Camping with your horse just seems, well, cool. The thought of you and your horse, out there under the stars – maybe with a few other riders – it just seems like the perfect trail ride. Those rosy thoughts last for about 30 seconds, then the worry sets in. How will you get your camping gear to the campsite? Where will you be able to quickly purchase horse tack and supplies online? What kind of camping gear will you use? What will your horse eat? Will he be spooked by the camp fire, the nighttime woodsy noises, or scurrying of little woodland creatures under his feet? Will your horse be comfortable out there? Will he be safe? Will you be safe?
The questions can make the experience seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Find Someone who is experienced in overnight trail rides and horse camping:
The first few times you camp with your horse find someone who is experienced, will ride with you, and teach you some of the basics. Even if you have been camping before, camping with a horse is much different. There are any number of things that could go wrong and it helps to have someone with you who knows the ropes and can give you sound advice.
Review the trail maps for the best overnight trail ride:
Before you hit the trail, look over the trail maps to check out the route. Talk to other trail riders and park rangers to get advice and valuable insight. They can tell you about the level of difficulty of the trails and inform you about the supplies and equipment you may need. Pay attention to trail length as well as difficulty. You don’t want to bite off more than your horse can chew. If he isn’t used to riding trails or isn’t used to extended trail rides it may be a bit much for him. Take it easy and don’t put too much stress on him. If you really want to pursue the more difficult trails, start working him several months ahead of time to get him into shape. Don’t ever put an out of shape horse on a difficult trail. That is a recipe for disaster.
Know what to pack for your first overnight trail ride:
What you bring will depend on the type of camping you will do. If you are camping on the trail you will carry fewer things than if you are camping at a horse campground. A small waterproof tent, some food, dry socks, and other items to get you through the night are great for camping with your horse the trail. Keep it small and light since you are packing it on your horse.
A horse campground gives you a little more leeway. Your vehicle will likely be nearby so you can keep some of your supplies and equipment in there. Just make sure that you bring your horse’s feed. Some people may be tempted to add a little extra food, but that isn’t a good idea. You don’t want to disrupt your horse’s diet; it could lead to digestive problems.
Keeping your horse hydrated:
Hydration is extremely important for both you and your horse. Bring several gallons of water from home to encourage him to drink. Yes, water does taste different in different areas and you may find that your horse refuses to drink the “new water” until he adapts. Some people give hydrating treats and electrolytes to their horses while on the trail, but that may turn out to be a bad idea, depending on the horse. Talk to your veterinarian for suggestions on keeping your horse hydrated.
You need to stay hydrated as well, so bringing about some water or a water bottle that you can refill will help. When you review the trail maps, check for places where you can refill your water bottle.
A word on bedding down your horse:
Whether you are in a campground or on the trail, it may be a good idea to keep your horse away from other horses when you bed down for the night. If you turn your horse out with horses he doesn’t know he is likely to spend the night making friends and establishing a hierarchy instead of getting the rest that he needs. If you put him in a paddock or tie him up by himself, he will be much more likely to sleep and rest.
Have you ever been horse camping? What are your favorite horse camping tips? Share your experiences about your first overnight trail ride with us in the comments section below!