Submitted by Lisa Morris, Team Easyboot 2015 Member and Hoof Care Practitioner
My favorite recreation is riding, and my very favorite riding includes a camping trip with my friends and horses. Sometimes that involves a Ride Camp in a competition situation. Over the years, my horse camping has evolved and improved. I began a long time ago with a tent and stock trailer pulled by the family Suburban. My horse would either get tied to the trailer all night or I would build an electric pen. I got tired of rough camping in the elements and having an occasional loose horse. Sometimes my horse would jump out of his electric pen, or a neighbors horse would get loose and run through MY pen, causing equine chaos. If my horse was blanketed, he figured out that he wouldn't get shocked by the electric pen and would just walk through it! My riding buddy got a "portable pen" but her horse got tangled in it when he rolled and took the pen with him when he ran off. That was a wreck! Some of my friends carry heavy steel pipe panels on their trailer to build stalls at camp. It's effective, but they are so heavy and cumbersome to set up and break down. A few years ago I finally saved enough and upgraded to small-ish 3 horse living quarters trailer. My sleeping situation was vastly improved (AC! Hot shower!) but my horse was still jumping out of his electric pen when he would have random, late night wanderlust.
River Run AERC Ride Camp - How would you safely contain your horse?
I purchased HiTies from EasyCare for my trailer and my horse containment issues have been resolved! The HiTie is pretty easy to install, just two holes need to be drilled through the frame of the trailer and it is bolted on with included hardware. The hardest part for me was finding the frame in my triple walled, insulated aluminum trailer. The HiTie was installed at the highest point of the frame where the uprights meet the ceiling frame. They can be installed to fold downwards or to the left, or right. Take some time to look at your trailer windows and layout to figure out where to install it. Do you want it on the living quarters door side or on the back side? If you use a canopy will it be in the way? Where will you install rings for your buckets and hay bags? How close can you install your HiTies so the horses can't reach each other? I found the EasyCare HiTie Installation Video very helpful in this process.
This is how the HiTie is rigged, except I started using the bullsnap instead of the bolt snap shown. Note the panic tie ring at the HiTie end.
Once my HiTies were installed, I had to figure out how I wanted to rig the horses to the trailer. I have successfully used a large carabineer attached to a safety tie ring. You want some type of quick release system in case your horse, acts like a horse and gets himself in trouble. I also use a thick, soft cotton lead rope on my rigging so if a horse gets a leg over the rope it is not likely to cause burns or abrasions. I changed from a bolt snap, to a bull snap because my horse figured out how to open the bolt snap by rubbing it on his buckets. They have not escaped since! EasyCare also offers a Bungee system for securing your horse.
Say "yes" to the bull snap.
I suggest letting the rope hang down and having the bull snap about 6" off the ground. That give the horses a chance to graze and roll if they like. They have a lot more room in this set up than they did in my little electric pens. I leave the rigging "set" to the correct length and I do not use the ropes for any other purpose. It's easy to grab them out of my tack room and clip them on the HiTie. I usually do that before I unload my horses. I slit pool noodles lengthwise and used them to cover the fiberglass arm. This lessons any vibration against the trailer finish and protects the arm from UV damage.
Once my horses are rigged to the trailer, all I have to do is hang my hay bags and water buckets. I have the horse water on the hay rack of the trailer to make filling buckets easy. The hose is attached to the ladder with zip ties and I can use it to fill the tank from the ground or fill buckets. I like to use EasyCare Stowaway Hay Bags to carry my hay to camp. At home I pack the individual hay bags so that I don't have to deal with it when I am busy camping. How many hay bags will the horse eat on this trip? I usually pack more than I think I will need.
I usually haul two horses for my daughter and I, so we fabricated a stud wall to store hay in the first stall of my trailer.
Stud wall for first stall hay and camping stuff storage.
If I am going on an extended trip, I use the EasyCare Stowaway Bags to keep hay in the bed of my truck and/or on the roof rack. I have driven through some nasty storms and my hay remained dry. With these products and preparation, it takes me literally five minutes to have my horse camp set up and the horses settled while others are wrestling with other containment systems.
I used to use halters to secure my horses, but I have recently switched to biothane horse collars. There is less chance of a horse getting "hung up" on a halter, and they can roll a little easier as the collar just moves around the neck as the horse rolls. I add an engraved dog tag with my contact info to the collars in case my horse manages to get loose. Braiding an ID tag into the mane is also effective. I do prepare my horses at home to have safe and fun camping trips. Just like training your horse to be a great trail partner, it is worthwhile to train your horse to camp at home. I look for every opportunity to let them hang out on their HiTies so they automatically consider it "home base" and are at complete ease. Using slow feed nets and keeping hay in front of them helps keep their gut functioning and their minds occupied. Horses can be very stressed if they don't know what to expect at a busy Ride Camp. I suggest letting your horses hang out tied either on the HiTie at home, and/or on a safe overhead tie.
I like to tie my horses up after they have been worked. I will offer them water frequently and will make sure they are in the shade while they are resting. I do not untie them if they are having a temper tantrum (IE pawing, pacing in circles, calling to other horses) until they are totally bored and half asleep. I do that routinely at home and they are quieter tied in camp because we practiced first. Practicing standing tied is wonderful for developing patience, especially in young horses. Eventually, when you tie them up, they cock a foot and fall asleep. At this point, your horse is probably trained and ready to go camping. If you want to use a horse collar, try it out at home first after they are really good at tying quietly. I lunged my horse with a collar so they got used to the collar restraint. I also kept the halter on for the first few hours but attached the rigging to the collar. After they were ok for a few hours using the collar restraint, I trusted the horses to remove the halter and use the collar only. Proper preparation is key!
I start overhead tying young horses under supervision, so they can eventually become safe camping and riding partners. Always tie horses above the height of the withers. Proper preparation begins at home!
If there is a chance that the rope can get under your saddle with an overhead tie, remove it and tie directly to your trailer until it is time to ride out or untack. If your horse paws on the HiTie, and you are worried about your trailer wheels, a piece of plywood can be cut to cover to the wheels in camp. Look critically at your camp and try to think of any stupid thing the horses can try to hurt themselves. Do you use a HiTie to camp with your horses? What safety suggestions do you offer? I am grateful that EasyCare has developed products to make riding and camping with horses a pleasure.
Camp was broken in minutes and another fun weekend with our horses is now a memory. Thanks EasyCare!