If you love horses and you love camping, why not combine the two? Horse camping is one of the most fun activities you can do with your horse.
- Reliable on the trail. You’ll be riding on unfamiliar trails on your trip. Your horse should be calm and relaxed on trail, and well trained to your leg and rein cues. If you’re not there yet, start working with your horse in the arena to teach him to respond to you. Once he’s listening well in the arena, take him on local trails and reinforce what he’s learned.
- Comfortable in the trailer. You’ll need to trailer your horse to get to your campsite, so be certain your horse loads easily and is comfortable riding in the trailer. If your horse resists loading, work with him to get him to go right into the trailer. Feed him inside the trailer, and take him for short drives. Make the experience pleasant so he will come to associate the trailer with good things.
- Good with tying. If your campground doesn’t have corrals, you will have to tie your horse to your trailer on a longer lead rope. This means your horse has to be comfortable being tied for long periods of time. If your horse paws or prances when he’s tied, he needs to develop patience. Tie him at home for periods of time after a workout so he learns to stand. Make sure some of that tying time is at the trailer. Once he’s calm and relaxed when tied to the trailer, he’s ready for a camping trip.
- In good condition. If your horse has been standing around for weeks at a time, don’t take him camping until you’ve had a chance to condition him. At least a month before your trip, start taking him on shorter trail rides and build up to the amount of time you plan to ride him when you camp.
Once you are certain your horse is a good candidate for camping, you need to prepare for your trip:
- Campground rules. Be sure to check ahead to find out the rules of the campground. Some areas don’t allow hay to be brought in, but require pellets be used for feed. This is to protect native plants from contamination with seeds from invasive plants. Some campgrounds require proof of a Coggins test or a health certificate. Check to see what you need to bring before you hit the road.
- Amenities. Find out in advance if horse water is available at the campground or if you need to bring your own. See if corrals are set up, and whether a round pen or arena is included at the facilities.
- Maps. Do some research on the trails you’ll be exploring before you get to your campground. Many parks offer trail maps online. Scope out blogs and other online sources for user reviews of the trails you are considering. You want to have a sense of how long each trail ride will be, and the type of terrain you’ll be negotiating.
- Supplies. You’ll need to pack everything you and your horse need to live, for the amount of days you’ll be camping. For you, this means food, water, clothing, a tent, sleeping bag and personal items. For your horse, feed, tack, grooming tools, fly spray and everything else he usually uses at home. For a complete list of items to pack when horse camping, visit natrc.org.
Once you’ve gone camping with your horse, you’ll want to do it again. Help your horse enjoy the experience by scheduling your first few camping trips close to home, and just for two or three nights. Your horse will soon learn that camping is fun, and will be ready for an even bigger adventure.
Audrey Pavia is a freelance writer and the author of Trail Riding: A Complete Guide. She participates in long distance competitive trail riding with her Spanish Mustang, Milagro.