If you find your dream small-horse property in Michigan, thinking that it's the perfect set-up for your three horses, before you close on the property, it's essential to find out what the law is regarding keeping horses in the specific township to ensure that all three equines are permitted to live there. Michigan's regulations for equine land use varies according to the municipality, as there are no state or county statutes in place.
Good Horse-Keeping Practices
To provide total nutrition from pasture, one to two acres per horse are necessary in mid-Michigan, according to the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine's website, which also notes that acreage amounts can vary dramatically, based on soil type, rainfall and growing season. Because winters in Michigan can be pretty severe, a horse owner can't expect even large pastures to support a horse year-round. Hay and feed supplementation is necessary once grass stops growing or if drought conditions exist. Municipalities might use total nutrition guidelines when developing equine zoning regulations to prevent overcrowding and damage to the land, even though a horse owner doesn't rely on pasture for feeding her equines.
Don't Make Assumptions
It's important to research the equine zoning requirements for your property. Don't assume that because the barn has a certain number of stalls or the property has a certain number of paddocks that you can keep the equivalent amount of horses. If the prior owner had multiple horses on the property, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can keep the same number. It's possible that the previous owner was "grandfathered" in when current zoning regulations were passed, which doesn't mean a new owner could keep the exact same number of horses. It's also possible that the previous owner flouted the law and was never reported.
Check with Zoning Officials
The easiest way to find out acreage limitations on keeping horses in a specific town is by contacting zoning officials or the township administrator. Not only can they answer your questions, in a small community, they might be familiar with the property in question. Acreage requirements can differ in adjacent or nearby municipalities. For example, in Oakland County, the town of Addison requires a two-acre minimum property with one acre per horse. Oxford mandates a minimum of five acres for keeping horses, with a maximum of 10 equines on the property. In Springfield, you need four acres for the first horse, with an additional acre for each horse after that.
Agricultural Tax Exemptions
If you run an equine business, you might receive a property tax break. In 2006, the Michigan legislature passed a bill classifying horse boarding and training facilities as agricultural land, rather than commercial property. This allows landowners involved in raising, breeding, training, leasing, or boarding horses to qualify for an agricultural tax exemption for the local school-operating expense tax. It also exempts them from an additional tax upon ownership transfer if the land remains agricultural.
- Oakland Equestrian Coalition: Townships in Oakland County with Equestrian Interests
- Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Pasturing Guidelines for Horses
- Michigan Votes: 2005 House Bill 4072: Tax Break for Horse Boarding and Training Facilities
- Michigan Legislative Website: Section 211.34c
- The Ranch Cart: Understanding Permitting on Equestrian Property
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.