Thursday, June 5, 2008

Equestrian Communities Out Of The Barn

Well-planned equestrian communities takes building or buying a barn out of the horse-ownership equation for both owners and equine fanciers, while providing a New Ruralism lifestyle in a managed environment with the latest residential technology and concierge services.

by Jennifer & Michael Donovan
© 2008 Equestrian Services, LLC

A 'Seconds Anyone?' Special to the Deadline Newsroom - You no longer need to build or buy a barn to live the equestrian life.

A growing number of equestrian communities -- designed much like successful golf communities -- offer central horse housing facilities that allow residents to board their own horses or interact with their neighbor's equestrian companions.

There are nearly 300 equestrian-themed communities in the U.S. because the U.S. offers an excellent opportunity for the development of future equestrian communities. The $39 billion-dollar horse industry includes more than 4.6 million participating Americans and tens of millions more involved as spectators, according to a 2005 economic study conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP for the American Horse Council Foundation (AHCF).

For Builders and Developers

With appropriate planning, design and support, builders can develop a successful community built to serve the equestrian enthusiast and nature lover, but only after several issues are addressed.

• Perform a feasibility study before you commit to a project. Like golf courses, equestrian facilities are not operationally profitable. A feasibility study will help you determine that the development model makes overall economic sense. Unlike golf, there are a broad range of equestrian disciplines, interests and pursuits. A feasibility study will identify the specific equestrian niche that will bring the greatest value to your project.

• Consider the financials. Are the amenity capital costs in line with the development's pro forma? Does the equestrian amenity make financial sense? If designed, executed and managed properly, an equestrian community can help a project's bottom line, including higher per-acre lot prices and faster sales pace.

• Carefully select who will manage and operate the equestrian facility. Solid programming and management is needed to ensure long term success and secure appropriate liability insurance. A professional equestrian management company will bring the best expertise and minimize risks associated with barn operations.

• Work with experts in equestrian planning. Even a lifetime of riding horses does not make someone qualified to plan, design, construct, or operate an equestrian facility. Equestrian planning requires equestrian experience, but it also requires a broad range of expertise including land planning, architecture, finance, business management and hospitality training. Don't risk your multi-million dollar investment to someone that does not possess the necessary skill-set.

Attracting Buyers

For many, living in a well-executed and correctly-managed equestrian community fulfills a lifelong dream. The buyers need the developer's assurance that these communities will be properly planned, designed, implemented and managed, creating an exceptional standard of living for active equestrians and passive enthusiasts alike.

Marketing strategies include:

• Boast the New Ruralism concept. Combining the best of rural living, within a managed environment, with the latest residential technology has emerged as one of the hottest lifestyle trends.

• Provide an equestrian brand. A strong equestrian "name" promises the homebuyer a level of quality and service. The Oaks of Lake City, located 35 minutes from Gainesville, Florida, features the world's first exclusively-branded O'Connor Signature equestrian facility, and is enjoying robust lot sales even in today's market.

• Include concierge services. Highly-trained equestrian staff is a selling point. Horse owners feel confident with staff who possess credentials in equine care and are then able to leave their horses (without worry) when they travel or simply lack the time for daily horse care.

• Promote the land expanses. Large tracts of open land for multi-use trails, riding arenas and parks are part of a successful equestrian community.

Animal Planet says the horse is the nation's fourth most popular animal, and with nearly 2 million people owning 9.2 million horses, another two million people involved as equestrian volunteers or engaged in the equestrian lifestyle through family affiliation, according to the Deloitte study, the demand for equestrian communities featuring New Ruralist principles is expected to remain strong.

About Equestrian Services, LLC:

Founded in 2000, Equestrian Services, LLC, plans, designs and manages equestrian amenities for communities and resorts, worldwide. Setting the standard for equestrian facilities, the company offers the only branding opportunities, under the Karen and David O'Connor and John Lyons names, for builders and developers offering equestrian amenities. Equestrian Services provides comprehensive services from feasibility studies to equestrian facility management. Equestrian Services is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. For more information, visit Equestrian Services, LLC.

© 2008 This article is reprinted with permission from Equestrian Services, LLC.

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