For Love of Horses
Daryl Buffenstein spends his downtime on the farm
Published in 2018 Georgia Super Lawyers magazine on February 22, 2018
One of Daryl Buffenstein’s most cherished keepsakes is a photo of himself as a baby being lifted onto the back of a pony.
“I’ve been on horses for big chunks of my life,” says Buffenstein, 66, a partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy in Atlanta. “I love the feeling of space and land and creeks and rivers and hills and pastures and meadows.”
He grew up on a farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he helped his father tend corn and tobacco fields, herd cattle and raise thoroughbred racehorses. Exploring the open terrain on horseback became second nature. But as a young man in the 1970s, Buffenstein found that his equestrian pursuits took a back seat to his legal studies, first in Rhodesia, then in England, and again when he came to Atlanta to practice international business law. “The South was just starting to get a lot of international investment,” he says, “and coming into its own.”
Friends and clients started asking him to handle their immigration cases and, he says, “Before I knew it, I was one of the first people to focus on business immigration.” He went on to become a staunch advocate, testifying before Congress on corporate immigration issues, writing key business provisions and statutes, and serving as president and later general counsel of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where he led a successful campaign against efforts to restrict legal immigration.
He started riding horses again, too, but missed farming. So, in 1982, he and a former classmate from Rhodesia bought 300 acres in the rolling hills of Athens, near the University of Georgia and its renowned veterinary school.
At first, they focused on raising sheep, successfully breeding a type that resists parasites and the intense heat of Southeastern summers. A decade later, Buffenstein bought a neighboring farm, added horses and, over the years, connected the properties, which now total more than 500 acres. (He no longer raises sheep.) Today he maintains a house on the grounds, and a condo across the street from his office on the 42nd floor of the Bank of America Plaza in downtown Atlanta. But, he says, “My real home is on the farm.”
Except for the towering hardwood forests and the lack of stone outcrops, the gently sloping land reminds him of where he grew up. The farm is called Inyazura, after his hometown in Africa; the word, he says, loosely means “the place of doing better by excelling. Not an exact translation, but that’s also what we’re trying to do horse-wise.”
Inyazura is not just a respite for Buffenstein but a three-pronged commercial enterprise, with 55 to 60 horses, including the three or four he rides. Some clients board their animals, lease horses or take riding lessons, while others train in a wide range of disciplines, from cross-country to high jump. Another facet is fox hunting, which, Buffenstein is quick to clarify, simply means “riding with hounds.” He is currently the master of Shakerag Hounds, the oldest hunt in Georgia.
In the third arm of Buffenstein’s venture, he sells parcels of 15 to 20 acres. Buyers can build their own houses, board horses at the central barn, and enjoy full rein of the property. “I’m most interested in providing a haven and a getaway for people who are busy professionals in Atlanta and just want to breathe the country air,” he says. “They can come out and have a weekend or a retirement home.”
He knows it does him a world of good.
“When I pull into the farm driveway, I can take a breath and feel the [blood] pressure go down numerous points,” he says. “There’s something very soothing about being with animals. … Listening to a horse eat its hay with that sort of regular, systematic crunching is a wonderful sound.”