Is Virginia’s Piedmont horse country? You bet! With five active hunts, Olympic caliber trainers, some of the best equine vets in the country and all the assets any breeder, trainer or hobbyist could ask for, this is natural horse country.
It’s no wonder that the Charlottesville countryside is well known throughout the world as one of the finest places to raise horses. The fertile fields and healthy climate have been home to generations of fat ponies and Derby winners. That said, all land is not equal when it comes to keeping horses. It is possible to find land in the Charlottesville area that is absolutely perfect for horses. It would consist of a nice deep soil with few if any rocks. It would be gently rolling and well drained and it would already be in good grass, your horse’s favorite food.
This is horse country and a horse can thrive here and live entirely off the land for most of the year. It’s not all horse country though so do your homework. Up close to the mountains the pasture will be rockier and harder on your horse’s feet. That beautiful flat bottomland along the creek looks great when dry but will often be a wet soil that can be unhealthy for hooves. Clearing woodland to make pasture can be done but it takes years to build up the grass to compare with established pasture.
If you want to breed horses you’ll want to look at the type of grass growing in your fields. The fescue grass found in much of this area needs to managed if broodmares are grazing on it. Finding a place that is already fenced and has existing stabling is usually the best buy and finding a place that allows riding off the property can be a huge benefit in how you can enjoy your horses without trailering.
I’d actually be a pretty good person to ask. I’ve lived in Orange County since 1983. I was a transplant from Sonoma County CA and never imagined I’d live here the rest of my life. But, here I am 40 years later having raised a family, grown a career and roots in one of America’s most beautiful terroirs. Horses are what brought me here. (Want a horse.docx) and a love and understanding of the land is what is what made me stay and be successful in country property brokerage in this area.
Orange county was settled early in America’s history (1734) due to the high quality of the soils for agriculture, the amenable climate and overall beauty of the this rich land in the piedmont of the Blue Ridge mountains. In the 1820’s Orange County was home to President James Madison at Montpelier, Supreme Court Justice Phillip Barbour at Frascati, Virginia Governor James Barbour at his home designed by Thomas Jefferson (https://www.monticello.org/ research-education/thomas-jefferson-encyclopedia/barboursville/) who along with James Monroe lived just 20 miles distant in Albemarle County. It is likely that each of these statesmen would have enjoyed each other’s company at Frascati, a remarkable home in Somerset which is listed for sale for the first time in 45 years. Frascati (Somerset, Virginia) – Wikipedia.pdf.zip)
Orange County also played a pivotal role in the Civil War with the full armies of both the north and south encamped in Gordonsville and Rapidan then culminating in the terrible battle at Wilderness. Artifact hunting for civil war relics with metal detectors is a popular past time here. It is said that any large shade tree extant during the Civil War in the vicinity between Somerset and Gordonsville was a confederate encampment and and old horseshoes, buckles and bullets are still found regularly.
Today Orange County is much quieter but still sublime with a character that draws those looking for a simpler, small town lifestyle. There are two small towns in Orange County, Orange, the county, seat with a population of around 5000 and Gordonsville with around 1500 residents. There are groceries, pharmacies and fast food if you are just passing through and a cornucopia of antique shops, taverns and fabulous old neighborhoods if you slow down and have a real look.
I live in Somerset just 15 minutes from either Orange or Gordonsville and we do most of our shopping locally. We can expect to see folks we know at the grocery store and walking down Main Street. It feels friendly and inclusive. It’s also nice to know that Charlottesville and all it offers; UVA, two major hospitals, hundreds of amazing restaurants and entertainment venues is less than 30 minutes away.
For us, the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful, affordable life in the country and the small town experience or Orange and Gordonsville coupled with access to one of the most exciting university towns in America is the best of both worlds.
It’s easy to look back at market trends and graph exactly how the last 10 years played out. It was a typical first half of a sine curve with a slow but steady start, (post recession), a nice boost in activity as a hot buyers market ate up well priced inventory, (Obama years), and then a wild ride through 2021 as scarce inventory and crazy low interest rates met a surge in demand due to Covid and a hot economy that sent prices through the roof and disappointed buyers gasping for air.
So, here we are, interest rates for a 30 year fixed are about 7.25 today. The change sheet had lots of expired listings, a few price reductions listed and we’re asking each other, What now?
I think it’s safe to say that the boom has happened and we are sitting at the top of the curve right now. Buyers will have to adjust their thinking in terms of loan affordability. Sellers haven’t really felt a slow down yet especially for well placed properties in the Charlottesville MSA since the inventory is still low. That change should be making itself known in a couple of quarters as sellers start thinking that perfect timing may be passing them by. In geometric terms we should be heading back down from the peak. We hope for and expect a soft landing due to a more responsible lending environment since 2008 and while buyers may be dealing with historically typical interest rates they should have more inventory and better prices to consider soon.
It’s hard to look forward and predict exactly what the next ten years will bring but if the last forty mean anything that sine curve will keep on rolling up and down like clockwork.
Dutchmont: 100 Acre Estate Situated in the Heart of the Keswick Hunt in Orange County, VA
How private is private? A private back yard might be nice, a private wooded lot with some space between houses might be perfect or even a little acreage with where you can be away from the urban shuffle, get back to nature a little.
Having just returned from Oakland CA visiting family, sequestered in a charming 1920’s neighborhood lined with Arts and Crafts bungalows, I became well aware of my priorities. This very lifestyle that envelopes most of the human population in vibrant communities around the world leaves me gasping for oxygen and my home in Virginia’s piedmont where my soul lives.
More and more often my clients tell me they would like a spot where they cannot see another’s rooftop.. That can be hard to find, especially in the winter where all the curtains are drawn and you can see through the forest. There is a place though, in Orange County, Virginia tucked between two charming and historic towns near Charlottesville called Dutchmont. It’s down a long driveway on 100 acres with a most unique home overlooking a large pond in a private valley in the Blue ridge foothills. It has a wonderful shop/studio, a five stall stable with a caretaker’s apartment surrounded by marvelous, landscaped grounds. The views go on forever..without a rooftop in sight. What makes this property truly exceptional is that it is completely surrounded by large farms that can never be developed due to conservation easements that do not allow subdivision.
Dutchmont is a rare example of “perfect privacy” but there are many examples of homes, building lots, small farms or mountain getaways that will answer for those seeking a respite from the busy world of that surrounds most of our lives. Whether the quiet lifestyle is full time or part time, it’s an elixir that can go a long way in grounding those who might need it.
The C’Ville Expert is authored by John Ince, of Charlottesville Country Properties,
John Ince – Listing Agent in Charlottesville VA
specializing in the sale and marketing of farms, estates, and country residences within 50 miles of Charlottesville, Virginia. Apart from his 35-year career in Charlottesville real estate, John enjoys being an ambassador for one of the best places to live in America. For anyone who places a priority on “quality of life”, Charlottesville and its surroundings must be on your shortlist of where to spend the rest of your life. The town of Charlottesville is remarkable, a true melting pot with cultural venues not found in cities ten times the size. The countryside is breathtaking and just scant minutes from downtown with lush farmland and historic estates many tracing back to original land grants. The Blue Ridge Mountains rise to the west moderating our weather and providing endless recreational activities with hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fly fishing for native trout all within 20 minutes of downtown. We hope you’ll enjoy some personal insights into the lifestyle one can enjoy here from these posts and that you will refer to Charlottesvillecountry.com for more information on real estate in this wonderful area.