It’s that time of year...warmer weather and more daylight mean more chances to ride! When those opportunities expand to overnight (or longer) trips away from home, you and your horse will want to be prepared.
Be sure to have a checklist for camping/horse supplies, especially if you are a new camper. You don’t want to forget something crucial. Supplies vary depending on the type of camper you are (standard or living quarters trailer, tent) and whether your destination includes a horse stall or picket/high line area.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
You have to admire the folks who can make their regular horse trailers seem like the Taj Mahal. Sweep out the trailer, add a cot, small table, and lamp and you have a bedroom! Add screens and curtains to the windows to sleep bug-free. Bring along a 10x10 canopy, fold up table, chairs, grill, and propane-powered appliances such as cook tops and coffee pots; in campgrounds with electricity, plug in that lamp, maybe even add a fan, and you have all the comforts of home.
If you need to tie your horse to a highline overnight, it is helpful to have a quick release snap on at least one end of the lead from which you are tying your horse to the line; one for each end is even more helpful. Be sure you have either a swivel snap attached to a standard “knot eliminator” on the line or an inline swivel so your horse’s lead does not twist and tighten as he moves around.
High lines work well because your horse can walk a circle, lie down, and reach his nose to the ground to eat hay or drink water. Buckets on the ground for water do not work well because your horse may knock them over, creating a big muddy mess. Many people prefer to offer water from a bucket throughout the day. Jenny prefers oval, low, black rubber 3-gallon “feeder pans” as water troughs. The pan can be set just close enough for the horse to reach, but not in the path of their feet. Plus it does not take up much room in the trailer. A standard small muck tub can also be used in the center between two horses.
If you place a hay net on the line, be sure it cannot slide around and is, again, just within reach. In addition to your water-resistant highline (to avoid stretching) and your tree savers, a short ratchet strap on one or both ends of your line will help you draw it high and tight. Bring a step stool to help you get it up high enough that your horse cannot put his head over the line.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Always pack extra bucket straps, leads, miscellaneous straps and snaps or clips. If you arrive at a horse camp that includes stalls, you may find that there are no latches on the doors or there is nothing from which to hang your water bucket. Also have a water container to transport water from a distant source to your picket/stall area.
When using a trailer stall to transport supplies, it is helpful to have a “stud door” separating that storage stall so your supplies do not tumble around and get tangled in your horse’s legs during the trip.
HITTING THE TRAILS
Once you have your creature comforts figured out and packed, don’t forget about practical items you’ll need during your rides. In your saddle bags, pack a GPS or at least a compass, small flashlight, sunscreen, a sample size bottle of Equilite’s SORE NO-MORE® (for cuts, bruises, bug bites, sore muscles) and water. An extra bottle of water for your horse is sensible, if there is none to be found on the trail. Teach your horse to drink from a bottle at home.
Always pack some sort of food for you just in case you are out longer than you expected. Take some Forage First treats for your horse in case there is no grass to help him revitalize his energy. Be sure to feed a sustaining feed so that your horse can continue to draw from it during long hours blazing trails. We like ADM and Farmer’s Coop. Sweet feed is like eating a candy bar; energy plummets after a short time. Have vet wrap, antibiotic ointment, a small container of fly spray, a hoof boot, and a Leatherman type tool to use in case a shoe becomes loose and needs to be pulled. Pack a whistle or flare (some way to get attention should you become distressed), and a rope halter and lead if you do not have a mecate on your reins, in case you have to lead or pony a horse.
Include little things like lip balm, a pen and paper, your business card (in case you meet up with someone and need to exchange info), a nail file, an extra snap or piece of leather to repair any gear that may break, and flagging tape if you need to mark a dangerous hole or bees.
Be sure to keep your cell phone on YOU in case you are separated from your horse! ALWAYS enter the phone number for the park, office, lodge, or local law enforcement in your phone before you head out.
BACK TO BASE CAMP
You will want to bring a hose to rinse your partner when you return to camp. If no hose hookup is available, bring enough water so you can give your horse a sponge rinse from a bucket. You may want to offer him a nice liniment rinse or bath with SORE NO-MORE products to help alleviate muscle soreness and itching. While your horse is relaxing after the ride, spend a little time decompressing with him instead of just tossing him back on the high-line. Allow him to eat grass while you sip a refreshing beverage on the other end of his line. He will appreciate it and you will find it relaxing as well.
As always, boot up, be safe, and have fun!
Everyone has favorite tricks of the trade. Feel free to post them on our Live To Ride Facebook page!
Angie Ferrell and Jenny Lance work together under the name "Live To Ride." Ferrell breeds and raises American Quarter Horses and participates in extreme trail riding, ranch versatility, reining and cow working disciplines out of her farm in Lexington, TN. Lance participates in dressage, some cow working, and trail riding from Athens, OH. For more information, visit www.LiveToRideHorses.com