Horses and Wine Country


This page is devoted to all things horsey in Sonoma County and elsewhere in Northern California. Please subscribe by email or RSS feed, watch us grow, and let me know if you would like to contribute your writings and photos or horsey news to the site. (with credits and link love of course!)

One place to start looking if you are interested in horses and Sonoma County, is the Sonoma County Horse Council. This volunteer led group was founded in 1993 to advocate for horse-owners and horse-related businesses in Sonoma County. Like many such organizations, it was formed in response to a threat, in this case a plan by the Sonoma County Planning department to require use permits for most equestrian related facilities, despite zoning regulations which permitted equestrian uses as agricultural. If you follow the links, you will see they have come a long way, and assembled a powerful voice out of a diverse, horse-loving community. Sonoma County has one of the highest rates of horse ownership in the country and equestrian related businesses form a large chunk of our economy.

I have posted about this important organization before, but wanted to permanently add some links on this page as well. In addition, they have assembled a useful list of links to local and regional equestrian resource groups, including places to ride. Sonoma County has hundreds of miles of riding trails in some of the most beatiful terrain on the planet.

A great resource for Northern California horse people is Bay Area Equestrian Network.    It has been around for over ten years and provides a regional network and marketplace for horses, horse property, trucks, trailers, tack, feed and services.  There are other regional Equestrian Networks around the US but it started here in Northern California.  I have personally used it to buy and sell all of the above items, and I have met some great clients there as well!

Natural Sport Horse

When I started to ride seriously as an adult, my Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross Reilly and I trained with Sarah Sheehy, Terry Church and Siri Larssen, all in either Marin County or Sonoma county at the time. I have stayed in touch with them over the years and just received word of an updated website, Natural which links them all together and promotes Natural horsemanship, inspired by Tom Dorrance and others, for the disciplines of hunters, jumpers and dressage. The purpose is to develop a partnership with your horse based upon improving the rider’s balance and feel so as to allow the horse to develop their utmost potential in a sound, healthy and natural way.

There are many practitioners of natural horsemanship in Sonoma county Natural Sporthorse links to some of the best and has links to many other resources as well. Worth a visit!

Dressage in the Wine Country Celebrates the Sport Horse in Sonoma County

filed under: Horses and Wine Country posted on September 7th, 2013

Wine Country and Horses is celebrating its seventh year tonight at Dressage in the Wine Country at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds! I am so appreciative to those of my clients and friends who are gathering tonight to celebrate the sport horse in Sonoma County. Whether your discipline is dressage, hunters, eventing, barrel racing, trail riding or jousing (JOUSTING?), you can find kindred spirits in the horse community throughout Sonoma County. If you want to know more about country and horse properties here, contact me and I will send you the latest Country Property Market Repot for Sonoma County. See you there!

William Hamersky and Rohan Demonstrate Head Lopping at Full Tilt Farm in Sebastopol

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Facilities or Fundamentals? What are the Top Things to Consider When Buying Horse Property in Sonoma County?

filed under: Horses and Wine Country posted on May 31st, 2012

Roses line the path to this Sonoma County barn

In my post earlier today I talked about the two factors driving most horse property buyers I have met in Sonoma County. I related my own experience buying my own horse property here, and I pointed out a new listing yesterday that fit the bill on both accounts:  dialed in facilities well thought out from a horse-owner (and of course HORSE) viewpoint, plus beautiful wine country bonuses–panoramic views, one of the most popular Sebastopol locations, and a good southerly route for San Francisco Bay Area commuters.

This has sparked some conversations with other horse property clients and friends of mine.  I just spoke with one who said that her thinking evolved as she searched for property. In the beginning she thought it was about finding the right set of horse improvements, such as barn, fencing and arena.  Over time (and working with me I might add), her thinking evolved.  She began to realize that location, setting, proper soils and drainage were all paramount, not to mention adequate space for her horses.   Those were non-negotiable.  Facilities she could add.  And she has!

The further advantage of putting in your own facilities is that you can design them as you wish, for your horses’ needs.  No need to adapt to someone else’s vision.  Plus horse improvements depreciate rapidly, so the condition of the improvements should be carefully evnaluated. I have seen lots of properties advertised as having arenas which are nothing more than a rectangular fenced area. I have seen covered arenas advertised that had no footing.   Horse fencing advertised that is not safe for horses, etc.

As we further talked though we discussed some cases in which buying existing improvement can make sense. Obviously if they are in great shape and match your needs, then it is cheaper to buy them already installed.  Something which can cost several hundred thousand dollars such as a covered or indoor arena loses that value once installed and a seller will rarely recoup it these days, so you might as a buyer have a good opportunity to get a very nice arena at a good savings.

So you can make a case in either direction.  One thing to consider in buying (or selling!) a horse property is that it makes sense to work with a realtor who knows horses and horse property so you can fully explore these issues and they will understand your needs and concerns.  It will save you time, money and aggravation in the long run, and bring you that much closer to realizing your dream of a horse property in the wine country!

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Is it Sonoma County Horse Property? Or is it Horse-Able? What matters most to you?

filed under: Buyers, Horses and Wine Country posted on May 31st, 2012

Grazing at Home Next to a Russian River Valley Vineyard”]I have been working on “how-to” series this month. How to Buy Country Property? What you need to know about Water and Country Property. Last but most definitely not least is “How to” buy horse property in the wine country? This blog is called Wine Country and Horses after all.

I thought it would be a pretty straightforward matter until I started talking to my clients who have purchased horse property through me, until I realized there was one basic point to consider before getting in to the details.

When you buy your horse property, what is most important to you as you search?

A. The land, location (including trail access), setting and house?

B. The fencing, barn and arena, if any?

I realize that my clients tend to fall in to one of the two camps.

I personally was in the first camp. The setting and location and to a lesser extent the house were paramout to me. I would have loved to find a property that also had a barn and fencing but that was secondary. I had to find the right place first for the horses and me. For the right price I could buy the property and put the improvements in as I saw fit.

When I was looking for my place in 1999, I saw one house in Sebastopol that didn’t do too much for me, but the neighboring property had a nicely put together arena, fencing and a barn. If that one had been for sale at the time I might have bought it.

Arena with a View

Guess what? It came on the market yesterday. Here is a link to the listing. If you want a combination of a true wine country Sebastopol location, PLUS dialed in horse facilities: a six stall MD Barn with paddocks off the stalls on one side, trailer parking and a bunch of pasture turnout linking barn and a nice arena with proper drainage and footing, here you go. I have seen most of the horse properties, or horse-able properties in Sonoma County. IF you want to learn more, please call or email me.

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21212955 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

posted by Pam Buda // 1 Comment »

Horse Lovers! Don't Miss the 2nd Annual Sonoma Change Fundraising BBQ

filed under: Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on September 12th, 2009

Last year’s inauguaral Benefit BBQ for the Sonoma CHANGE Program (Coins to Help Neglected and Abandoned Equines) was a great success!  A fun event in a beautiful venue that raised significant money to help coordinate efforts in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties to save neglected horses from abuse and neglect.

In 2009, your help is needed more than ever. It seems that ticket sales are down this year due to the economy, and the need to help abandoned horses is greater than ever.  This year’s event is at the beautiful Shone Farm of the Santa Rosa Junior College, on the border of Healdsburg, Forestville and Santa Rosa.

The Beautiful Shone Farm Facility of Santa Rosa Junior College

Please visit the Sonoma CHANGE website to buy your ticket for this fun event coming up soon on Sunday, September 20, 2009.   You’ll enjoy a great day with wonderful food, friends and family and lots of equestrian entertainment from dressage and jumping demonstrations, the chance to see and learn about all kinds of horses from Mustangs to Percherons and Friesians.  Enjoy drill teams, vaulting and carriage driving.  There will even be a Unicorn!  What a great way to spend a September Sunday and to benefit a great cause–the health and well-being of horses throughout the North Bay.  See you there!

If you can’t make it on the 20th, the CHANGE website will still accept your donation. If you would like more information about CHANGE, the video below will fill you in.

posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

Wine Country and Snow (and Horses)

filed under: Country Property, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on December 19th, 2008

Good friend and photographer Robbin Satterlee was able to capture a range of photos from the Sonoma County Wine and Horse country outside Santa Rosa, with dramatic views of snow covered Mt. Saint Helena in Napa and towards the mountainous Geysers of Lake County to the north. Vineyards, horses and snow covered mountains. Not bad. The snow has melted now as warmer rains have come in but enjoy. We have these snowstorms at the higher elevations (1500 to 2000 feet) a couple of times each winter.

Snow on hilltops

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Camels and Dressage?

filed under: Horses and Wine Country posted on November 18th, 2008

OK I really am working on a more serious post about the 4 year high in home sales we experienced in Sonoma County real estate for the month of October 2008, with plunging inventory, but first this fun video for my horse (and camel) friends, from @WalkingHorse, a Twitter friend.

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CHANGE Fundraiser for the Good of the Horse A Success and Great Fun

filed under: Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on September 22nd, 2008

For the one year anniversary and its first fundraiser, yesterday’s BBQ fundraiser and show at the gorgeous Sonoma Equestrian Center in Glen Ellen Sonoma Equestrian Centerwas by all accounts a great success.  Rather than the sales of 100 tickets hoped for, 400 tickets were sold and many of us enjoyed a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon under the oaks, eating, visiting and enjoying the entertainment, from vaulting (gymnastics on the backs of cantering horses) to musical freestyle dressage and a demonstration of some of the medieveal equestrian arts.   At the same time we learned of the concerted horse rescue efforts of many Sonoma county volunteers including client Betsy Bueno and Sonoma County Animal Control.  Whether through ignorance, hard luck or hard times, many animals in addition to many people are suffering these days, and when the animal is a 1,000 pound horse, the sheer logistics for any public agency, not to mention the expense, are daunting.  Obviously the volunteers at CHANGE have struck a nerve, and it is impressive to see such rapid growth and professionalism in a young charitable organization.  (Subtle hint:  Your donations are tax-deductible and go straight to the horses’ mouth.)

This event also marked the PUBLIC Sonoma County debut of good friend and client Sir William Hamersky and his trusty steed, Rohan, as they demonstrated some of the medieval horsemanship arts.

Below–Sir William’s squire hands him his lance for the quintain, an event which enables the knight to practice his jousting technique without knocking his foe off his horse.   Sir William and Rohan teach their medieval arts at the ranch we found for them in Sebastopol, Full Tilt Farm.   Prior to the quintain, Sir William remembers to dedicate his efforts to the lady of the manor this day, Laura Ponter, of the Sonoma Equestrian Center.  Bottom photo:  The quintain spins after a successful hit. (Photos thanks to Robin Satterlee)

A Squire provides the Lance for Sir WilliamKnight gifts the lady of the manor with a rose prior to his demonstrationDemonstrating the Quintain

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BBQ Fundraiser: For the Good of the Horse Sunday 9/21

filed under: Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on September 16th, 2008

One of my favorite clients is Betsy Bueno. In 2003 she was running her horse rescue operation out of a lovely tract home near the golf course at Shiloh Greens in Windsor.  I wish I had taken pictures of her front porch–it looked more like a tack room.  Betsy leased some easement land literally down the block from the city of Windsor for about a dollar a year, and there she cared for and nursed back to health many abandoned horses.    Most of them found new homes and happy lives thanks to the hard work of Betsy and the volunteers at Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue.

It was really a challenge to care for the horses from such a location. Twice a day, or more in hot weather, Betsy would have to drag the hose from her house down to the corner and across a busy road to fill the horse watertroughs.  Meanwhile, she was searching for a home where she and the horses, and her kids could all live together.  Within a few months the house in the suburbs was sold and Betsy and her kids moved into a beautiful old farm house on over four level acres in a beautiful southeast Santa Rosa location.

Fast forward five years and Betsy has joined forces with CHANGE (Coins to Help Abandoned and NeGlected Equines) in order to create a powerful network of veterinarians and volunteers who assist Sonoma County Animal Control in dealing with equine cruelty, abandonment and emergency cases.   They are also providing support in law enforcement cases to try and prevent more abuse in the future.  With many people having economic difficulties, having a robust volunteer action network to assist the Sonoma County officials when neglected or abused horses are discovered, is an important link in the equation for horse health in Sonoma County.

This Sunday in Glen Ellen Anthony and Laura Ponter, co-founders of CHANGE, are hosting a benefit to support CHANGE at their lovely ranch in Glen Ellen, the Sonoma Equestrian Center from 11 am to  3 pm.   Tickets can be purchased at the CHANGE website above, or by calling 707 364-2575.  I will be there along with many horse friends and clients, including the incomparable Sir William and Rohan who will be putting on the first public demonstration of the MEDIEVAL JOUSTING arts in Sonoma County. For an exciting preview, click here. joustingminimag.jpg

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Slow Food Weekend in SF and Sonoma County Connections

filed under: Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on September 2nd, 2008

I was catching up on my Google Reader account and noticed that Curbed and Eater SF reminded us that this last weekend was the Slow Food Festival in San Francisco.  Coincidentally today, one of my clients was just telling me today that she was there enjoying the scene (Sidenote: we are looking for at least 5 acres in a good Sonoma County location with good water and some outbuilding for her chicken ranch venture, by the way, if you have something like that to sell let me know!–then she will have plenty of quality organic eggs and chicken from Sonoma County to sell next year.)

The bounty of Sonoma County’s locally produced food is shown at this displaySonoma County is one of the most active producers of slow food (think the opposite of fast) with several convivia throughout the county, from Glen Ellen to Cloverdale.  I was a member a number of years ago and was invited to numerous mouth-watering gatherings here with everything from local cheeses to heritage turkey, heirloom produce and more.  Only the Sonoma Valley,  Russian River and Petaluma (Marin) convivia have websites so I thought you might be interested in some local links to some of the fine food resources we have in Sonoma County. Yumm!  And I didn’t even talk about the wine!    Harvest is in full swing–I spoke to friend Kathy Klopp.  She and husband Ted are about halfway through their harvest of Russian River Pinot from Sebastopol and Laguna Road in Santa Rosa already and it is only September 2nd.  Very early this year.  I guess it is getting close to dinner time…Bon appetit!  Back to real estate topics very soon.   But this is why we live here!

BONUS LINK:  Recently the New York Times featured a Sonoma County Guide to Sustainable Agriculture.  Here is a link to their slide show on the subject.

other images courtesy Google Image Search.

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A Knight in Shining Armor and his Steeds Search for a Country Home in the Wine Country

filed under: Buyers, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on August 18th, 2008

We ended our tale last week of the prince and princess returning to their San Francisco Bay Area commutes, living separate lives from their two chargers, Seamus (an Irish sporthorse with a 3-day eventing habit, and Rohan, his 2,000 lb Percheron Percheron Horsesidekick whose horsely habit we shall hear about a-nonce.)

The prince and princess dreamed someday of being re-united with their steeds on a home in the country that would fit all of them someday–but when would someday ever come? Would they have to wait years until retirement, with Seamus and Rohan growing greyer than they already were? Could they ever have it all, and sooner than later? After all, the prince had an opportunity for a new job up towards the area where the lovely vineyards, valleys and horse properties were–could they find a place to live now and continue to work but keep the horses at home? Should they try to find a castle further away that they could retire to someday, and maybe all visit together for summer vacations and holidays?Horse and Rider looking for a home Sonoma County They didn’t know what to do or think, they just knew they wanted to someday all live happily ever after on a farm with their animals, teaching their subjects (more about that later).

The princess knew she could stand a long commute 2 or 3 days a week, and she could spend much of her time tele-commuting. They owned their own home on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay–it was worth a pretty penny. Surely there was a new home with room for the prince, princess and the steeds for what they could afford.

She needed to find a wizard or a good witch to advise them how to find their way to their true home. She consulted the Oracle of Google and found a good witch of wine country horse property, sealed her wishes in an email and sent them out to the universe. What happened next was very magical…The prince and princess try to find a path to the wine country horse property

(To be continued..)

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