Horse Containment Options for the Trailhead
Horse camping is that extra special cherry on top of the pie of wonderful that trail riding can be. A calm quiet camp at the end of a day spent exploring trails far and wide is a beautiful thing. Ponies munching contentedly as we enjoy the campfire and tall tales of our adventures.
Of course the awful antithesis of this is waking with a start and discovering that the ponies have gone a wandering. It happens to all of us. And if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s an indication that you should go horse camping more often.
Sweet dreams of trails traveled turn to nightmares in a heartbeat when the horses and mules vanish into the night. At best it’s lost sleep and the hassle of rounding them up. At worst your trail partners may never be found.
But how to safely and securely contain our mischievous mounts? I’ve always been a fan of highlines. Properly done these are fabulous for keeping our horses safe and near camp. Highlines, however, do have few challenges. What if there’re no handy trees? What if highlines aren’t allowed?
Here’s 5 Horse Containment Options to consider when trailhead camping and there are no corrals or the ones that are available aren’t fit to use.
Horse Containment Options #1 Portable Corrals
The solution that I turn to when highlines aren’t an option (and sometimes when they are) are Corrals 2 Go portable travel corrals. These safe and secure steel corral panels let me get a good night’s sleep without having to worry about my animals going on walk-about.
Corrals 2 Go panels are made of sturdy ¾ inch square steel tubing that holds up to my rough treatment, holds my beasts, and stores conveniently when not in use.
Steel vs PVC – I choose steel portable panels because steel is a superior material to PVC. Steel is strong, is lightweight when manufactured properly, and will not degrade over time due to UV radiation. Additionally if, and when, there is a problem steel will bend, PVC is brittle and will shatter into sharp shards. Not something that I want my trail buddies to encounter. My 13 ¾ inch steel panels are also much easier to store than an equal number of 2” diameter PVC pipes.
During my research on portable corrals I talked with Corrals 2 Go designer Dave Selzer about why he came up with these panels. The fact that Dave is a rider (He hasn’t graduated to mules yet, but we can’t hold that against him!) and knows what it is to keep our animals safe and secure overnight made my decision on panels much easier.
What is portable? I’ve seen people with standard fence panels tied to the sides of their trailers and my backcountry highline kit weighs under 3 pounds, so portability can vary. For trailhead camping I want the best combination of lightweight, so I can easily set it up, small size, so I can easily transport it, and sturdy construction so my animals stay put. Seems like a bunch of contradicting wants but Dave was able to make it all work.
I prefer to reduce my workload when horse camping as much as possible. And at under 20 pounds per panel the Corrals 2 Go system keeps me from working harder than I need to. The panels hang securely over my trailer’s wheel wells in transit with the collapsible hangers that Dave also invented. And of course the sturdy steel tubing. I can and have set up the panels by myself and it was easy enough to do.
Since I started using Corrals 2 Go panels I’ve grown ever more fond of them. I generally travel with 3 animals and I can put all of them in together with plenty of room for each.
I have found that with Ruger, my inquisitive trouble maker, I needed to run a hot wire along the top rail to keep him from pushing the panels towards the always greener grass that is just out of reach.
For more info on Corrals 2 Go visit www.corrals2go.com
Horse Containment options #2 – Portable Electric Fencing
It’s cheap and it’s easy. But is it good? I once had a contractor tell me that I could pick two of three options; cheap, fast, or good. It’s the same way with portable electric fences.
The problem with relying on an electric fence is that it is a psychological or mental barrier for the horse. AN electric fence is NOT a physical barrier to having your animals run amok.
You may say “but my horse believes in the electric fence” and I’m sure that’s true. But what about the local wildlife that call the trailhead home? Will the deer, elk, bear, etc have been trained to believe in the electric fence? The answer is no.
All of the above being said I do use electric fencing at times. When I can watch and supervise. It is wonderfully versatile and can enclose a large and irregular area allowing my ponies to roll and relax. I like that. Once it’s time for me to crawl into bed the horses go into a much safer enclosure for the evening.
Horse Containment options # 3 – Hobbles
I hear this one quite a bit. And while yes I do use hobbles, simply tying 2 or 3 legs together is not a way to keep your animals nearby. Hobble will slow the critters down but if you rely on hobbles alone you will be doing a lot of walking while you search for your horse.
I use hobbles when I pack into wilderness areas. First thing in the morning the horses come off the highline, are walked to a grazing area, and the hobbles go on. Repeat in the evening and whenever you take a break. Hobbles are not a tool that you put on and then forget about.
There you go, hobbles are good tools but not appropriate for most trailhead camping situations.
Horse Containment option #4 High Ties or Overhead Tie Arms
These contraptions attach to the side of your trailer and have flexible arm that juts out, like a hitchhiker waiting on a ride, which creates an overhead point to which you can tie a horse.
The big benefit to a tie arm is that it’s always ready to go. No assembly required.
I’ve seen a lot of these and he folks that have them seem to like them. I’m not a believer at this point. Many of the ones I’ve seen were noisy as the horse moved around and nearly all of the trailers that had them attached had a big shiny spot on the side where itchy horse butts had rubbed the paint off. I also would wonder about being gently rocked to sleep as the pony moved around throughout the night.
Horse Containment option #5 – Highlines
Highlines are the gold standard when it comes to securing horses. Inexpensive, safe when properly set up and easy on the budget.
If you’re an experienced horse camper, or want to be an experienced horse camper, you’ve most likely either used or have heard of the “high line”. Done well a highline is an exceptionally useful low-impact method for keeping our furry four legged toddlers out of mischief.
I use highlines on a regular basis when packing into remote areas and also at trailhead locations where I may not be able to break put my steel Corrals 2 Go portable corral.
Here’s more information on how to properly set up a highline. https://www.trailmeister.com/the-highline-a-recipe-for-success/