Pernickety, perfectionist and precise — a dressage rider-turned-home buyer is easy to spot. I would say the dressage rider is a bit more particular, wanting something more up together and smart than those from other disciplines, says equestrian agent Guy Sherratt.
That is, until financial reality steps in and compromises are called for. The horses have to be comfortable. If I have to live in a mobile home, so be it, says international rider Peter Storr, who has moved from an owners yard to set up his own.
Storr managed to find a property with a beautiful house, but it was almost by accident. What he had set out looking for was an indoor school, which he had at his previous yard. I spend my day on and off horses and the thought of riding a four-year-old stallion on a howling day in pouring rain I just couldnt do it, he reflects.
Professionals or competitors with ambitions should ideally look for a 20x60m floodlit indoor arena, according to Emma Streeter of Bidwells. Storr recommends looking for properties with an outbuilding that could be converted into an indoor arena, to limit planning hassles.
Quality outdoor schools come just as high in the priorities of a dressage rider. A lot of homework is involved in dressage, so a good surface is very, very important, says Jo Bagnall of British Dressage.
Peter Storr suggests choosing houses that have potential for a manège rather than those which already have one.
I didnt look at whether the place I bought, had a school I looked at whether I could fit one in. Most properties [with a manège] dont have the right surface in anyway, but you pay a premium for them, he says.
Good stabling, by contrast, is a huge plus, because competitors usually need to move the horses in soon after completion. Professionals and top-level amateurs should look at about 20 boxes to accommodate their own horses, those of their grooms and, potentially, those of people coming in for training sessions.
Storr also urges buyers to look for compact yards because if there is a lot of walking around, you waste a lot of time.
Good transport links is another critical requirement for professional dressage riders. Absolute must-haves include easy access to showgrounds, easy horsebox access [and] good links to Europe and beyond, says Karen Hall of Equus.
Storr thinks that former racing yards make good dressage set-ups. Racing yards work quite well to convert because theyre of a high standard, he says.
The only snag, warns Streeter, is that competition for racing yards is intense and prices can be prohibitive: Around Newmarket, youd pay £3m-plus for a really smart set-up because theres a lot of competition.
Amateur riders can expect to pay significantly less, as they can make do with fewer stables and a smaller all-weather school. Indoor schools and Olympic-size dressage arenas can usually be hired, says Diana Rowell of Churchill Country & Equestrian.
Finding a good dressage property is hard work because the market is not seasonal as it is for, say, eventing or racing. Really good properties come up when they come up, says Streeter.
Storr knows this well. It has taken him many months and a rather large mortgage to find his new home. He advises prospective buyers to get on the Internet and keep searching. Put your name down with everybody and keep trawling all the local papers. It takes a lot of time so start early.