Reality check - The Horse Owner's Resource

Reality check

It’s easy to fall in love with rolling hills and mountain vistas, but don’t underestimate the importance of doing your homework, making preparations and being willing to improvise when venturing into uncharted territory.
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The dream of relocating to the mountains of the southwest has resonated for many EQUUS readers. Here are some of the responses to Part I of my story in the June issue:

“Great new series will keep us in the loop of what it takes to build from nothing to your dream ranch!”—Candy Giordano, Florida

“I just loved your article about finding your dream ranch. My heart is overflowing with joy for you guys and your herd.”—MaryAshley McGibbon, Texas

“Can’t wait to read the next segment!”—Cindy Lawbaugh, Illinois

“You have me really intrigued with Pie Town,” wrote Audrey Scott, an endurance friend and long- time California resident. “I am looking for somewhere to retire with a horse and dog in the next six years. Looking forward to reading more about your adventure.”

Some readers have even gone so far as to begin researching ranches and properties in the area. It all sounds very romantic and adventurous---and it is all of those things---but… there’s a little bit of sobering reality to consider before taking the leap.

I’ve lived in many regions and climates of the United States, from the heat and humidity of Maryland and Texas to the high arid deserts of California and Arizona to the Midwestern snow belt of Minnesota and Illinois. All have their virtues and challenges---as a kid and young adult, snow in the winter and mosquitos in the summer were simply accepted as a part of life.

I also spent close to a year in Grand Junction, Colorado, which came pretty close to my personal ranking as the ideal climate for year-round riding, picturesque trails and spectacular views of the Grand Mesa and Colorado’s Western Slope. Directly south was Santa Fe and New Mexico, the fabled “Land of Enchantment.” A couple of visits to participate in Tellington TTouch clinics in the mountains above Santa Fe planted a seed in my imagination.

Decades later, that dream is coming to fruition. My husband Kenny Weber and I would leave the heat of southern Texas for the cool temperatures, mountain vistas and sheer beauty of New Mexico. After a yearlong search, we decided to buy undeveloped land and build a ranch from scratch near Pie Town.

Practical considerations

Partway through the process, I’d like to pause to report on some aspects of life in our new home that wouldn’t necessarily become apparent in web searches or relatively brief visits.

• High winds. Our area near Pie Town averages over 19 mph winds year round with gusts as high as 60 to 70 mph. And with high winds comes dust, which infiltrates everything.

• Aridity. Extreme low humidity (often below 10 percent) can mean dry, itchy skin, dehydration and cracked lips. Drinking lots of water becomes a necessity.

• High altitude. While the views are stunning, the UV rays go right through clothing. It’s easy to get sunburned and 75 degrees often feels like 95.

• Wildfire risk. Few areas of the West are immune from the risks and ravages of uncontrolled wildfires. A telltale plume of black smoke behind Alegres Mountain greeted us one May morning, not long after snow had dusted the same mountaintop.

As much as we love our abundant juniper and pinion trees, we see the necessity of clearing more trees from the immediate vicinity of house, barn and storage areas, and securing sufficient horse transportation to move our herd in a hurry. We purchased a 24-foot stock trailer in June to ensure we had enough trailer space.

• Insects. One of our main motivators for defecting from Texas for the high country of New Mexico was escape from biting pests. Some of our horses are allergic to culicoides spp (aka no-see-ums), and we are constantly battling pastern dermatitis, sweet itch, hives and other maladies of biting pests. While ticks are rare to nonexistent in New Mexico and we haven’t seen a mosquito, there are flies. Mostly face flies; hence, we keep the fly masks on the ponies much of the time. I’ve also seen a few gnats swirling around Annakate’s legs, but so far these don’t appear to be the same variety she is allergic to.

• Distance to services. We knew we were far from organic produce, supplies and medical and veterinary services when we purchased the land. Hooking up with friends in the area will help all of us be more efficient and limit travel. It’s 80-plus miles to Socorro to the east and about the same distance to Springerville, Arizona to the west, and 2 1/2 hours to a major city like Albuquerque. Careful planning and list-making is needed since running out for errands can be an all-day journey.

And if you’re considering such a move, it’s very helpful to be self-sufficient. I’m not sure we would have undertaken such a move had Kenny not been a mechanical engineer who loves to repair, build and design things. Especially for those nearing retirement age, be aware of this need to possess in-house handyman skills.

Services and systems

If you decide to start from scratch, as we did, be ready to navigate the following:

• Permits and regulations. A jumble of county and state regulations and fine print, not to mention subdivision covenants, will require your careful attention to detail. We discovered our subdivision’s CCNRs after we had made a down payment on a manufactured home, and spent a few panicky hours tracking down the document at the Catron County courthouse. Fortunately it allows “double-wide” structures as long as they are on a permanent foundation (cement, piers or pillars) with skirting around the base. We were in the clear! (These rules vary from state to state and county to county.)

• Utilities. How far is the nearest power pole from the property line? How many additional poles will need to be constructed, and how many feet of underground trenched wire will be needed? Our power provider, Socorro Electric Coop, will be sending an estimator out, but we are prepared for a long wait for installation. Going solar is another option, but expect a steep learning curve and at least twice the initial expense.

• Internet service. What most city folks take for granted—high-speed connectivity—is not a given in many/most remote areas of the country. With Kenny and I relying on high speed internet to work, write and research, this has proven to be a huge source of frustration. Your tolerance for slower upload and download speeds may vary, so check any property’s present and future prospects for high speed. Note: satellite is available anywhere, but your speeds may vary, and it’s never as fast as DSL or line of sight. Kenny has installed a “jetpack” on a pole, which has greatly helped our connection speeds. While moving to the country is intended to help us break free of the grip of internet, it will definitely be a process!!

• Cellular service. Again, it can be spotty. In Texas, AT&T is the main provider in our area; here in New Mexico, Verizon provides the only reliable connection. So here we are juggling two cell phones apiece. Be sure to research service coverage before you head out to explore new country. Few things are more frustrating than spotty cell service.

• Water access. As discussed in Part II, water is a continuous concern in many areas of the Southwest, including our own. We were lucky and the well-drilling gods smiled upon us. We should have plenty of water for our horses and ourselves (and we are going with a solar pump).

All of this is not to discourage you from pursuing your dream, but instead to help prepare you to go into it with eyes open and ready to be flexible. Most everything costs up to twice as much in the country, especially as far out as we are. Concrete slabs, stick-built homes, barns and sheds---I’ve practically lost track of the checks I’ve written.

Of course, the concerns I’ve outlined are specific to our area of southwestern New Mexico; many will not apply to other locations, which will no doubt pose their own unique considerations and challenges. But wherever you go, be diligent and check things out carefully. Spend pleny oftime there before committing; talk to the locals as well as researching online.

Nonetheless, we’ve concluded, the challenges we encountered are simply part and parcel of the adventure. It only took a brief return to the heat and humidity of Texas in mid-June to realize we had made the right choice. In the next installment, our solar well is up and running, our manufactured home finally arrives, and we discover a lower-cost alternative to building a barn. Best of all, the annual summer monsoon kicks in, and the grama grass is rapidly turning green.

sidebar

Feeling welcome

One of the unexpected joys of living in rural America has been discovering how friendly everyone is—from our neighbors to the County Clerk to service providers to people met on the street. We met a gal in the Socorro feed store who manages a large cattle ranch and we soon discovered we had mutual friends. We met a fellow in the Socorro Wal-Mart who grows most of the alfalfa for the region. A woman in the hardware store said she grew up just north of Pie Town. In our own neighborhood, there’s a sense of camaraderie, and everyone pitches in to help. There’s a real sense of community here!

Reality check

It’s easy to fall in love with rolling hills and mountain vistas, but don’t underestimate the importance of doing your homework, making preparations and being willing to improvise when venturing into uncharted territory.

By Bobbie Jo Lieberman

The dream of relocating to the mountains of the southwest has resonated for many EQUUS readers. Here are some of the responses to Part I of my story in the June issue:

“Great new series will keep us in the loop of what it takes to build from nothing to your dream ranch!”—Candy Giordano, Florida

“I just loved your article about finding your dream ranch. My heart is overflowing with joy for you guys and your herd.”—MaryAshley McGibbon, Texas

“Can’t wait to read the next segment!”—Cindy Lawbaugh, Illinois

“You have me really intrigued with Pie Town,” wrote Audrey Scott, an endurance friend and long- time California resident. “I am looking for somewhere to retire with a horse and dog in the next six years. Looking forward to reading more about your adventure.”

Some readers have even gone so far as to begin researching ranches and properties in the area. It all sounds very romantic and adventurous---and it is all of those things---but… there’s a little bit of sobering reality to consider before taking the leap.

I’ve lived in many regions and climates of the United States, from the heat and humidity of Maryland and Texas to the high arid deserts of California and Arizona to the Midwestern snow belt of Minnesota and Illinois. All have their virtues and challenges---as a kid and young adult, snow in the winter and mosquitos in the summer were simply accepted as a part of life.

I also spent close to a year in Grand Junction, Colorado, which came pretty close to my personal ranking as the ideal climate for year-round riding, picturesque trails and spectacular views of the Grand Mesa and Colorado’s Western Slope. Directly south was Santa Fe and New Mexico, the fabled “Land of Enchantment.” A couple of visits to participate in Tellington TTouch clinics in the mountains above Santa Fe planted a seed in my imagination.

Decades later, that dream is coming to fruition. My husband Kenny Weber and I would leave the heat of southern Texas for the cool temperatures, mountain vistas and sheer beauty of New Mexico. After a yearlong search, we decided to buy undeveloped land and build a ranch from scratch near Pie Town.

Practical considerations

Partway through the process, I’d like to pause to report on some aspects of life in our new home that wouldn’t necessarily become apparent in web searches or relatively brief visits.

• High winds. Our area near Pie Town averages over 19 mph winds year round with gusts as high as 60 to 70 mph. And with high winds comes dust, which infiltrates everything.

• Aridity. Extreme low humidity (often below 10 percent) can mean dry, itchy skin, dehydration and cracked lips. Drinking lots of water becomes a necessity.

• High altitude. While the views are stunning, the UV rays go right through clothing. It’s easy to get sunburned and 75 degrees often feels like 95.

• Wildfire risk. Few areas of the West are immune from the risks and ravages of uncontrolled wildfires. A telltale plume of black smoke behind Alegres Mountain greeted us one May morning, not long after snow had dusted the same mountaintop.

As much as we love our abundant juniper and pinion trees, we see the necessity of clearing more trees from the immediate vicinity of house, barn and storage areas, and securing sufficient horse transportation to move our herd in a hurry. We purchased a 24-foot stock trailer in June to ensure we had enough trailer space.

• Insects. One of our main motivators for defecting from Texas for the high country of New Mexico was escape from biting pests. Some of our horses are allergic to culicoides spp (aka no-see-ums), and we are constantly battling pastern dermatitis, sweet itch, hives and other maladies of biting pests. While ticks are rare to nonexistent in New Mexico and we haven’t seen a mosquito, there are flies. Mostly face flies; hence, we keep the fly masks on the ponies much of the time. I’ve also seen a few gnats swirling around Annakate’s legs, but so far these don’t appear to be the same variety she is allergic to.

• Distance to services. We knew we were far from organic produce, supplies and medical and veterinary services when we purchased the land. Hooking up with friends in the area will help all of us be more efficient and limit travel. It’s 80-plus miles to Socorro to the east and about the same distance to Springerville, Arizona to the west, and 2 1/2 hours to a major city like Albuquerque. Careful planning and list-making is needed since running out for errands can be an all-day journey.

And if you’re considering such a move, it’s very helpful to be self-sufficient. I’m not sure we would have undertaken such a move had Kenny not been a mechanical engineer who loves to repair, build and design things. Especially for those nearing retirement age, be aware of this need to possess in-house handyman skills.

Services and systems

If you decide to start from scratch, as we did, be ready to navigate the following:

• Permits and regulations. A jumble of county and state regulations and fine print, not to mention subdivision covenants, will require your careful attention to detail. We discovered our subdivision’s CCNRs after we had made a down payment on a manufactured home, and spent a few panicky hours tracking down the document at the Catron County courthouse. Fortunately it allows “double-wide” structures as long as they are on a permanent foundation (cement, piers or pillars) with skirting around the base. We were in the clear! (These rules vary from state to state and county to county.)

• Utilities. How far is the nearest power pole from the property line? How many additional poles will need to be constructed, and how many feet of underground trenched wire will be needed? Our power provider, Socorro Electric Coop, will be sending an estimator out, but we are prepared for a long wait for installation. Going solar is another option, but expect a steep learning curve and at least twice the initial expense.

• Internet service. What most city folks take for granted—high-speed connectivity—is not a given in many/most remote areas of the country. With Kenny and I relying on high speed internet to work, write and research, this has proven to be a huge source of frustration. Your tolerance for slower upload and download speeds may vary, so check any property’s present and future prospects for high speed. Note: satellite is available anywhere, but your speeds may vary, and it’s never as fast as DSL or line of sight. Kenny has installed a “jetpack” on a pole, which has greatly helped our connection speeds. While moving to the country is intended to help us break free of the grip of internet, it will definitely be a process!!

• Cellular service. Again, it can be spotty. In Texas, AT&T is the main provider in our area; here in New Mexico, Verizon provides the only reliable connection. So here we are juggling two cell phones apiece. Be sure to research service coverage before you head out to explore new country. Few things are more frustrating than spotty cell service.

• Water access. As discussed in Part II, water is a continuous concern in many areas of the Southwest, including our own. We were lucky and the well-drilling gods smiled upon us. We should have plenty of water for our horses and ourselves (and we are going with a solar pump).

All of this is not to discourage you from pursuing your dream, but instead to help prepare you to go into it with eyes open and ready to be flexible. Most everything costs up to twice as much in the country, especially as far out as we are. Concrete slabs, stick-built homes, barns and sheds---I’ve practically lost track of the checks I’ve written.

Of course, the concerns I’ve outlined are specific to our area of southwestern New Mexico; many will not apply to other locations, which will no doubt pose their own unique considerations and challenges. But wherever you go, be diligent and check things out carefully. Spend pleny oftime there before committing; talk to the locals as well as researching online.

Nonetheless, we’ve concluded, the challenges we encountered are simply part and parcel of the adventure. It only took a brief return to the heat and humidity of Texas in mid-June to realize we had made the right choice. In the next installment, our solar well is up and running, our manufactured home finally arrives, and we discover a lower-cost alternative to building a barn. Best of all, the annual summer monsoon kicks in, and the grama grass is rapidly turning green.

sidebar

Feeling welcome

One of the unexpected joys of living in rural America has been discovering how friendly everyone is—from our neighbors to the County Clerk to service providers to people met on the street. We met a gal in the Socorro feed store who manages a large cattle ranch and we soon discovered we had mutual friends. We met a fellow in the Socorro Wal-Mart who grows most of the alfalfa for the region. A woman in the hardware store said she grew up just north of Pie Town. In our own neighborhood, there’s a sense of camaraderie, and everyone pitches in to help. There’s a real sense of community here!

The dream of relocating to the mountains of the southwest has resonated for many EQUUS readers. Here are some of the responses to Part I of my story in the June issue:

“Great new series will keep us in the loop of what it takes to build from nothing to your dream ranch!”—Candy Giordano, Florida

“I just loved your article about finding your dream ranch. My heart is overflowing with joy for you guys and your herd.”—MaryAshley McGibbon, Texas

“Can’t wait to read the next segment!”—Cindy Lawbaugh, Illinois

“You have me really intrigued with Pie Town,” wrote Audrey Scott, an endurance friend and long- time California resident. “I am looking for somewhere to retire with a horse and dog in the next six years. Looking forward to reading more about your adventure.”

Some readers have even gone so far as to begin researching ranches and properties in the area. It all sounds very romantic and adventurous---and it is all of those things---but… there’s a little bit of sobering reality to consider before taking the leap.

I’ve lived in many regions and climates of the United States, from the heat and humidity of Maryland and Texas to the high arid deserts of California and Arizona to the Midwestern snow belt of Minnesota and Illinois. All have their virtues and challenges---as a kid and young adult, snow in the winter and mosquitos in the summer were simply accepted as a part of life.

I also spent close to a year in Grand Junction, Colorado, which came pretty close to my personal ranking as the ideal climate for year-round riding, picturesque trails and spectacular views of the Grand Mesa and Colorado’s Western Slope. Directly south was Santa Fe and New Mexico, the fabled “Land of Enchantment.” A couple of visits to participate in Tellington TTouch clinics in the mountains above Santa Fe planted a seed in my imagination.

Decades later, that dream is coming to fruition. My husband Kenny Weber and I would leave the heat of southern Texas for the cool temperatures, mountain vistas and sheer beauty of New Mexico. After a yearlong search, we decided to buy undeveloped land and build a ranch from scratch near Pie Town.

Practical considerations

Partway through the process, I’d like to pause to report on some aspects of life in our new home that wouldn’t necessarily become apparent in web searches or relatively brief visits.

• High winds. Our area near Pie Town averages over 19 mph winds year round with gusts as high as 60 to 70 mph. And with high winds comes dust, which infiltrates everything.

• Aridity. Extreme low humidity (often below 10 percent) can mean dry, itchy skin, dehydration and cracked lips. Drinking lots of water becomes a necessity.

• High altitude. While the views are stunning, the UV rays go right through clothing. It’s easy to get sunburned and 75 degrees often feels like 95.

• Wildfire risk. Few areas of the West are immune from the risks and ravages of uncontrolled wildfires. A telltale plume of black smoke behind Alegres Mountain greeted us one May morning, not long after snow had dusted the same mountaintop.

As much as we love our abundant juniper and pinion trees, we see the necessity of clearing more trees from the immediate vicinity of house, barn and storage areas, and securing sufficient horse transportation to move our herd in a hurry. We purchased a 24-foot stock trailer in June to ensure we had enough trailer space.

• Insects. One of our main motivators for defecting from Texas for the high country of New Mexico was escape from biting pests. Some of our horses are allergic to culicoides spp (aka no-see-ums), and we are constantly battling pastern dermatitis, sweet itch, hives and other maladies of biting pests. While ticks are rare to nonexistent in New Mexico and we haven’t seen a mosquito, there are flies. Mostly face flies; hence, we keep the fly masks on the ponies much of the time. I’ve also seen a few gnats swirling around Annakate’s legs, but so far these don’t appear to be the same variety she is allergic to.

• Distance to services. We knew we were far from organic produce, supplies and medical and veterinary services when we purchased the land. Hooking up with friends in the area will help all of us be more efficient and limit travel. It’s 80-plus miles to Socorro to the east and about the same distance to Springerville, Arizona to the west, and 2 1/2 hours to a major city like Albuquerque. Careful planning and list-making is needed since running out for errands can be an all-day journey.

And if you’re considering such a move, it’s very helpful to be self-sufficient. I’m not sure we would have undertaken such a move had Kenny not been a mechanical engineer who loves to repair, build and design things. Especially for those nearing retirement age, be aware of this need to possess in-house handyman skills.

Services and systems

If you decide to start from scratch, as we did, be ready to navigate the following:

• Permits and regulations. A jumble of county and state regulations and fine print, not to mention subdivision covenants, will require your careful attention to detail. We discovered our subdivision’s CCNRs after we had made a down payment on a manufactured home, and spent a few panicky hours tracking down the document at the Catron County courthouse. Fortunately it allows “double-wide” structures as long as they are on a permanent foundation (cement, piers or pillars) with skirting around the base. We were in the clear! (These rules vary from state to state and county to county.)

• Utilities. How far is the nearest power pole from the property line? How many additional poles will need to be constructed, and how many feet of underground trenched wire will be needed? Our power provider, Socorro Electric Coop, will be sending an estimator out, but we are prepared for a long wait for installation. Going solar is another option, but expect a steep learning curve and at least twice the initial expense.

• Internet service. What most city folks take for granted—high-speed connectivity—is not a given in many/most remote areas of the country. With Kenny and I relying on high speed internet to work, write and research, this has proven to be a huge source of frustration. Your tolerance for slower upload and download speeds may vary, so check any property’s present and future prospects for high speed. Note: satellite is available anywhere, but your speeds may vary, and it’s never as fast as DSL or line of sight. Kenny has installed a “jetpack” on a pole, which has greatly helped our connection speeds. While moving to the country is intended to help us break free of the grip of internet, it will definitely be a process!!

• Cellular service. Again, it can be spotty. In Texas, AT&T is the main provider in our area; here in New Mexico, Verizon provides the only reliable connection. So here we are juggling two cell phones apiece. Be sure to research service coverage before you head out to explore new country. Few things are more frustrating than spotty cell service.

• Water access. As discussed in Part II, water is a continuous concern in many areas of the Southwest, including our own. We were lucky and the well-drilling gods smiled upon us. We should have plenty of water for our horses and ourselves (and we are going with a solar pump).

All of this is not to discourage you from pursuing your dream, but instead to help prepare you to go into it with eyes open and ready to be flexible. Most everything costs up to twice as much in the country, especially as far out as we are. Concrete slabs, stick-built homes, barns and sheds---I’ve practically lost track of the checks I’ve written.

Of course, the concerns I’ve outlined are specific to our area of southwestern New Mexico; many will not apply to other locations, which will no doubt pose their own unique considerations and challenges. But wherever you go, be diligent and check things out carefully. Spend pleny oftime there before committing; talk to the locals as well as researching online.

Nonetheless, we’ve concluded, the challenges we encountered are simply part and parcel of the adventure. It only took a brief return to the heat and humidity of Texas in mid-June to realize we had made the right choice. In the next installment, our solar well is up and running, our manufactured home finally arrives, and we discover a lower-cost alternative to building a barn. Best of all, the annual summer monsoon kicks in, and the grama grass is rapidly turning green.

sidebar

Feeling welcome

One of the unexpected joys of living in rural America has been discovering how friendly everyone is—from our neighbors to the County Clerk to service providers to people met on the street. We met a gal in the Socorro feed store who manages a large cattle ranch and we soon discovered we had mutual friends. We met a fellow in the Socorro Wal-Mart who grows most of the alfalfa for the region. A woman in the hardware store said she grew up just north of Pie Town. In our own neighborhood, there’s a sense of camaraderie, and everyone pitches in to help. There’s a real sense of community here!

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #481)