Leaves are sprouting, birds are chirping, and your horses are itching to get away from the stables. It’s the perfect time to plan a camping trip with your horses! Camping might mean a weekend at a spring horse show or it might be a few days of riding the trails at a gorgeous national park. Regardless of where you go, here are some tips to make sure that your camping experience is safe and enjoyable.
Tip #1: Park in the Right Place
Camping with your horses can be a lot of fun, but make sure you are parked in a safe location. Photo Credit
First things first! Once you reach your camping destination, you are going to want to situate your rig in a safe parking location so that you can use the trailer all weekend. Look for a location on level ground without any hazards like tree limbs or banks that could endanger your horses. Avoid low hanging branches that would rest on the top of the trailer because wet leaves can stain your roof over time.
Consider buying a lock for your hitch if you plan to spend all day away from the trailer. Finally, position the electrical hook-ups for your hitch so that the plug is hanging down. This way, rainwater doesn’t collect in the female plug component and cause damage.
Tip #2: Know When It’s Okay to Unhitch
What happens if you arrive at your camping location and need to use the truck separately? It is important that you understand when it is and isn’t safe to unhitch your trailer if you plan to continue using it while the truck is away.
The good news…if you have a gooseneck trailer, you should be able to safely load or unload your horses from an unhitched trailer. This can be handy if you have a large trailer where the horses can use the interior as a stall during a long day of showing.
The bad news… If you have a bumper pull trailer, it is not always safe to unhitch your trailer for continued use. Brad Heath, owner and chief designer at Double D Trailers cautioned, “On a bumper pull, it depends on the locations of the axles and empty tongue weight. It’s possible to have negative tongue weight so that the front end of the trailer can rise up.”
For example, if the empty tongue weight on a trailer is only 400 lbs and you put more than 400 lbs on the back end of the trailer, then your trailer has suddenly turned into a see-saw and the front end is going to start rising off of the ground!
Learn more about the tongue weight in our Double D Trailers article.
Tip #3: Always Chock Your Trailer
Chocking your trailer correctly is an important step to make sure you trailer doesn’t slowly roll away in the middle of your weekend. Make sure you always have at least one wheel chock for your trailer. Two is ideal. Brad personally likes just using standard wheel chocks.
He laughed, “We use these at our loading docks with eighteen-wheelers for loading and unloading freights. If it will hold those heavy trucks with forklifts hauling thousands of pounds in and out, it's safe for a horse trailer!”
Standard wheel chocks. Photo credit
Tip #4: Find a Quiet Generator and Check Your Tanks
Now this next tip certainly depends on how much your plan to ‘rough’ it during your trip. Some people consider camping a purely rustic adventure with fire cooked meals, and open air sleeping quarters. Others prefer to have an air-conditioned retreat with running water and refrigerated beverages.
If you belong to the first group of adventurous souls, then you can disregard this tip. For the rest of us, here’s what you need to know about batteries, tanks, and generators.
In a living quarters horse trailer, most of your amenities will function using a 12V battery or your stored propane tanks. This includes the hot water heater, refrigerator, cook top, water pump, and interior lighting. Make sure your battery is charged and your tank is full. You should be good to go.
If you plan on using air conditioning and television during your rustic vacation, then you will need to step things up a notch and find an electricity generator. These items require a 110 V electrical source and would quickly drain your on-board battery. A solar panel is another option if your prefer to avoid a noisy generator (assuming you are parked in a sunny spot.)
A good generator can be tricky to find. Brad shared, “If using a generator I always recommend RV generators as they are much quieter and fuel efficient than say a ‘Briggs and Stratton" from Lowe’s or Home Depot.” RV generators do cost a lot more, but they are well worth their dollars.
Remember that many organized campsites have a noise policy after 9:00 PM, so you would be required to shut down a loud model generator. Brad shared a solution, “One of my favorite portable generators for camping is the Honda EU3000IS Super Quiet. You simply can't go wrong with those!”
A final note on tanks for your rig…remember that your sewage tank is not like Mary Poppin’s magical bag. It is not endless and will need to be emptied eventually. Don’t forget to make a quick stop at the truck stop or RV dump station to empty your tank after a camping trip.
Tip #5: Use a Cowboy Shower!
Now that we’ve provided some tips for those of you with super luxurious living quarters horse trailers (Yes, we’re jealous!), let’s take a look at a cool option for those of you with a more rustic approach to camping.
If you are not near a campground bathhouse or a natural creek, you are going to need a way to wash off some of the day’s sweat and grime. A ‘Cowboy Shower’ is a creative option that allows you to shower inside the horse area of your trailer.
A Cowboy (or Cowgirl) Shower is situated in the front stall of your horse trailer and can be accessed by an interior door that leads up into the living quarters or changing room area. Oftentimes, this front stall area is used for storage rather than horses so it makes sense to install the ability to shower there. You’ll have privacy from outsider peepers.
Brad shared some of the benefits. “This type of shower is inexpensive to install, and takes up zero amount of valuable space inside the front living quarters. By using less space, you can keep the overall wheelbase of your trailer layout shorter making it easier to tow, have less weight, and be less expensive.”
Even if you do haul horses in the front stall, many folks will clean out the horse area on arrival so they end up with one large living quarter trailer. They can utilize the horse space for shower, storage, portable toilet, and sleeping. A Cowboy Shower is available on Double D Trailers, so be sure to contact Brad if you’re interested in learning more.
Tip #6: Secure Your Horses for the Overnight
Now that we’ve kicked the horses out of the trailer, used their area for a shower stall, and hooked up our air conditioning, it’s time we devote a bit of energy to making sure they are comfortable for the weekend away.
Some campgrounds or show grounds may have stalls and barns available for overnight rental. In this case, make sure that your horses are up-to-date on their vaccines and coggins paperwork as this may be a requirement for use.
If you decide to tie your horses to the side of the trailer, make sure you watch them carefully. This is not the safest option because horses have a natural instinct to pull back when they are panicked and can cause injury to themselves or others when startled.
Be sure to untack your horses, stow their gear and safely secure them for the overnight hours. It is not recommended that you tie them to the trailer all night long. Instead, consider a portable corral or picket line. Photo Credit
Some people solve this problem by using bungee ties, but this can be even worse. Once stretched, a broken bungee will spring back to cause serious injury to your horse, the neighboring horse, or a human standing close by.
Brad shared, “I’d be happy if tying horses to the side of a trailer never happened. Regardless of how many safety features we implement on the tires, fenders, axles, door hinges, latches, and windows, components on a trailer often aren’t horse safe or horse proof.” He suggests some solutions like a High Tie or Tie Right that get the horse further away from the trailer.
An even better option would be to pack along portable corral panels. Brad said, “One of our clients installed these on her trailer and I have been impressed with the versatility. It is light weight and telescoping to minimize the amount of space required for carrying.”
This image shows where the corral panels can be secured to the side of your trailer for transport.
A final option would be to picket your horses using ropes and trees. Make sure that you are using 1/2-inch diameter cotton rope and know how to do make the correct knots to secure your horses. Here is a helpful article we found on the topic.
Tip #7: Don’t Buy a Bumper Pull with ‘Living Quarters'
Our final camping tip is really more of a shopping tip. If you are looking for a living quarters horse trailer to use for camping or weekend show trips, make sure you are looking at gooseneck designs. A trailer with living quarters is defined as one with a bathroom toilet, sleeping surfaces, and cooking facilities. These features are going to increase the total weight of your rig and it’s important that you have a towing set-up that can handle the load.
If these living quarters are situated in a bumper pull horse trailer, you may not be safe hauling this load on the road. Brad explained, “There are manufacturers building bumper pull trailers with living quarters. There are also a number of owners towing these with inadequate tow vehicles. It is an accident waiting to happen!”
Learn more about how to determine if you are hauling a safe load in our Double D Trailers article.
Camping with your horses can be a lot of fun. It can also be a lot to manage, so make sure you use these tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time. Happy trails!
Questions: What other camping tips can you share? Do you have any favorite places to visit?