June is National Camping Month! To help get you ready for an adventure of your own, we’re rolling out a three-part series on camping with horses. In Part Two, we’ll focus on how to vacation at a designated horse camp.
Once you’ve tried horse camping at a facility with equine and human accommodations (which we discussed in Part One), or if you’re just ready to jump into the wilderness, designated horse camps are a great option. Most horse camps are located at the nexus of several trails so you can park your truck and trailer, set up your base camp, ride out each day, and return to your truck and trailer each evening.
If you’re new to horse camping, look for a campground with corrals or highlines, potable water and/or stock water, and manure bins. These amenities can simplify your horse-keeping regimen while you’re out in the woods. If the campsite you select doesn’t offer these features, you’ll need to have a way to contain your horse, bring all the water you and your horse will need for the trip, and remove all the waste your horse leaves behind.
If the horse camp has corrals, your horse-containment headaches are over. If not, you’ll need to either bring a portable corral or be prepared to highline your horse. Highlining isn’t a difficult skill once you’ve mastered it, but you’ll need to have the right type of rope and know how to tie several types of knots. You can find an excellent how-to-highline video at trailmeister.com.
Other Horse Equipment
Bring along all your normal trail riding gear, including tack and saddlebags. You’ll also need to bring feed for your horse, a hay bag or -net to feed from, and water buckets. It’s helpful to bring a 5-gallon water bucket to put in your horse’s corral, plus a couple of small buckets for carrying water to your horse from the pump or the creek. (A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so refilling the big bucket with smaller ones is the way to go.)
Depending on the weather, you might need to bring some clothing for your horse. A fly sheet can help protect him from flies and mosquitoes (which can transmit some equine diseases), while a rain sheet or blanket can offer protection if the weather is rainy or cold. Remember, it gets much colder at night in the mountains than at lower elevations.
If you already have a camper or living quarters trailer, you’re golden. These types of RVs typically feature beds, cooking facilities, refrigerators, lights, and maybe even a table or couch.
If you don’t have an RV, you can sleep in a tent, in your truck, under your truck canopy, or on a clean tarp in your horse trailer. Regardless of which of these you choose, you’ll benefit from a sleeping bag and air mattress or pad, and maybe a cot.
You’ll also need a camp stove and fuel, pans and cooking utensils, food, and water for drinking and washing. If you’re camping with several friends, divide and conquer: You can get by with only need one set of each necessity, so have each person bring one or two things to make the packing easier.
Dress for the weather. Don’t forget to bring some warm layers so you’ll be comfortable at night when the temperature drops. And, sunscreen and bug spray will make your trip more comfortable.
A flashlight or headlamp is a must-have on a camping trip so you can find your way from the campfire to bed after dark, and so you can check on the horses during the night if need be. Finally, be sure to keep a knife handy just in case you need it.
On the trail, you’ll want your helmet and your normal saddle and tack. Always carry a first-aid kit (for horse and people emergencies), a knife, your lunch, plenty of water, and some extra food for emergencies. Weather out on the trail can be unpredictable, so always carry at least one more layer than you think you’ll need. A map of the trails is an absolute must. Don’t rely solely on a smartphone app to get directions—many trails won’t be on those maps, and cell phone signal can be spotty to nonexistent in some locations.
The Bottom Line
A nice aspect of staying at a designated horse camp is that you don’t have to worry about how much your equipment weighs, as your truck and trailer will carry everything. This isn’t the case with horse packing, however—the weight of your equipment will matter tremendously because your horse(s) will be carrying all your gear. We’ll take a look at packing in the third installment.
Don’t miss the fun and camaraderie of camping at a designated horse camp. You’ll have a great time!