Country houses for sale

Finding the perfect equestrian property

What makes the ideal equestrian property?

ABOVE: Grade II* listed Little Park, in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire,  comes with 22 stables, an indoor arena and a six-furlong all-weather gallop. £4.5 million, Knight Frank (01285 659771)

Bobby Hall of The Buying Solution is travelling up and down the country looking for a large indoor riding school, or at least space to put one. His client, a very serious amateur eventer, has given him a tricky mandate: a good indoor arena is hard to find—and near impossible if it needs to come with a range of other equestrian facilities, staff accommodation and 100 acres of free-draining land. But it’s a request that property search agents like Mr Hall and his colleague Katherine Watters may increasingly hear in the future, because Britain is seeing a fresh wave of demand for top equestrian estates.

Two very different kinds of buyers are driving this horsey renaissance— top professionals who often hail from abroad and wealthy families who have been bitten by the riding bug. Britain has always been a good base for international riders, says Rupert Sweeting of Knight Frank, because it has a concentration of equestrian talent, prestigious shows, superb quality of tuition and strong supporting services, from vets to financial backers.

Now, the economic upturn, the success of the London Olympics and the forthcoming Rio Olympics are combining to kick demand into higher gear. Eventing riders, in particular, are among the most active groups in today’s equestrian market. Britain hosts many of the world’s most prestigious horse trials, including two of the world’s six top eventing competitions, the CCI**** at Badminton and, of course, this weekend at Burghley. Consequently, believes Miss Watters, ‘many selectors from international equestrian federations like—and in some cases insist—that riders in contention for a team place complete at least one season on the UK eventing circuit before an Olympic year’.

That said, interest in top British yards is also coming from other disciplines. Simon Derby of Smiths Gore has seen a rise in dressage interest, ‘in part linked to the success of the UK riders’, and both he and Nigel Steele of Jackson-Stops & Staff mention an increase in demand for racing properties coming in from Qatar. At the same time, adds Mr Sweeting, lifestyle buyers are showing renewed interest in equestrian properties. ‘There has been an upturn in the economy, with people making more money and wishing to invest in their hobbies.’

These lifestyle riders tend to seek a grander house and less sophisticated facilities than the professional competitor: ‘What tips it from amateur to grown-up is things such as the quality of the arena’s surface, washing-down boxes with a solarium on top and a barn to park your horsebox in rather than leaving it out in the open,’ says Mr Hall.

Both groups increasingly look for equestrian estates where the stable yard is of good quality and ready to move in. Property requirements depend on specific riding interests, but usually encompass an American-style barn with large boxes and good ventilation, manicured paddocks with free-draining soil and staff accommodation.

Training and exercise facilities should include an indoor and an outdoor school —both should be professionally built, with a good surface, mirrors and floodlighting and at least one of the two should be of international size—plus a horse walker and potential to install gallops or a cross-country course. The right location is also crucial: the ideal equestrian property has beautiful riding on its doorstep, but also good transport links to London, the airports and competition venues across the country.

Supply of these equestrian estates is traditionally short and is further reduced by the fact that many yards never make it onto the open market. As a result, prices are suitably high, although they vary considerably depending on the quality of the main house—Mr Hall is viewing properties ranging from £2.75 million to £26 million for his client. However, explains Luke Morgan of Strutt & Parker: ‘This is a very finite market—not many people want a stonking big house with all the equestrian bits tagged on.’

Equestrian property experts

Home counties Bobby Hall, The Buying Solution (01488 657912)
Southern region Katherine Watters, The Buying Solution (01344 206070)
Countrywide Rupert Sweeting, Knight Frank (020–7861 1078)
West Country Simon Derby, Smiths Gore (01823 445036)
East Anglia Nigel Steele, Jackson-Stops & Staff (01603 612333)
Countrywide Luke Morgan, Strutt & Parker (020–7318 5095)

* This article first appeared in Country Life Magazine on September 3 2014

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