Camping with your horse on a trail ride can be an enriching, bonding experience for both of you as long as you adequately prepare for your adventure. There are a lot of things to consider. Is your horse fit enough to take on the trail you’ve chosen? What should you pack? What will your horse eat? What will you eat? Before you enjoy the freedom of the open trail, take a little time to get you and your horse ready. It will greatly improve your trail experience and allow you to create some great, lasting memories.
Prepare Your Horse to “Rough It”:
Camping with your horse on a trail ride is physically demanding on both you and the animal. All too often an owner will assume that their horse is ready only to find, much too late, that they are terribly ill prepared. The last thing you want is to get down the trail and have your horse colic, go into shock, run off, or any number of other things that can go wrong. Remember, anything can happen on the trail that could spook your horse. While there is no guarantee that your adventure will be perfect, there are some things you can do to make it easier on your horse and provide some degree of protection.
Endurance – Prior to your ride, talk to park rangers and other riders to find out the level of difficulty of the trail then prepare your horse accordingly. Start working your horse to build stamina and strength. You want to make sure your horse is strong enough and has the endurance to handle the trail you choose. If you are in doubt, choose an easier trail.
Feed Changes – If you are camping overnight with your horse at a campground, feed isn’t really a problem. Your trailer will be close enough that you can bring your own feed and there will be no disruption or change. However, if you are taking to the trail it isn’t practical to carry all that feed with you, so you’ll have to ration and he’ll have to forage for grass so be prepared to allow 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. If your horse isn’t used to so much grass, start preparing with gradual introduction and work up to it.
Staking Out – If you’ve never staked out your horse, don’t wait till the trail to break them in. Teach them gradually so that they learn how to manage it. Start by tying a long lead to the ground and stay close to help in case they get tangled and can’t figure out how to get out of it.
Neck Reining – If your horse only knows plow reining, you should probably teach them neck reining. It is just easier on the trail, especially if you are leading a pack animal. It never hurts to have one hand free, especially in that type of environment.
Practice Trailering -Don’t wait till trail day to see if your horse trailers well. Do a few practice runs, especially if you will be using a trailer that is different from the one you typically use.
What to Pack for a Trail Ride:
When you are packing for your ride you might be tempted to include much more than you actually need. However, weight and space is an issue so pack your saddle bag accordingly. Some things you don’t want to forget are the must-haves for your horse like feed rations, hydrating treats, and electrolytes. Hydration is also a big concern. On the average a horse needs 5 gallons of water a day. If they are being ridden hard or it is hot, they need even more. Experts recommend that you bring some water from home and mixing it with the water on the trail so your horse will be more inclined to drink until they get used to the “new” water.
Pack a First Aid Kit for the Trail Ride:
Accidents and injuries can happen when you are on the trail. There are any number of mishaps that can occur to both horse and rider. When packing a first aid kit for the trail, include items for the horse and the human. There is no way that you can be prepared for every possibility, but you can be prepared for most emergencies.
A human first aid kit should include bandages, antibiotic ointment, alcohol, material for a tourniquet, eye wash, aloe vera, antihistamine and bug bite treatment along with any personalized items like a couple of epi pens or insulin. For the horse, emergency electrolyte paste, bandages, blunt tipped scissors, wound antiseptic, a hoof pick, hemostat, and ice packs should top your list. You can purchase ready-made kits or make your own first aid kit to carry with you on the trail.
On the Trail
Packing the right trail gear is essential for a great trail ride. What you pack depends on where you are riding and camping. There are things that you would need when riding in the mountains that you wouldn’t necessarily need on flat lands. You’ll also need different items if you are camping in the wild as opposed to a campground.
You might need a tent, sleeping bag, and mat when camping in the wild, but only a sleeping bag at a campground. Think about the environment and what you will be doing, where you will be riding, to determine what you will need. However, there are some trail staples that are of general use such as clothing, jacket, sun block, chap stick, brush, a knife, flashlight, sun glasses, bare essential toiletries, granola bars, beef jerky and for your horse, halter, lead, curry comb, rope – customize your list to address your needs.
Be safe, be prepared, and have a great time on the trail.