If you're an avid trail rider, we?d guess the thought of an overnight ride has crossed your mind. And it should! The 20 years we?ve been at it have been adventurous and fun, but it's important to know what to expect before you travel to a site. Not all the trails are ?as advertised.?
One of the best sources to get started are the peer reviews you find at www.HorseTrailsDirectory.com. The reviews rate how difficult/easy the trails are, with comments on the camping/accommodations. When you read the reviews, look at the review dates.? If there are no reviews in the past year or so, that's a red flag. That place may have gone out of business.
Always call ahead to verify information. Websites are great, but may not be up-to-date. Always ask the park ranger or site manager, these questions to verify information:
- ?What arrangements are available for the horse overnight' Tying to a trailer, corrals, stall, or a highline (rope set high between two trees)'? Can you bring a portable corral'
- ?Is water available'? Electricity'
- ?What is the level of difficulty of the trails, or how experienced does your horse have to be' ? Do you recommend that the horse wear shoes'
- ?How close are gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants'
- ?Are hay, shavings or bedding available' Any regulations'
- ?What are the rules about manure management in the stabling area and on the trail'
- ?How close are the trails to the campsite' How do you get there'
- ?Are the trails open to horses only or also bicycles and pedestrians'? Are ATVs allowed'
- ?Are dogs allowed'? What are the regulations on trails' In camp'
- ?Are the trails marked' Is a take-along map available'
Private campgrounds always want to put their best foot forward in advertisements, so asking the right questions is important.? ?We called a campground that advertised ?easy access to the trails.? Well, the owner said it was a two-mile ride to the trails, with one mile on the shoulder of the road. That was not for us. Recently, we went camping at a campground that had been featured on ?Best of America by Horseback? television program.
We didn't do our usual extensive research because we thought we were well-informed by watching the program.? That was a mistake. ?Via e-mail, we were told there were corral panels available to rent.? We called and left a message saying we wanted to rent portable corrals for two horses.? When we arrived, there were no panels.? There was also no caretakers in camp (they were on vacation!). ?We didn't have our portable corral materials with us because we had counted on the corral panels.? We were able to improvise something, but it was a lesson.? The trails were also much more difficult than we had anticipated, based on the TV show. They were steep and slippery, and we had some hairy moments.
Later, at home, we looked up the campground on www.horsetraildirectory.com. The trail review comment was ?challenging.?? Lesson learned. Asking a live person the right questions in advance helps avoid uncomfortable situations.
MAPS AND DIRECTIONS. Don?t rely on your GPS for driving directions. The campground owners can usually provide easier directions for those pulling a trailer.
Consider this harrowing experience: We camped at a place where (as we sadly found out) the trails were not well marked.? We went for a ?short? ride in the late afternoon. Next thing we knew, the sun was setting, and we were lost on top of a mountain ridge.? According to the quadrangle map, there was a road below at the bottom of the mountain. ?So we rode straight down the mountainside, cross country. We found the road, but we were actually miles away from camp, with two horses, and dusk was quickly approaching.
My husband flagged down a motorist. That good Samaritan drove my husband back to the campground.? I held on to the horses and waited. My husband came back with the truck and trailer and we took the horses back to the campground.? It was dark by the time we got back to our camp.
COST. Cost varies widely and is directly related to the level of accommodations.? Primitive camping at state or national forests/parks is often free or at a nominal fee, like $3 a night.? Campgrounds that offer some amenities can run $15 per night per horse, with higher fees for a stall or corral. This is in addition to the camp-site fee.? Our usual cost is $85 a night for two stalls and a campsite with electricity and water.
Small, basic cabins are around $100 a night. Renting a deluxe home costs substantially more, but with multiple bedrooms the cost can be shared across several people.
ONCE YOU?RE THERE. Because you're riding in an unfamiliar place, you may want to carry a few things with you. Your cellular smart phone may not work for navigation, so You'll need a paper map for backup. A compass is wise and takes up little room.? We also carry a snack, drinking water, Kleenex, wire cutters and a small folding saw. In the summer, I carry a small can of bug spray.
BOTTOM LINE. The first time through might seem overwhelming, but it gets easier and You'll quickly become addicted. We always come back energized and refreshed. Our horses get a lot of exercise, and it's a relatively inexpensive vacation. More information at:?Trail Riding Logistics.
Article by Karen Havis, an avid trail rider. A dedicated dressage student, she has owned horses and ridden for 32 years.? Karen and her husband own a motley herd of seven horses, including an Oldenberg, two Saddlebreds, two Quarter Horses, and two rescue horses. They live on a beautiful farm with the horses, four cats, and their trusty dog in the hinterlands of North Carolina.?