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Wrangling on the Range #165

Basic Camping Skills for Horses

                        
WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #165

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BASIC CAMPING SKILLS FOR HORSES


Boost your enjoyment of horse camping by making sure your equine
partner has good fundamentals before you go.

BY JULI S. THORSON


HERE'S A TRUTH ABOUT GOING CAMPING with your horse: No matter how
good your own camping skills might be, they won't stand in for a
lack of camping skills on your horse's part. There are certain
things he simply must know how to do, ahead of time, if he's not
going to make you and any others in your party miserable. Here's
your homework.

TRAVEL TRAINING

* Teach your horse to load, reliably, into your trailer-not just
at home, but also in unfamiliar locations. You can't take your
horse camping if you can't get him there, and you don't want to
be stuck with a bad loader out at some lonely trailhead.

* Condition him to accept being hauled to new places and having
to do a job once he gets there. Your horse can't do this on his
own, so you have to commit to practice-traveling with him, on a
regular basis.
* Get him accustomed to drinking (and eating) when away from
home. Some horses don't have an issue with this, but others do.
If yours is finicky, he needs more travel seasoning before you
take him camping.

LIFE IN CAMP

* Rehearse your overnight stabling plan. Whether you intend to
picket your horse, put him in a portable electric corral, tie him
to a highline, or whatever else, get him thoroughly used to it at
home. It's no fun sleeping next to an anxious, pawing horse, or
trying to find a loose horse in the dark.
* Practice spending nights outside. This is especially important
for a horse that's used to being in a barn at night, and
unaccustomed to nighttime outdoor noises and lack of four secure
walls.
* Train your horse to accept being tied, and to accept hobbles.
These restraints are meant to keep you from losing your horse,
and when camping, even with corrals at hand, you never know when
you'll need them.
* Accustom your horse to tents, tarps, and other pieces of
camping gear. These can seem like "run for your life!"
horseeating monsters to the uninitiated equine.

ON THE TRAIL

* Teach your horse that water, in the natural world, is his
friend-not a booger. Typically, a site deemed suitable for horse
camping will be near or involve crossing some kind of natural
water source. You may need to water your horse from a pond or
creek, or have to get him from one side of a stream to the other
while out on the trail. Before you take him camping, get him as
much exposure as you can to water and the oozy, muddy footing
that often goes with it. 

Before you take him camping, condition your horse to accept
natural water sources as no big deal. If you can't get him to
approach and enter water without a fight, you may not have a way
to water him or to get him across a creek and on up the trail.

HORSE AND RIDER - OCTOBER 2011
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