With the weather improving, horse owners are thinking more and more about getting out and about with their horses. At the 2016 WNY Equifest, held March 19 and 20, Toni Wolf, an avid camper for many years, gave a presentation geared to first-time campers titled “A-Z Pointers for Camping with your Horse”.
“Camping with your horse is like camping with toddlers, they always try to get into trouble,” explained Wolf. She discussed several things to consider before embarking on an overnight trip with your horse.
Three important things to evaluate ahead of time include:
- If your horse will stand quietly while tied.
- If the horse will load and unload easily.
- If eating and drinking is going to cause concern.
If you think your horse will be cooperative in all these areas then you may be ready to go.
A major concern on the road should be how you are going to contain your horse. Wolf discussed the pros and cons of five options: portable electric corrals, portable fence panels, trailer mount high lines, picket lines and tying directly to the trailer. No options are particularly better or worse and none are foolproof, but all are a little different. The best option will depend on your situation and your horse. Price, storage space and setup ease are the biggest factors to consider. For example, corrals and fence panels are much more costly and will need more space to set up but may provide a more comfortable area for your horse. The high lines, picket lines and tying directly to the trailer are less expensive choices, take up no storage space, but they restrict a horse’s movement and may create mud-holes in which the horse will have to stand. Some camping areas may not allow tying to trees, etc.
The best way to evaluate how a containment system will work for you is to try to borrow the equipment from a friend before making a large investment.
Wolf emphasized to practice at home first before attempting an overnight. Set up camp in a paddock at home. Practice in the dark. Consider where people will be sleeping. Horses need to experience tent movement and especially an approaching flashlight. The reaction you may get may not be pleasant. Also, if the horses are kept in a trailer at night, owners should keep in mind the noise may keep everyone awake. Once the horse is desensitized, you can gradually build on the time away from home.
Not all camping areas will provide water for the horses. Consider bringing water from home to ensure the horses will have enough to drink. If traveling far, always bring a large bucket.
Keep your feeding routine the same. Put single servings of grain in zip-type bags. Do not try anything new. Decide how much hay and grain you will need and add another day or two in case a problem arises.
Most camping areas that allow horses have a place to put any waste but do not supply any tools. Don’t be “that person”, clean up after your own horses. Think ahead and bring what you need.
Wolf provided a list of additional items you may need. They include:
- first aid kit
- waterproof rain sheet and warm blanket
- spare tack
- flashlight and batteries
- paper maps
- list of phone numbers for local vets and farriers along with their locations
- grooming tools
- copies of health papers
- any medications
- fly mask
- mounting step
- easyboot or something similar in case your horse loses a shoe.
Identification tags are also a good idea.
No matter how much you plan, something can always go wrong. Always have a backup plan. Determine who will drive if the primary driver is unable to proceed. Consider what you would do if your horse has a life-threatening injury or illness. In case of severe weather, think about where you can find shelter. Line up someone to help in case your rig breaks down.
Try a trial run at a friend’s house or go with seasoned campers. No matter what, get your horse used to the situation before you leave home.
Most importantly, “Plan to have a good time,” said Wolf.