You’ve been saying it for years, how much you’d like to go camping…with your horse. You spend countless hours on the trail, your horse is as steady as they come and you’re ready to take that next step; a night alone, under the stars, hanging out with your horse, getting in touch with your inner pioneer.
But are you really ready?
Do you know what you’ll eat? Do you know what your horse will eat? Do you know how to pack…lightly? Do you know where you can and can’t go? Do you know how you’ll get your horse to stay in one spot while you’re bedded down for the night?
Here are some tips and places to start when planning your trip:
Where to go.
A good place to start is the U.S. Government Database for campgrounds in the country’s national parks and forests. You can use the search function to narrow down by state, landmark or specific forest or park and then narrow it even further to only include horse friendly campgrounds. Usually, to receive the “horse friendly” campground rating, there are some kind of permanent paddocks or housing available for your horse – just don’t expect the Ritz.
If you want a more rugged, backcountry experience, finding a national forest or wilderness area near you is a good starting point. Once locating an area you’d like to explore from the website, you can narrow down good trails and camping spots from there. Chances are, once deciding on a trail, you can find additional information by Googling the trail name as there are many outdoor bloggers out there who may have reviewed the trail in more depth.
What to pack.
This is always a tough one. Much of what you pack will depend on your choice of campsite. If you’re simply camping in a campground, you’ll have the ability to carry much more with you than if you’re camping in the backcountry. There are many guides available when developing your list, but here is a basic guide that I use when packing:
What to eat.
Again, what you eat on the trail can often depend on your camping circumstances. If you’re roughing it in the backcountry, you’ll be working to lighten your load and may look at packing easy, freeze dried meals . If you’re camping in a campground, your imagination is the limit.
Many camping cookbooks are available and there are seemingly endless recipes online, however I am still a fan of foil wrapped meals when camping. The prep is easy, cooking is a breeze and, best of all, there’s limited cleanup!
For your horse, you may be tempted to change up their regular diet when you hit the trail but experts strongly discourage this. Particularly if this is their first trip out, your horse may experience some anxiety being away from home – even if they don’t show it. Keep your horse’s diet as close to normal as you can while camping. Many parks, forests and wilderness areas have restrictions on the type of hay you can bring in (i.e. certified weed free), so be sure to check all regulations prior to travel.
How to confine your horse.
Everyone has their favorite way of managing their horse(s) while camping and they vary based on your campsite. If you’re staying in a designated campground, chances are the facilities may already be there and included in your fees. If not, simple things like portable panels or a solar fence can be extremely beneficial investments if you plan to make it a regular activity.
If you’re traveling in the backcountry and your area allows grazing, hobbles can be a great way to go. Though, it should be stated that horses aren’t automatically suited for them. It takes time to train a horse to accept them and to be used safely.