Keep Your Outdoor Adventures Safe and Enjoyable!
Nine tips to Ensure a Safe Camping Trip with your Horses
Camping with horses requires preplanning for you and your horse’s safety and comfort. Before you leave think about how you will keep both humans and horses well fed and watered, safe at night and warm and dry. Use these nine items as a baseline for your own trip planning checklist.
Rain and Water Protection
For those of us that rough camp without the luxury of living quarter trailers or campers, a good quality tent is a requirement. A good shelter is well worth the money. Items to look for are sturdy poles and zippers that will hold up to strong wind and rain. We used to use ground tents but have recently moved to a tent that sets up in the bed of our pickup. We like the additional water protection that the height of the truck bed affords us. Click here for a review of the CampRight truck tent.
Water makes up approximately 70% of our bodies so it makes good sense to ensure that you have a good supply of it at your campsite. One of the main principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) is to be prepared. Being prepared includes knowing about water availability. We like to bring water for horses even if we know that stock water is available. Many horses prefer the familiar taste of water from home over strange water at a campsite. To maximize storage space we use a water tank that doubles as a saddle rack. For human water we like to use gallon milk jugs that we first freeze. The frozen milk jugs keep food cool and also provide clean water for us. When we camp in the backcountry we always take a means to purify water to prevent illness. Water filters work well as do iodine tablets.
If your horse has wandered off during the night your camping trip may not be as good as you hoped for! Be sure to use something that your horse is used to i.e. something that you’ve used successfully at home. Other means of containing your stock include portable corrals (be sure that the controlling agency for your area allow these), hobbles, or picketing. Our horses are used to, and behave well with, highlines. Click here to see a demonstration for setting up a safe highline.
Food Storage From Bears and Predators
If you’re camping in bear country you must secure your food lest you encourage poor behavior from our opportunistic friends of the Ursus order. For camp use in the Pacific Northwest we generally put the coolers in the trailer and lock it tight while we ride and at night. Bears may get the most billing when it comes to food stealing but there are plenty of other forest critters that will happily enjoy your dinner while you’re away. I’ve found that chipmunks are much more adept at pilfering than we give them credit for. Keep them at bay by securing all of your food items in a sturdy container.
Mosquitoes and flies can make an otherwise perfect weekend miserable so you’ll need these for both you and your stock. We like the spray on types that bond to hair and last for a few days without reapplying. Pyrethrin seems to be the common denominator for these sprays. For human use sprays containing DEET our are bug juices of choice. For buggy evenings we put blankets on the stock and spray their bellies to keep the worst bugs off of them.
Coats and Blankets
Horse blankets are not just for buggy nights. Cool evenings are the norm in many popular camping areas, especially those in higher elevations. Your horse will be much more comfortable with a light blanket on a cool night. For you and me a jacket should also be a required piece of gear, readily handy both at camp and on the trail. A jacket can keep you dry and comfortable during a summer shower and ward off chills around the campfire. For summer riding we like to keep Frogg Toggs in our saddle bags. They’re very lightweight and waterproof. Click here for a review of Frogg Toggs.
A first aid kit is a necessity for saddle bags, truck, and trailer. A sharp knife should also be in your pocket whenever you’re near horses. Besides being able to spread peanut butter a good knife can also cut a lead line in an emergency. A lightweight emergency kit accompanies me on all of my rides as well.
Bring your sunscreen. Even on a cloudy day nasty sunburns are possible. If your horse has pink skin you may want to put some sunscreen on his nose as well. I like to wear long sleeve shirts and a bandana around my neck to prevent sunburn as well.
Nights in the backcountry can be much darker than home so bring several good flashlights at a minimum. I also like to keep an old style gas lantern in the trailer and fueled. If you’re uncomfortable with flammable materials there are battery powered lanterns available.
Thinking, and planning, about your trip, beforehand, will help to ensure that both you and your stock have a safe and enjoyable outing this trip and many more.
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