When you're fortunate enough to horse-camp near a stream, bank an environmental pool. With a banked pool, you won't have to wander up and down the stream bank looking for a spot that's deep enough for him to drink from. And no more lugging buckets of water to your horse back at camp.
And the rock walls can make a perfect spot to sit on when washing laundry (use biodegradable soap) or cooling off your feet. A larger pool will also provide a swimming hole for your horse to cool off in.
Note: To build the pool, you'll need to wade into the water. Keep the sessions short so you don't get too cold; mountain streams can be bone-chilling. It might take up to two days to build the pool, depending on water temperature and pool depth.
Here's how to build an in-stream pool.
Step 1: Find a suitable area. Use the bank closest to camp that is in the sun, for warmth. Look for a spot that offers good footing and gently slopes down to the stream bank, for ease of entry. A gentle slope also will keep your horse from tearing up the ground as he enters and exits the pool. If possible, find an area with sand and rocks.
Step 2: Determine the size. For a "dipping pool" for your horse, build a pool at least 6-by-6 feet, so he can easily turn around and even lie down when taking a dip. A "sipping basin" can be about 2-by-2 feet.
Step 3: Keep the footing. Leave all the rocks on the shore along one side of the pool, so your horse can drink from the pool without getting his hooves wet; some horses just don't like water. Rocks nested together will provide solid footing; he'll drink more readily when he feels anchored than if he must balance on tipping rocks.
Step 4: Build the walls. Stack rocks from the inside of the pool to form the walls. Removing these rocks will also create depth. Build three sides of the pool about a foot high (higher for a deeper pool). Leave a 6-inch opening at the top for water to flow in, and a 12-inch opening at the bottom corner for water to flow out. During spring runoff, your banked pool won't obstruct creek flow.
Bonnie Davis, The Trail Rider's consulting editor, has been horse camping and trail riding for more than 45 years, and is a nationally recognized clinician. She owns Two Horse Enterprises (www.twohorseenterprises.com), which offers products and information geared to horse campers and trail riders. Find her blog, "Hoof Prints and Camp Smoke," on EquiSearch.com.