Everything You Need to Know Before Camping With Horses
If you love taking your horse out on the trails, the next logical step may be to try camping with your equine friend. If the idea of camping with your horse seems intimidating, fear not! I’ve got you covered with my favorite horse camping tips.
What are some things to consider when camping with your horse? If you plan to take your horse camping, research the campground of your choosing to learn about their rules and amenities. Plan out how you will provide water and food to your horse, and research portable corrals, high wires, or other ways to confine your horse. Some equestrian campgrounds will rent out stalls or corrals for a nightly fee. It’s important to have a detailed plan, and a back-up plan, when it comes to horse camping.
For a horse person, there’s nothing quite as adventurous and freeing as camping with your horse! While it may take a lot of logistical planning, it will be something you remember forever. To learn more about planning the perfect horse camping trip, keep reading!
Horse Camping 101: Finding A Campground
Your first step will be finding a horse-friendly campground. Start with the parks closest to you. When camping for the first time, it is wise to stick close to home in case something happens and you need to go home early or if you forget something important and need to make a second journey.
Horse Camping in State or Federal Parks
When it comes to finding a horse-friendly campground, check out the state and federal parks in your area. I have found that the parks’ websites provide ample information about what is provided at the campgrounds and what trails horses are allowed to travel on. If you have any questions, there is usually a phone number provided for you can call.
If it’s your first time camping with your horse, you may want to rent a space for your horse to stay. Some parks will have permanent paddocks on-site that your horse can stay in while you camp close by. You will need to reserve a paddock, so make sure to book in advance.
Other parks will allow you to park your trailer at your campsite. You can secure a temporary corral to your trailer, or you can use the trailer as a stall. This may be a good option if leaving your horse makes you nervous.
If you’re really roughing it, find out from the park if they have tips on where to stay (or where not to stay) if you have a horse with you. Some trails will be better for beginners than others, so it would be wise to get as much information from the park as you can.
Horse Camping at Horse Farms
If you would like to ease into horse camping, or you would rather have a warm bed to sleep in, research horse farms in your area that provide housing for you and a nightly space for your horse. There are a few farms around my area that have miles of trails. They have cabins people can stay in and pastures you can rent for your horse. This is a great first experience for someone wanting to get into horse camping!
Horse Camping 101: Providing Water For Your Horse
Horses can graze just about anywhere, but a horse without water will quickly become impacted by dehydration. Find out from the park everything you can about their water sources. If you are staying at a campsite, bring along your horse’s water bucket in addition to at least 5 gallons of water from home. Your horse may be hesitant to try the water from another source, so using the trough or bucket your horse is accustomed to compared to a new bucket purchased for the trip will encourage him to drink.
If you would like to encourage your horse to drink, you can provide a mineral salt lick, or add electrolytes to their food. Another option is to cut up apple slices and float them in the water bucket. Something I always do is soak my horse’s feed so that I know they’re at least getting a little bit of water.
If you are not camping near your trailer or otherwise cannot bring your horse’s water, you will want to check in with the park to make sure you know where all of the water sources are. Make sure to camp near a stream or creek, and ride along the water as often as you can. Remember, horses need 5 to 10 gallons of water a day, so this is not an area that should go overlooked.
Horse Camping 101: Feeding Your Horse
As tempting as it may be to bond with your horse through treats and grain while you’re on your trip together, try to stay on track with your horse’s feed. He’ll be feeling plenty treated with all of the new grazing he will be exposed to. If he eats nothing but grass hay while he’s at home, bring nothing but grass hay. Make sure to feed him that hay around the same time you feed him at home. The last thing you want on a remote camping trip is a horse with an upset stomach.
If your horse gets grain or a pelleted forage supplement, be sure to pack that as well as a feed bucket. This is where you can soak the feed to ensure your horse is getting water. What I personally do is plan out my horse’s meals and sort out each meal into a ziplock bag. When it’s time to feed at the campground, I’ll open the ziplock bag, dump the grain into the feed bucket, and the horse will eat their meal.
Horse Camping 101: Keeping Your Horse Confined
There are several options to keeping your horse confined while camping. If you’re staying in a park that rents out paddocks, that is one fewer thing you will need to worry about. If you’re staying at a campsite that allows you to pull your trailer in, you can also bring your own temporary fencing. Temporary fencing can secure directly to the trailer, giving you one solid “wall”, and three fenced sides. Of course, you can also use your trailer as a stall for your horse, but this is best for situations where you will be riding for the majority of your day and “stalling” your horse when he is nice and tired.
Using High Lines
If your camp does not have permanent paddocks for rent, and you are unable to camp with your trailer, you will need another way to keep your horse confined. One favorite among horse campers is the high line. This is a rope that runs between two trees. The horse’s halter is then secured to the line with a clamp or short lead line. This is an inexpensive device and it allows your horse to graze and move within a small boundary. Make sure that your horse is not secured so closely to the line that he cannot graze and drink.
If you decide to use a high line, I highly recommend setting it up at home and tying your horse to it there. Some horses need time to get used to the high line, and that’s not something you’ll want to deal with when camping.
Hobbling or Tethering Your Horse
Others choose to hobble or tether their horses, but this should only be done by experienced equestrians, and with horses who are accustomed to being hobbled. If you attempt to hobble an inexperienced horse, you may end up with a seriously injured horse. With both the hobbles and a tether, the horse’s leg is being tied off to something. If your horse doesn’t know how to properly respond to that pressure, they could easily get hurt.
Tying Your Horse
You can tie your horse to a secure structure overnight if there are no other options. This isn’t my first recommendation, simply because I don’t like leaving my horses tied for long periods of time. If you use this method, provide a hay net and water so that the horse has something to keep him occupied. A bored horse can get himself into a pickle. You will also want to make sure you give him enough space to just about touch his nose to the ground, but no more – you don’t want him injuring himself by becoming tangled in the rope. And as always when tying your horse, use a quick-release knot in case of an emergency.
Additional Tips For Camping With Your Horse
I hope this has allowed you to gain confidence in considering your first camping trip with your horse. In addition to feed, water, and confinement, here are some additional tips for horse camping:
- Pack additional tack in the trailer in case something happens to your gear. You don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere with a broken halter or a lead rope that has gone missing.
- Pack a first aid kit for both you and your horse. Bring along wraps, bandages, and disinfectant sprays in case your horse injures herself.
- Don’t forget your horse’s grooming kit – especially the hoof pick.
- Pack more than you think you may need. If you’re camping with your horse, that means you likely have a trailer. You may as well make use of that space by packing any extra gear that you think may help your horse (and you) stay comfortable.
- If you are not staying in a campsite, pack lightly so as not to burden your horse. Keep the heavier items toward the horse’s front to keep the weight off his back. Remember, a horse should not carry more than 20% of his body weight, and this includes tack, gear, and you.
- If you have too many things to carry on your mount, you may need to bring another pack horse (or donkey, mule, or llama). If this is not an option, you can often choose to pay an outfitter to pack you in and pack you out so that you don’t have to worry about hauling all of your supplies.
- If you are roughing it, try parking your trailer so that you can make a loop and end up where you started. If there is no reasonable loop, you might choose to have someone drop you and your horse off at your starting point, parking your trailer at the end of your route.
- If this is your first time camping, I would advise you bring a friend or two (preferably who are more experienced). This isn’t only practical advice – the company can help calm your nerves if you’re feeling a bit hesitant.
Last Words Of Camping Advice: Have Fun!
Camping under the stars with the sound of your horse grazing next to you… it really doesn’t get much better than that! If your horse enjoys taking to the trails, you can assume that camping will be a vacation for them too. So while taking the plunge and setting out on your first horse camping trip may seem daunting, know that you will probably be planning your next trip before you even make it back home.
Before you head out on the trail, you want to make sure you have the proper equipment. Check out my article Horse Trail Riding Gear: Complete Packing List.