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What’s the difference between an equestrian and an agricultural property?

Equestrian vs. Agricultural

If you’re planning to use land for equestrian purposes, it’s important to be aware of planning legislation (i.e. Town and Country Planning Act 1990) on keeping and caring for horses on agricultural land. Non-compliance could result in penalties.

So how does legislation determine the difference between simply letting horses graze on vacant land and keeping them for other (i.e. commercial) purposes?

The answer varies with each property, based on several factors that local authorities will use in determining whether horses are being grazed (agricultural farm) or kept (equestrian farm):

Loose definition of agricultural property

If the horses on your Texas property are simply grazing on vacant land, the arrangement may fall under the legal definition of “agricultural property”. The upside is that you likely won’t need to obtain planning permission from the local authorities for the horses to keep grazing on the property.

The definition matters because agricultural appraisals and agriculture use valuations only apply to acreage used for agricultural operations. Improvements (i.e. homes, barns, silos) and minerals (i.e. hard minerals, oil) are appraised separately for market value while alterations and additions (i.e. fences, roads, water wells, stock tanks, canals) are often valued as part of the land itself.

Additionally, agricultural products (i.e. livestock, grains, vegetables, fruits) are generally tax exempt under the Texas Constitution while farm equipment and machinery used in agricultural production are usually exempt from ad valorem taxes.

In other words, landowners that can prove that their property is primarily agricultural property can get tax relief. But if you expect to receive special agriculture valuation for your land, you need to show the concerned Chief Appraiser that the property meets the standards for agriculture appraisal, including:

  • Primary use – The land must be used principally for agricultural operations; if it is being used for more than one purpose, its primary or important use must be agricultural
  • Current use – The property must be in principal agricultural use as of January 1st of the current tax year
  • Time period tests – The land should have been principally used for agricultural purposes for about five of the seven years leading up to the year you file your application
  • Intensity – The land in question is being farmed or ranched to an extent that is typical for agricultural properties

Loose definition of equestrian property

If you want to keep your horses on your property for recreational riding, classes, and other purposes, you’ll need to secure permission from local authorities to do so.

So how do you draw the line between horses that are just grazing on the property and horses being kept for other (i.e. recreational, educational, commercial) purposes?

Based on decided cases, the local authorities will take these factors into consideration when determining whether horses are being grazed or kept:

  • Are the horses on the property being fed? If you’re giving horses considerable amounts of bucket feed to the point that grazing is only secondary, then the use of the land in question will unlikely be deemed agricultural.
  • How is the field being used? If the horses are being exercised in open fields, then the use of the land is unlikely to be agricultural.
  • Are there other animals in the field? When examining the use of open fields, the local authority will evaluate whether the land is being used primarily for horses or other livestock like sheep also graze in it.
  • Are there existing structures on the land? Any structures or buildings used for the welfare or training of horses (i.e. round pen, jumps, horse exercisers, schooling surface), will point to the horses being kept for recreation rather than agricultural use, and that the property is an equestrian property.

If you’re still unsure, it’s worth consulting with a real estate expert before introducing horses onto the property to make sure that you comply with local laws and avoid penalties.

Talk to a horse property expert today

For inquiries about equestrian properties in North Texas, feel free to contact Sarah Boyd & Company here. The team has over 10 years of real estate experience, helping clients find the best equestrian properties, vacant land, and luxury homes in the region. Call us at 214.649.4403 or email Sarah(at)SarahBoydRealty(dotted)com for more information.