Nine Tips to Stay Safe when Horse Camping
The attached article was written to help identify and resolve some of the most common horse camping safety issues and questions that I hear from fellow horsemen as well as novice and seasoned horse campers.
These nine tips for a safe horse camp will help you in planning for this year’s horse trips and adventures.
Enjoy and Happy Trails!
Great tips, thanks for posting it!
Thanks Trails. Very informative.
Good tips. thanks.
I've usually got too much stuff in the bed of the trucks to worry about trying to sleep in the bed. Hay bales, water jugs, chain saw, shovel and other tools that I don't want to take time to remove. So we either sleep in the gooseneck or pitch a tent.
Four horses that can each drink 10 gallons a day, go through a lot of water. I got some 15 gallon mini drums from a local dairy farmer. The disinfectant that they run through the milker comes in these and he throws a couple away each month. 15 gallons is about 120lbs. So they are heavy, but a person can move them if needed. at camp, I roll one to the tail gate and open the valve. Best of all they are free. Even if I don't need the water for the horses, I still use these for water for me to bath in, wash dishes etc. And I like to have water in the truck in case we get stuck in traffic on a hot summer day. It's only happened once to me, But sitting 3 hours on the freeway in 100* temps because of a traffic accident up ahead will make you a believer.
We use the electric fences a lot in the wilderness. But we always highline at night. Too many mornings I've gotten up to find that elk have run through the meadow and knocked down the hot wire. I also carry hobbles on my saddle, We often hobble the horses while we take a lunch break.
I often use my horses rain sheets as covers for my pack saddles. Keeps my gear dry on the ride in and helps the horses ward off mountain chills at night. I also use a canvas mantee as a drop cloth, to cover saddles at night, and even on a few occassion to dry off after a dip in mountain lake.
I keep one of those LED headlamps in my gear. They don't throw a strong beam for a long distance. But they do provide some light and the batteries last 300-400 hours. So even if I accidently leave it on or it gets switched on in the pack, it won't go dead in a few hours. These are not bright enough to go find a lost horse, But they are enough light to adjust a highline in the middle of the night, to gather some firewood after dark, or see branches before they hit you in face if you ride after dark.
I always pack a lightweight rain jacket. At 10,000 foot elevation, Getting wet, means getting hypothermic and mountain thundershowers can slip in anyday in the high country. I often cut off the leg from a pair of deniem blue jeans. I then pull the slicker through the leg. Then tie it behind the cantle. The deniem protects the lighter nylon from getting caught on or torn by thorns as your ride through the brambles or oak brush.
Seems like this is for the sort of camping where you drive to a campsite, ride out from there during the day, and return every night. How about when you're on a longer ride, and need to pack everything to your camping place on the horses?
Oh, and I second the LED headlamps. So nice to be able to use both hands, and the newer ones keep getting brighter.
We pack two types of tents. The smaller more compact dome tents for the summer months. These work well if you are moving camp every day. They set up in smaller locations. Disadvantage is no stove and usually no room for cots.
In the fall for hunting, we use canvas wall tents. These are much heavier, bulkier and take more time to set up. Because of their size, they need a bigger spot to set up. I rarely carry the poles for mine, So I have to find trees to string center guy wire between, or cut down trees to make the Xs and the center beam. But their comfort can not be beat. We put a cylinder stove in ours, 4-5 cots and everybody sleeps very warm even on the coldest of October nights. We usually use these tents when we will set them up and leave them for a week or two. We often have to make multiple trips in to haul all the gear. One trip hauling gear in, 2nd trip hauling feed for the horses. October at 9000 foot doesn't have much feed left on the mountain. Trips back out usually include one to haul gear and 2nd to haul out the deer or elk we have harvested.
That's what I was trying to show. There is a difference depending on the season and what level of comfort you expect. During the warmer summer months we will use one pack horse for 2-3 people. During the cold months we haul in more stuff so we can be comfortable. This sometimes requires a one to one or two to one ratio of pack horses to sadde horses.
I've spent too many a night at 9000 foot with two feet of snow and temps of 10* to not bring in the stuff that makes the weekend enjoyable.
This photo was taken at 10000 foot on the last saturday of August. We didn't bring in all our winter camping gear and we ended up hudled under a tarp to stay dry with this late summer snow.
In this photo, I'm using over the saddle panniers because I had rode the horse in. On the trip out the white horse is packing my camp, sleeping bags etc, while the sorrel ( my riding horse) is packing out the elk that I shot. I'm walking for this trip off the mountain. Better to walk one way than have to make a round trip to go get what you could not pack on a single horse.
The beauty of horse packing, is that you can do both. Pack very light or haul as many creature comforts as you need. There is no rule that says you can't take the exact same stuff with you that you haul on your touring bike. And there are times when I day ride from the truck/trailer and leave everything at the trailer as Trails has done in the original post.
If I'm reading you right you're asking about riding in and packing off of your riding horse. In my opinion the most important thing to remember when you try to ride and pack all of your gear on the same beast is weight.
While it may seem that our 1000+ pound beasts can haul lots and lots of gear as well as us; it simply isn't true.
The weight of your saddle and other assorted tack - My saddle weighs about 60 pounds, add another 15 for bridle, reins, crupper etc. it totals about 75 pounds.I'm already over 260 pounds (Almost 30% of his body weight) - A lot to ask a 950 pound horse to haul. And this isn't even living well. There's no camp stove stove or other misc gear listed just the bare essentials.
Add to the raw weight issue the question of how you're going to distribute the gear on your horse. Too far back and you're putting pressure on his kidneys. Stack it too high (I've seen cantle bags 18+ inches tall) and you may get tangled if you have to bail off in an emergency.
With these logistical issues to address I generally day ride from the truck or hike and lead my horse when I go further into the backcountry.
Hope this helps and happy trails!
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