsely throughout the day. It’s important to keep the metabolism working. To reduce access to pasture, turn horses out into a drylots (no forage). If you don’t have one on the property, consider a muzzle that lets horses hydrate and consume salt without being able to eat grass. Don’t feed your horses as many high-calorie concentrates, especially if you have an easy keeper. It would also be wise to stick to grass forage and hay instead of legumes like alfalfa. This way, the horses are taking in less calories. Conserve the amount of hay your horses consume. 1.5% of the horse’s target weight is ideal…not 1.5% of its current weight. Try your best to distribute this intake evenly throughout the day instead of in concentrated bursts of eating.

Always consult with your veterinarian before making any abrupt changes to your horse’s diet and lifestyle.