Thoroughbred Horse Farm
Commercially-viable facilities for raising & racing horses
NOTE: This is intended to memorialize conversations with Kevin & John about their plans to realize long-term character goals. I don’t want to make RESOLUTE an economic game, but I want everyone to understand their plans better – and have the opportunity to provide ideas and make suggestions.
Two other thoughts:
- This describes a working, profitable scalable ranch … it will be years to build something on this scale, and
- I’m happy to put the same level of investigation and effort into anyone else’s plans.
How many horses?
Anyone with $20 can have a horse – but how many do you need to be a “champion horse breeder” or “breeder of champion horses”? The arbitrarily-set threshold of horses under care is 80 to 100.
- Four breeding bands (stallion, 5 mares with foals, 5 yearlings)
- The stud farm – facility to hold twenty mares with foals
- Ten three-year-olds kept for racing training
In a good year, this horse-breeding operation might yield $1500 in gross revenue – $1200 (DC29) from sale of 20 two-year olds (2 excellent, 5 good, 10 fair, 3 poor horses) , $150 (DC22) from stud fees on 20 horses, and $150 (DC22) revenue from pasturing and training. In a bad year, revenues might be half that.
Plus the revenues from racing and gambling, of course.
Land & Pasture Requirements
Two quotes are key here:
A ranch or small farm in the southwest may only provide a 20′ × 40′ run for a horse, yet those horses remain as healthy as horses running in a 40-acre field, For physical well-being, horses do not require room to run, only move around freely for at least a portion of every day
If pasture is a feed source, horses with a mature weight of 1,000 to 1,200 pounds generally need the following amount of pasture: mare and foal, 1.75 to 2 acres; year- lings, 1.5 to 2 acres; and weanlings, 0.5 to 1 acre. When acreage is very limited (less than an acre per horse), exercise may be the main pasture use.
Putting this together, our property will need a minimum of 120 acres of pasture land. You can get by on less land, but then you have to buy the hay and feed. And the pasture needs water – creeks are best, ponds second. You can haul water to the barns if needed, but better to have a well.
Plus you need space for the barns & buildings (described below) and this means you want at least half a townsite (160 acres) which will be a minimum of $200 depending on location and condition.
You also need fencing, lots of fencing. Perhaps one mile to start with to cover all your critical needs – runs for the breeding mares, enclosures for the racing stallions, and a holding pen (branding, sick, injured, waiting on sale). That would also include 1/4-mile near the most dangerous ravine on the property.
You would still have open range across your main pasture – but you don’t need that fencing to start.
You need to think about transportation – how are folks getting from the train & stagecoach station to your property.
You want at least two vehicles
- second-hand coach for the owner & guests
- flat-bed trailer for hauling supplies
There are no powered vehicles, so you need draft animals. I propose that there are three choices:
- Raise larger draft-horses.
- Raise cattle, and use oxen.
- Brood band of burros/donkeys instead of horses, and breed mules.
All three are practical choices – but using mules as draft animals seems like the most thematically consistent choice, and the least distraction from high-quality riding, racing and ranching horses.
Other revenue-generating animals
Cattle are an obvious choice, but I’m assuming you aren’t going to dilute your focus on “horse farm”.
The other revenue opportunity is sheep and goats. They work as a supplemental revenue stream and food source for your work crews while you build your horse farm.
- Sheep are more profitable, but more trouble.
- Goats are better IMO. They are companion animals for throughbreds and can survive on rocky scrub.
Helping the ranch be self-sufficient
This is all small stuff that your employees will take care. Ignore it unless it matters to you.
- You need dogs for protection. Enough to warn you about coyotes and cougars, and keep the larger animals from wandering off into a ditch they can’t get out of.
- The cats will take care of themselves as long as you let them have the run of the barns and grain silos. You need them to keep the local vermin at bay.
Your cook will need a few animals and a garden.
- Couple of dairy cows for milk, butter and cheese.
- Pigs are a walking larder and compost heap – and they make nice bacon.
- Chickens, ducks or geese for eggs and Sunday dinner.
You need an oval that would run at least 3/4 of a mile – though 1-1/2 miles or longer would be better.
That entire track needs to be cleaned and graded – large rocks removed, gopher holes filled in and flattened. And you’ll need fencing on the inside track all the way around.
Good news is that the interior space (30-40 acres) can be used as pasture and exercise yard while growing your herd. Eventually you will need to improve conditions for your visitors (so they don’t have to constantly scrape their boots). That means turning the interior into grass fields, and harvesting it for hay for the winter.
Finally you need a reviewing stand with fencing to keep the guests safe – that’s however big you want to make it.
You can start with a single barn – but you need separate facilities for each “band” and for the racing and breeding mares as your grow. Holding 100 horses will probably require at least a half-dozen barns of varying sizes, plus a few smaller sheds.
In addition, you will need
- “big house” for the owner
- boarding house for the ranch hands
- cook house with cellar for groceries
- hay barn for feed
- blacksmith shop
- leatherworking shop
- warehouse for dry goods
John & Kevin are looking at a particular location in San Mateo County called Rancho Buri Buri Here is what I’ve told them about this property.
Just in land and improvements, you are looking at something like.
Full townsite (320 acres) will be the minimum you could sub-divide. In the “middle of nowhere” that would be $400 (DC26) but here you will see higher prices with variance based on what you want.
- closer to San Fran
- frontage on the stagecoach road
- existing improvements – tenant farmers, buildings and fence lines
- access to the bay or navigable creeks
- better than average pasture land or water
- timberland – hauling in lumber for this many buildings would be expensive, plus the firewood needs for winter
NOTE: the property might also include less desirable (and cheaper) lands. That could include salt marsh (which you can use for hunting or harvesting hay), non-arable land, scrub forest and hills.
Let me know which features are most/least important to you and we can work up some options. Assume the smallest, worst property you can buy is DC28 – and anything you really want is at least DC30.
The other thing you really need is a contract with the SF&SJ Railroad. You want them committed to building “Warfield Station” right next to your property.
Once that’s done, you’ll need to build up the rest of the facilities described that are missing from the property. Expect each one to be DC21 to DC26 each. The animals and NPC ranch hands are easy to find – we can do all that off camera … or role-play out finding top-quality blacksmiths, trainers or saddlers, if you want.
I found an amazing map of the southern end of Racho Buri Buri & western Rancho San Mateo, dated from 1876. Records suggest that the southern end of Ranch Buri Buri was divided and sold as four lots between 1860 & 1870.
- Section A (east) – 174 acres arable & 172 acres marsh. Two creeks and half of pond. The far eastern end has 300 feet of non-marsh bay frontage. (note: the racetrack is reclaimed marshlands, and only a half-mile.
- Section B (north) – 195 acres arable & 212 acres marsh. One large creek and a stand of oak in the far east.
- Section C (south) – 300 acres arable & 760 acres light hills. Three creeks in the arable lands. The hills have two stands of oak in the southeast, and the southwest property line is along the San Andreas Creek.
- Section D (west) – 400 acres arable & 600 acres light hills. Two creeks in the arable lands. The hills has a creek with a dangerous canyon that heads off to the northwest edge of Section C. The southwest edge has access to Laguna San Andreas and the creek that drains from it.
I’ll think about appropriate pricing for each one this week.