Distinctive Horse Properties’ Lea McCullough Helping Horse People Find Their Equestrian Dream Property

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McCullough and Sunshine, a Hanoverian mare, competed through I-1

BY Sarah Welk Baynum

Lea McCullough is a licensed real estate agent and equestrian with an extensive and diverse background in both real estate and horses. Passionate about the beauty of horse farms in particular—and about the people who are looking to buy or sell them—McCullough brings a thorough and compassionate process when matching people with the equestrian property of their dreams through her business, Distinctive Horse Properties.

From Farm Owner to Real Estate Agent

After fourteen years of owning a boarding facility, McCullough found she was frequently fielding questions about footing, arenas, addressing mud in paddocks, proper management of horses, etc.

“Then, when I was looking for a transitional career, the thought occurred to me that I could really help people new to the area understand what to look for in soil, land, topography, buildings, arenas, etc. So, I first challenged myself to get my real estate license and then started serving those with horse farms,” she says.

“At first, it started with listing farms for sale and being able to market on the MLS with the appropriate lingo, understanding the value of the land, and helping get the right price. Then, it led to helping those moving to a new area understand how to manage the land and help offer a horse-friendly perspective to real estate. What I didn’t expect was finding such an important niche in real estate and how important it is to buyers and sellers to have a partner on their side to serve in that capacity.”

McCullough’s college degrees in marketing, public relations, and business also proved beneficial in her new real estate business.

Photo by Brooke Blain

“I’ve spent most of my career promoting and advertising in some form or fashion. Taking my passion for horse farms and layering in my advertising and marketing talents was a natural fit for me. I love telling the story of a farm and painting a picture that attracts just the right person.”

Finding a farm for a buyer is truly fun for me, but the honor of listing a farm for sale is where true magic can be formed. The honor of telling a farm’s story and its history is where I feel I shine as an agent,” McCullough adds.

Helping Equestrians Find Their Dream Property

With her long history of horses, McCullough is the perfect real estate agent to help horse owners find the horse farm that’s right for them.

“Looking to get into the equestrian life in Aiken, SC? I’m your girl!” says McCullough. “I love everything about horse farms. Their functionality, beauty, the infrastructure—a horse farm always has my heart. But land in general is fascinating to me. Learning about topography, the best use of the land, and developing the dream farm is definitely my second favorite niche,” McCullough says.

“I’m down for helping people with any kind of real estate. However, helping someone find their personal space to have their horses at home is my favorite. Boarding facilities and commercial equestrian spaces are another area I thrive in. Since I owned and managed a boarding facility for fourteen years, helping clients see the value of the barn’s infrastructure comes innately.”

But not everyone’s dream farm looks the same. When a client first comes to McCullough looking for a farm, she starts with a foundational set of questions that helps her uncover that vision.

“We each have different needs, riding disciplines, and priorities. Everybody’s dream farm has a different vibe. There are private farms where trail riding is the priority, equestrian communities with all the amenities, to boarding facilities where my clients can run a business,” says McCullough.

There are also some important and unique considerations she takes into consideration when helping someone look for their dream property.

McCullough and Resolution, a KWPN mare at their 2018 Silver Medal win – Photo courtesy of Lea McCullough

“How large do you need the barn to be? What are your pasture needs? Does the arena have a base or is it a native soil arena? Acreage, location, drainage, trailer accessibility, and water availability are all important factors as well. Some prefer local trails accessibility, while some proximity to show facilities. After all of those considerations are discovered, then we can talk about the house. I’ve found over the years that true horse lovers talk about the horse facilities first and the house second,” McCullough adds.

Life Coaching Her Clients Through the Farm Buying and Selling Process

McCullough is licensed in Washington State and South Carolina. Currently, she resides in Aiken, SC, and helps people from all over the country find their slice of happy in the south.

“I live in one of the most beautiful equestrian communities in the county, and wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “It’s a different way of life in Aiken County!”

Not only is McCullough a licensed real estate agent, but she is also a Professional Certified Life Coach as well.

“I have my PCC (Professional Coaching Certification) with the International Coaching Federation, and I bring a level of coaching to real estate. Buying and selling real estate is one of the top five most stressful activities you will ever do in your life, so you want someone by your side to support you when things get stressful. You want someone you can lean on for support, help sort through those emotions, and help you find out what is most important when feeling pressure in a transaction,” says McCullough. “One of my skillsets is helping my clients find their voice, prioritize their needs, and get the outcome that is most important to them. Being a coach definitely comes in handy when things feel chaotic!”

“I help my clients gain all the information they need to make a decision and feel 100% comfortable with their choice. Integrity is important to me, and ethical, compassionate treatment is my top priority. Finding the right farm for a buyer or helping a seller market their farm by telling its story is what I set out to achieve with every client.”

To learn more about Lea McCullough, visit distinctivehorseproperties.kw.com and www.distinctivehorseproperties.com.

A Diverse History of Riding Disciplines

McCullough’s extensive background with horses is what eventually led her to the career and business she has today.

“I’ve been riding since I was 8 years old, and over the past 43 years, I feel like I’ve done it all,” Lea McCullough says. Her first introduction into competitive riding was saddle seat in the Arabian Circuits. In 1982, she placed in the top ten at the Canadian Nationals AOTR in saddle seat.

McCullough and her newest partner, Django Kerguelen – Photo courtesy of Lea McCullough

From there, McCullough transitioned into the hunter/jumper world for several years: “I enjoyed some amazing horses during that season of my life. During high school, I even got roped into trying rodeo, and played around with barrel racing, goat tying, and team penning.”

After college, McCullough says she took a bit of a break from horses until moving to the Pacific Northwest. “I landed on quaint Vashon Island in the Puget Sound and I met a special trainer there who introduced me to the world of eventing—that sparked a whole new love for horses again,” she says.

For the next decade, McCullough continued with three-day eventing. “I truly loved and enjoyed that community. After a very hard fall during competition, I slowly started gravitating toward just dressage. As years ticked by, I found my passion for the preciseness and beauty of helping a horse learn to dance,” says McCullough.

In 2013, McCullough earned a USDF Bronze Medal on a mare named Hollywood Diva. “That accomplishment felt like walking on the moon! In 2018, I then earned my Silver Medal on another Dutch mare named Zoey, who’s show name was Resolution. I thought she hung the moon and stars. At this point, I knew I wanted to ride dressage indefinitely. The next several years, I had the honor of being partnered to a Hanoverian mare named Sunshine. She was fire to ride, and a joy to train,” McCullough adds.

Today, McCullough rides an 18 hh Selle Français gelding named Django, with whom she hopes to earn a USDF Gold Medal. “I have ridden competitively through the Intermediate II and I’m looking forward to putting the Grand Prix test together. But honestly, the training and the partnership is the most rewarding part for me—the test is just a reflection of those goals. In due time, we will get there!” says McCullough.