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Camping with Horses, Part I

Published: 1/24/2017
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Editor's Note: Kathe Hayes is a longtime rider and resident of Colorado. Her love of the outdoors and desire to enhance public lands through education led her to San Juan Mountains Association where for 20 years she has been the Volunteer Program Director. She is a Leave No Trace Master Educator and assists with Leave No Trace education in SW Colorado.

By Kathe Hayes

This is about camping with your horse, in a camper trailer. This is not about packing into the wilderness and camping in the back country. That’s an entirely different skill requiring much different preparation.

Read Part II

Why camp with horses? It gives me the chance to get away from my normal routine and focus on the outdoors and trail riding. I travel to many beautiful places close to home, in southwest Colorado, but also to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
I research trails and suitable areas where I can ride, right from camp, and enjoy the great beauty and silence of the outdoors, whether in the desert or mountains. It takes planning and preparation to accomplish all of this successfully.

I started camping with my horse when I did Competitive Trail Riding in the 80’s and 90’s. My first experiences were with a tent, Coleman stove, and tarps (that scared all the horses). I tied my horse to the trailer. If it was rainy or windy, the situation was not ideal.
But this is how we did it back then.
When I realized that setting up and tearing down a camp was a lot of work and that all I really wanted to do was ride, I graduated to a camper that fit into the back of my pick-up. At that time, I really appreciated the conveniences such as a hot shower, my own toilet, indoor stove (especially when it was raining) and a nice queen size bed to lay on after a 30-mile ride. Oh, yes, and a fully stocked refrigerator. I kept the camper stocked with the necessities and the two-horse trailer stocked with my gear. I was ready to go and life was good and easier.

I left competitive trail riding and gradually upgraded to a Sundowner horse trailer with living quarters. Now I could park my housing, unhook my truck, and toodle around any interesting town I was near. I used an electric fence to contain my horse instead of tying to the trailer, and had plenty of storage my “stuff.”

Trailer specifics:
  • Three horse slant
  • 8-foot living quarters
  • 24 feet total length
  • Generator
  • Hayrack
  • Water tank
  • Spacious tack compartment.
I pull it with a Ford F350.

Now I’m equipped to both weekend dry camp or to live in Arizona for two months (with full hook-ups) in the winter with the entire menagerie – two horses and two dogs. Life is good.

Starting out small and working your way up to the ideal situation takes some time. But you learn as you go from other campers and gain the experience and confidence that you need to do it.

Skills and knowledge that you learn are numerous:
  • How much water and hay to bring.
  • What you need for your tool box for those emergency repairs. 
  • How to charge your cell phone.
  • Where to put the dogs when you are out on the trail (mine don’t ride with me). 
  • Which gas stations you can get into
  • How to back up in tight spots
  • And, of course, where are the best camping spots
Coming next: In Part II, Kathe writes about a trip to the San Pedro Wilderness.

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1/26/2017 Becky in Colorado
I loved this article because this is exactly the kind of horse camping I want to do. I'm shopping for a trailer upgrade now (from DIY camping quarters in my small gooseneck to a real LQ). Dreaming and scheming and also hoping to snowbird in Arizona with my horse someday. I look forward to your future articles on horse camping. Thanks!

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    "There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies