Back Country Horsemen

Trailhead Camping

By: Ken Carmichael

I drafted this article in my head as I had a great ride on the BLM Escure property roughly 25 miles south of I-90 at Sprague Exit 245. What a wonderful way to spend a holiday. It also got me thinking about what we need to do for trailhead camping with our horses.

Trailhead camping is not difficult and does not take a great deal of equipment. You can leave the big rigs at home and go very light. Sleep in the back of the horse trailer, use a sun shower and cook one pot meals on a gas stove. I believe in spending the time in the saddle. This greatly expands the locations you can ride. 

A bigger factor is how to care for the horse in camp. At Escure we have 10 corrals and highlines for 6 horses. There are no trees for highlining. Some people use temporary electric fences if there is room, and it does not interfere with other campers. The last resort for me is to tie to the trailer. It is the least comfortable for the horses. Never tie to a tree for long periods of time because of damage to the trees. Whatever you do, please train the horse at home first. 

A major factor is removal of manure and old, uneaten hay. First choice, for a short stay, is to put it in the back of the trailer and haul it home. Another is to adequately scatter it in an open field. This can be very limited in heavily used campgrounds. Feeding with a hay bay of some sort and keeping the hay and manure cleaned up will greatly reduce the wasted hay. 

The thing to never do is leave the manure and hay in the corral, or highline area. This is what we found at Escure. With 8 brand new corrals someone left 4 of them full of hay and manure. It took over six wheelbarrow loads to clean them out. There is no excuse for this. Back Country Horsemen built a manure bunker, donated a wheelbarrow and manure fork. It can only be chalked up to being inconsiderate, lazy and selfish. Do these people want to come into a camp and find this mess?

The same holds true at day-use trailheads. Pick up the manure, and put it in the trailer. If you do not carry a manure fork, then buy one. 

You may be offended by the content or tone taken here but I do not apologize. Many people work extremely hard to keep our trails open for responsible horsemen. People who do not use common sense should be called out. If you know someone like this, please educate them before we all lose the privilege to ride on public land. 

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