Camping With Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th Sep 2015   •   1,513 views   •   0 comments

Summer is almost over, but there are still many weeks of good weather yet. If you like camping, the warm days and cool nights of autumn, before the frost sets in, is an exhilarating time of year to spend outdoors. Getting yourself organized for camping can take some careful planning. Taking your horse along means youíll be planning for and taking along a few extra things.

First of all, there are different ways of camping with your horse. You might like to go to a camp where they rent cabins that feature outdoor stabling for your horse. This is the easiest way to camp with your horse, with the least amount of Ďroughing ití. Or, you might use your trailer as home base, riding out each day, and returning for meals or bedtime. The truly adventurous among us might want to pack our tent behind our saddles, stock up on GORP and head down the trail to spend the night under the open sky.

Iíve done the first and second type of camping. Iím not brave enough for the third kind. A friend of mine lost her horses for about ten days when they got loose on a camping trip. Thankfully they were found contentedly living in a small meadow, with only minor scratches. So, if your horse isnít going to be in a sturdy pen or outdoor stall, your first consideration is how to contain your horse safely. There are a few options for this.

Old time cowboys used hobbles to keep their horses from wandering off. Some people still do this, but itís risky, especially if the ground is rough. A horse could seriously hurt itself while hobbled. Long line tying is another risky way of securing a horse. I know of one horse that broke its neck when its owner tied a long line to a stake so the horse could trim the lawn. Slightly less risky is a picket line. Picketing involves tying a rope between two trees or other solid objects higher than head height. Horses can then be tied to the rope, and if there is enough room, the ropes can slide, allowing them to move about a bit. If more than one horse is tied to a picket line, they need to get along, because they can easily get into each otherís space. The downside is that itís difficult for the horses to lie down, and of course any time you have horses and rope, thereís a risk of them breaking it or getting tangled.

Portable pens are another option if youíre returning to a home base, rather than camping out on trail. There are many different styles - some purchased and others home made. I had a lightweight set of portable stall panels made of electrical conduit held together with wide strips of hook and loop fastener. They were relatively inexpensive to make, and easy to handle. The important thing with whatever method you choose, whether itís picketing or pens, is to try it all out at home first. That way youíll learn if your horse is respectful of the ropes or pens, or you have to make modifications to keep your horse safe and secure.

I know too well the sound of galloping hooves in the darkness, receding down a gravel laneway of a campground. Thank goodness they werenít mine. In addition to tying or penning your horse, you can also park vehicles and trailers in such a way that makes escape less likely. Give some thought to where you position any tents or portable shelters too. You donít want a horse to escape over top of you while youíre sleeping.

Of course, feeding and watering both you and your horse is essential. Itís easy for someone, in the excitement of the adventure to become dehydrated. And, I find I forget to eat and start feeling woozy. You canít look after your horse well if you arenít functioning well yourself. For your horse, electrolytes and sloppy beet pulp can help ward off dehydration, along with offering water as often as possible. Horses can get fussy about their water, so adding a bit of flavoured drink mix in, with only a tiny amount of sugar, can help entice a horse inclined to refuse strange water.

We always take too much stuff when we camp, with or without horses. But, you want to be sure you have clothes for all weather too. And lots of socks. Wet feet can ruin a camping trip. Rain gear, layers in case the weather turns cool, and a rain sheet and warm blanket for your horse are handy to take along. And of course, a map and a cellphone are essential. You donít want to spend an unplanned night under the stars. Plan your route and stick to known trails so youíll be back in time to swap stories around the campfire, while the horses enjoy their dinner and a well earned rest.
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