CampRuskfoundationpasture

The Stephens family agreed to share their story and photos of their barn apartments at North Dallas Equestrian Center to raise awareness of the Camp Rusk Foundation, a horse retirement sanctuary described below.  Here’s the tale, as told to Valerie Jarvie, along with inspiring photos of what can be done in a barn:

Curt Stephens entered the horse world on the back of a mule as a teenager on his uncle’s dairy ranch near Stephenville, Texas. You all know what I mean.

There were few horses, and being the odd man out, he always got the mule while the cousins got the horses. As you know, a mule can act like a horse at times, but at other times, not so much. This particular mule gave Curt memories of bailing off just before the mule reached a tree limb hoping to scrape Curt off his back.

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Summers with cousins ended. Curt and Annabeth married. The kids grew up. A good life.

Fifty years pass. Curt retired to Florida and found a passion volunteering at Naples Equestrian Challenge, where he witnessed therapy horses connecting with humans some thought unreachable, restoring spirits and healing souls.

Derek, the oldest, calls Dad. Unknown to Curt, his oldest son had used his IBM community service time to volunteer with the Ronald McDonald summer camp for special need kids in their horse therapy program.  He later moved to North Texas, where a horse property in McKinney caught his eye.

Neither knew the other had an interest in horses. Derek simply thought it would be good for his dad to get involved.  The conversation continued.

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The Ranch stone gated entry.

The Ranch at Possum Kingdom

For better or worse, current boarding barn arrangements are often front-and-center on the list of concerns brought to me by virgin horse property buyers. Moving to horse property represents freedom — freedom to feed your horses whatever you’d like, turn them out whenever you’d like, provide as many shavings in their stalls as you want, feed any supplement you want … The list goes on.

Owning horse property is the ultimate freedom to care for your horse(s) at the level of care that you feel is correct. However, for many, the undesirable trade-off is the loss of the boarding barn luxuries they’ve become accustomed to: Being able to leave for vacation on a whim (or, let’s be real, go on vacation at all), not having to clean stalls, feed twice a day, or maintain the fences. Not to mention perks like access to indoor arenas and riding instructors.

Although many clients cite “barn drama” as one of the top reasons they want to buy their own property, I often hear “But I’m afraid I’ll be lonely,” and “I’d miss having people to ride with.” All of which is very valid.

This leaves a lot of potential buyers torn. They have the dream of the horse in the backyard, but it seems so out of reach. Buying horse property would be an enormous life change for them, but with rising boarding costs, often boarding multiple horses becomes impossible to continue. Solution? Equestrian Subdivisions.

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Farmhouse 2

Open-space valued property for sale in Aubrey, TX — Arvin Hill Road

I’ve been feeling a little uninspired lately, so I took a minute to ask myself: “What question do I hear all the dang time, but never have an easy answer to?” Almost immediately, my little real estate shoulder angel whispered “Ag Exemption, dummy” in her little squeaky, know-it-all voice that I find oh-so-annoying. Admittedly, however, TinkerAgent had a point. I do get asked about ag exemptions a lot. At least once a week.

Disclaimer: I do not fancy myself an attorney or a CPA. I’m going to tell y’all exactly what I tell my clients: Call your attorney, county tax assessor, or your grandmother — whomever you trust for advice on your actual situation. I am going to give the elementary-level Cliff’s Notes version here, considering this is probably the No. 1 most common question I get asked. Also, if you’re one of those people who particularly enjoys small print and self-education, let me recommend this snoozefest, er, fascinating summary from the State Property Tax Board: Click here if you are having trouble sleeping.

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The sudden death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend in West Texas throws yet another Texas ranch property into the spotlight: Cibolo Creek Ranch, owned by Houston billionaire and Washington D.C. insider John Poindexter.

Poindexter says he invited Scalia, age 79, to his ranch this weekend as a guest along with about three dozen others. One of Scalia’s sons was to come but cancelled at the last minute. Poindexter says Justice Scalia was animated and engaged during dinner Friday night, but did retire early at 9 p.m. saying it had been a long week, and he was tired.

Poindexter tried to awaken Scalia about 8:30 the next morning, but the Justices’ door was locked and he did not answer.

Three hours later, Poindexter returned to the ranch after an outing. He and a Scalia friend from Washington got into the room, and discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled, indicating that perhaps he had died shortly after retiring the night before.

“He was lying very restfully. It looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap,” he said.

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Established in 1857 by Milton Faver, known as the first Texas cattle baron west of the Pecos, Cibolo Creek Ranch is now a five-star resort, a rugged oasis of a retreat, once a grouping of real life forts where Indian attacks were fended off. One of the more artistic forts remaining is  “El Fortin de Cibolo.” Many millionaires and celebrities have visited the 30,000 acres near the Chinati Mountains including Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts and Tommy Lee Jones. One of the Dixie Chicks, Emily Erwin, was married there. Rooms run $350 to $700 per night. Cibolo Creek Ranch was bought by Poindexter in 1988 when it was not in the best of shape. He meticulously renovated three of the forts into a luxury, 33-room resort with a pool, dining room, horseback riding facilities, hunting and private airstrip. The atmosphere is comfortable luxury — lots of sinkable leather chairs and sofas, luxurious rooms with a ranch theme. Located about 30 miles south of Marfa, most guests fly in by private plane to the airstrip or fly to Midland and drive 3.5 hours to the remote ranch near Shafter and Marfa.

Poindexter was profiled in this 2006 Texas Monthly story by John Spong, when he was trying to buy 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park. He was described by Spong as a rather “stiff dude” who has never married (“It wasn’t that I didn’t like the ladies enough; it’s that I liked them too much.”) – ha!: (more…)

Home to Canadian geese

You know you’ve got a great pond on your property when neighbors and Canada geese show up to fish.

I found myself staring at the computer screen. The blinking cursor on the Farm and Ranch Contract drummed a little beat to the tune of “What exactly am I doing here?” There were so many things wrong with this property, it was hard to know where to even begin. In fact, the problems began off the property: The road is, to put it mildly, a mine field. It is paved…. in places. However, in the 80 percent of places that it is not paved, it is mud. The potholes could swallow a Smart Car and no one would even notice.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly common issue with rural property. Lightly populated agricultural areas just do not produce a lot of tax dollars. I surmised that the road would hopefully be re-paved sometime this decade, and proceeded forward. The next and oh-so-important question: What to offer?

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I’ve often dreamed about owning a vineyard and winery. My husband sometimes jokes that I’d need a pretty big one if I wanted to make all the wine I drink! Touche, sweetheart. Touche.

I bet he won’t be laughing once I show him this sweetheart of a deal in Canton. It’s a cute little farmhouse with the makings of a great little vineyard and winery, all for less than $400,000.

Yep, you read that right. And the seller, the founder of the successful Los Pinos Ranch vineyard, will hand over a business plan and blueprint to make sure your winemaking dreams become a reality.

“There is something wholesome about being able to wash off the day when the sun sets, and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor,” says listing agent Amanda Thomas. “It isn’t an experience that many people in our modern society ever get to have.”

It’s an experience you can have should you be the dreamer to purchase Jeffrey Cellars in Canton.

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Candy Grand Vie Ranch

Just about every real estate brokerage has a farm and ranch division now, which is a far cry from not long ago when you couldn’t pay people to move to the “boonies,” Candy says in her latest column inside Grand Vie: Luxury in Living. Now there are some amazing, luxurious, and enviable ranch properties on the market that are worth a look.

Take the amazing equestrian facility in Athens, the Honey Hole Ranch, or Mustang Ranch. All of these properties give horse lovers what they want, with excellent soil, beautiful vistas, and heart-achingly luxurious appointments throughout.

Jump to see the incredible video Candy starred in for this issue of Ebby Halliday’s and Williams Trew’s fabulous glossy mags.

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It is important to maintain a sense of humor.
Photo by Catherine Hinojosa via Facebook

Okay, Texas. Enough. Just stop it. The horse-owning population of this state is #OverIt. Ours is not an indoor sport, and this is becoming a touch ridiculous. When your covered arena has more in common with an indoor pool than a sandbox, it’s time to wave the white flag. Thank you, Ma Nature, for removing us from the drought, but in your usual sick, twisted fashion, we’ve gotten the last five years worth of rain over the last five weeks.

I ask you, horse-owning universe, what did we do before Dubarry and Dublin boots? Wet feet, that’s what. Even the best rubber Wellies eventually had a crack, and your boot would gradually fill with urine and poo tinged water as you slogged around the barn. Remember hanging your dripping socks over the side of the bathtub? Yeah, me too.

Water, you go outside.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly James via Facebook

Beautiful pastures, fenced and cross-fenced!
Photo courtesy of Kendall Christine via Facebook

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