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Breed of their own

Horse communities are scattered throughout the Las Vegas Valley. They vary in age, but none is brand new. In a city where lot sizes have shrunk steadily for the past two decades, the way to become a horse property owner is to buy an existing one — if you can.

Terri Gamboa of Realty One Group specializes in horse properties, and owns one where she has three horses.

“The market is no longer flooded, and prices are slowly increasing because the inventory is very low now,” she said. “They sell fairly quickly in the lower price range. Financing is still low, and it’s a good time for buyers.”

When longtime ranch owners sell it’s often because they want to downsize, cash in on their equity, or move farther out of the city, according to local real estate agents.

“The main equestrian population now seems to be gravitating to the 1,500-acre Floyd Lamb Park (at Tule Springs) area because it has such great trails with trees, green rolling hills, ponds, ducks, peacocks, etc.,” Gamboa said. “(Las Vegas) has developed miles of trails around two big retention basins in the park with picnic tables, beautiful landscaping, gravel footing — really nice.”

The Gilcrease neighborhood in the north valley is where many horse properties were created in the early 20th century. Gilcrease used to be all orchard and alfalfa fields in the early 1900s until the Gilcrease brothers started selling it off to buyers wanting to raise horses or just live in a more rural setting.

The area still has noticeably more grass than other parts of the valley because most properties in the area are still connected to the Gilcrease well. “Because it was maintained as pasture and country field, there’s nothing else like it in Las Vegas, no other neighborhood,” said Gamboa, who compares the area to Kentucky in terms of landscape and lot size.

The neighborhood has survived the arrival of the 215 Beltway, which divides some of it from older commercial businesses such as Bob Taylor’s Ranch House restaurant. Like any older rural neighborhood, some parts have been turned into tract home developments. But as equestrian estates go, many of the largest lot sizes in the county can be found in that area.

One of Gamboa’s listings is a 5,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-story house in Gilcrease with large trees and pastures on 20 acres, and can be had for $6.5 million. It comes with three wells and 100 acre-feet of water rights, an arena and riding paths.

Within a half mile is another custom-built home on 10 acres that could house a large extended family among its five bedroom suites, two attached casitas and guest house.

Heading west from Red Rock Resort about 5 miles is Calico Basin, a funkier, rural neighborhood on the edge of the Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area. Lots are a minimum of 2½ acres and up to 5 acres. There are 60 parcels, but only 27 houses. Homeowners are subject to Las Vegas building codes. Because there is no homeowner association, manufactured homes exist near estate homes. Most of the houses have barns, and owners ride nearby trails.

“I feel like I live in a national park,” said Realtor Kristen Routh-Silberman of Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty. She bought a home there last year.

Apart from the lavish amenities, she compared her neighborhood to the announced project between Howard Hughes Corp. (builder of Summerlin) and Discovery Land Corp. to begin developing “Nevada’s Most Exclusive Community in Summerlin” to be built on the edge of Red Rock Canyon. Its plans include an 18-hole golf course, spa and lots of luxurious amenities on “secluded, pristine” land.

“They want to have 5-acre lots with views of Red Rock Canyon, but that’s what Calico Basin already has,” she said. “It has everything in common with (the project), except Calico Basin will have even better views,” because it is still dark at night, despite its proximity to suburban development.

“Calico Basin is just a little gem in Las Vegas,” she said.

Calico resident Kristi Leahy-Ingram has lived there since 1999, and boards horses. “I like being away from the city but close enough if I need to go there. We’re far enough away to be quiet, “she said, adding that the only negative is that Internet and phone service is not reliable in the area.

Within the community is a commercial business, Calico Creek Stables, which boards and sells horses. Nonresident horse owners often trailer-in their horses for day rides in Red Rock Canyon.

For equestrian enthusiasts who want to keep their horses close while living near McCarran International Airport and the Strip, there is Sierra Vista Ranchos, which lies on the eastern border of Sunset Park, between Warm Springs and Sunset roads. This guard-gated community has large lots and custom homes, but instead of a golf course or fitness center, its homeowner association provides 3 miles of bridal paths and a 20-stall barn.

Loren Paglia has lived in the community for 18 years in two different homes. She owns three horses boarded in the community stables, which rent for $119 a month. She says the association’s assessments are “very reasonable.” They include use of a rustic clubhouse in the center of the stables that features an old iron chandelier that Paglia found, and would be the perfect location for a square dance.

The community has been home to entertainers and at least one senator. One of its homes (3000 Loma Vista) has a 1930s restored guest house that used to be the stable’s caretakers quarters. Legend has it that it was a secret hideaway for Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. The community became a planned community in the early 1960s after more than three decades of being a private gentleman’s riding club.

The lot sizes are half acre or 1 acre, and its trees are dense and very mature. Sierra Vistas board member Rod Johnson lived there with his parents in the late 1960s, moved out of state, then bought a home there in 2004. “In 1965, this was the end of the road,” he said. “Eastern (Avenue) ended at Sunset Road.”

The retired certified public accountant has three horses.

“This is a premier location” for horse owners, he said. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

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