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engineering for the equestrian community

Equine care also involes the desisions you make about the property you develop for your horses.

The various phases of equestrian site development

You may be interested in developing an equestrian property for the first time or may be in the process of completing your tenth property.  Either way, we feel the information presented below can help you in your endeavors, since many developers or owners do not see it from the same perspective as we do.  The following provides a summary of the various steps involved with the horse farm development process as well as a little insight into each.

Site Plan / Site Plan Approval

Many owners, developers and construction professionals focus on getting structures out of the ground as quickly as possible and they forget a about crucial step - the site plan.  The site planning process can be formal or informal, require a team of professionals or just a pencil and paper.  It just depends on the nature of your project and your location.  The site plan serves not only the agency having jurisdiction of your site, but should be an important tool in your overall process for various reasons.  Some of the reasons frequently overlooked include: the proper allocation of drainage facilities (lakes/swales) and the allocation of space for future phasing.


Professionals who prepare site plans may be civil engineers as well as planning consultants.


Regarding the formal site planning process, your property may require an official site plan approval from the municipality that you are located in.  Site Plan approval often times is a distinct step that is required prior to being able to submit for certain other permits.  Your site plan approval basically gives you permission to utilize your property for the use you want, to the degree (e.g. size of structures, and coverage of the site) that you want under the specific configuration you want.  Site plan approval can be conducted by municipal staff, or may require public presentation and city commission vote, depending on the project.


Subsequent design plans that are produced for your project shall conform to the parameters set in your approved site plan.  Since site plan modification can cost in terms of time and money, it is best that you have your civil engineer involved up front.

Engineering Design

The engineering design of horse farms will likely involve various disciplines such as surveyors, geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, landscape architects as well as those disciplines required for the structures such as architects and structural engineers.


The design process should flow from the conceptual to final design drawings.  It is usually this process that frustrates owners and developers due to the iterative nature of the required communication between professionals as the design develops.  There are certain aspects of this process that should be performed first, while other last, unless of course you have and unlimited budget and time schedule.  So for example, the survey is usually performed first, which is an obvious step.  But what is not always obvious is the impact of drainage, especially in South Florida, and the necessity to perform the drainage calculations at the very beginning.  The reason for this step is that drainage calculations will indicate how much of your property may be required to set aside for stormwater retention (lakes/swales, etc.)  If you need to set aside one half acre for a pond on your five area property, then it is better you know that in the beginning so you can plan around it.

Building Permits

Building permits  relate to the construction of any structure that will be placed on your site.  The various types of structures you will likely have to permit include residences, stables, gazebos, shade structures, etc.  Permitting usually is conducted through a Building Department, which may also permit drainage and utilities.  Usually these other items are permitted by other departments such as the Engineering or Public Works Department.

Engineering Permits and Environmental Permits

Additional permits that are likely required for your property include drainage permits, grading permits, utilities permits, health department permits, fire rescue reviews, etc.


It should be noted that the Civil Engineer will have a greater role in permitting, during construction and also during permit closeout than for other types of permits since many of the entities that issue these permits require the civil engineer to observe construction and then issue an engineering certification at the end of the project.

Engineering Certification

As discussed above, many Engineering Permits will require that an engineer certify the project at the end.  This means that the permitting agency is asking the civil engineer to be the "eyes" of the agency in the field on their behalf and asks that engineer to professionally certify that construction was completed in accordance with the permitted plans.   To accomplish this however, the engineer has to be onsite during critical steps in construction, because as work progresses, the ability for that engineer to observe the work disappears.  Therefore there needs to be good communication between the contractor and engineer and timely notification from the contractor for things not to be skipped.


This is a different mindset than the idea than only the City send out an inspector to review the construction.  Many projects have difficulty during closeout because the civil engineer was not "kept in the loop" during this process, so be careful about this.