Farm Swaps and Snowbirds: A New Model To Benefit Everyone?

Trainers and their students have been migrating south for the winter months for several decades, and it seems that now more than ever riders are going to states like Florida for up to half the year.

People arrange this in different ways. Some trainers are fortunate to own facilities in both locations, while others (likely a majority) own or rent a northern base and rent stalls for the winter months down south. These snowbirds often show nearly year-round because they follow the horse show circuit.

But not everyone goes to Florida or some other warm location in the winter. In fact, most people do not. Their businesses might rely on lesson programs for kids and adult amateurs who cannot just pick up their lives and move south. It may not make financial sense to move to such a densely populated place down south where there is so much competition among trainers and riders. And finally, lots of people who ride don’t show, so they have no reason to follow the show circuit.

There is a business opportunity here of which few people take advantage. When the snowbirds leave their farms in places like New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, those farms are often empty except for some retired horses and young stock. The people with the means to go south are also the people who tend to have excellent facilities in their northern bases—like indoor arenas and nice barns. These basically sit unused for the winter months.

What if it became normal for snowbirds to rent their stalls and facilities to those who stay up north?

I’m basing at a friend’s farm in North Carolina for six weeks this winter. While the weather is not always perfect, it’s considerably warmer than it is at my place in Maryland. Plus, we are closer to the shows down here. 

I say this because I’m currently in this situation, and I’ve loved how it has worked out. I am normally based in Maryland, but I have friends at a farm in North Carolina who spend several weeks in Florida each winter to compete. As it turned out, they were happy for me to come with my horses to their facility in North Carolina (warmer than Maryland, but definitely not Florida weather!) while they were away. We worked out a mutually beneficial agreement where I’m helping the clients here who did not go to Florida, and also riding some 3 and 4 year-olds for them. It has helped me because I have access to a great facility, and it has aided them to keep things going at their home base.

Opportunities for collaboration like this are likely plentiful, only if we look out for them. For now, though, I’ll be hanging out in the sometimes icy and often wet weather, planning my scheme of how to get slightly further south next winter!