Equestrian camping is, quite simply, camping with horses. If your mind immediately leaps to an old US Western film with a cowboy on a horse, being trailed by a pack animal, you wouldn’t be entirely incorrect.
But the modern equestrian camper is likely to bring his horse to the trailhead in a horse trailer, possibly towed by an SUV.
The equestrian camper and his or her horses might stay in a rental lot that has hookups for all the amenities, and spend a portion of their days enjoying trails made especially for horseback riding and exploring.
What Does Equestrian Mean?
The most commonly used modern meaning of equestrian is anything having to do with horses. Therefore, “equestrian camping” means camping with horses.
What is an Equestrian?
Equestrian can also mean a person who rides horses. Therefore, “a notable equestrian” could be a well-known or famous horseman or horsewoman.
This meaning is somewhat separate from the term “jockey” which refers to a person who rides horses in competitive races. A jockey might be an equestrian, but not all equestrians are jockeys.
Equestrian also has a historical meaning. In Ancient Rome, the army officers and members of the ruling houses might ride a horse into battle.
Therefore “equestrian” became a title for certain members of the ruling Romans and eventually became a party, somewhat like Republicans and Democrats in the US today. The opposing Roman party was the Plebeians.
Equestrian campgrounds are, quite simply, places where you can camp with your horse or horses.
They can be found all over the United States, and they range in quality from posh motorhome campsites to primitive campgrounds where you can “rough it.”
If you don’t own a horse, but would like to experience equestrian camping, there are even equestrian campgrounds that maintain horsemanship schools (or schools/boarding stables that host this type of camping.)
They are a good way to learn about riding, horses, and equestrian camping without going to the expense of purchasing and maintaining a horse throughout the year.
Before You Go Equestrian Camping
While this type of camping can enable going much farther from the madding crowds that you can hike on your own two feet and can enable bringing more gear than you can pack on your own back, you’re also taking on the responsibility for the care and behavior of another living being. Therefore, there are some things you should know before heading out on your own.
Of course, if you are going with a group, especially one sponsored by a riding school, you might not have to take full responsibility for all of these things.
With these thoughts in mind, here are some things you should know before you and your trusty steed ride off into the sunset:
1. Both your horse and you should have medical check-ups. It is no fun to be miles away from civilization and need medical attention. You should have a first aid kit that includes emergency care items for your horse as well as for you.
2. You’ll need a saddle, bridle, horse blanket, grooming tools, and perhaps even climate protection for your horse. You also need your steed’s accustomed food. Since your horse will be doing a lot of work, he or she will need good food.
3. You might want panniers or saddlebags. Your horse will need to be trained to carry them.
4. You will need food and shelter for yourself, as well as for your horse.
5. You need to be prepared to pack back out all your trash, and that includes horse droppings. And you thought cleaning up after walking a dog was a chore!
6. You need to know all the particulars of feeding, grooming, checking hooves, and so on that go with having a horse. If you are traveling with a guided group, there might be a groom to do this. If you are part of a class that is learning, this might be part of the curriculum.
7. You will need to stick to approved riding trails, in most cases. This has the added advantage of the trails being safe for your horse.
8. Out of courtesy to your horse, you will need to plan rest and freedom times for your horse. This is where stopping at places that have paddocks as well as stalls is a good idea.
9. Keep your horse’s normal habits in mind when planning your trip. If your equine is used to a quiet life in a barn with perhaps an attached pasture, look for campgrounds that will allow a couple of hours of riding, followed by relaxation in a comfortable trailer or pasture.
10. Establish a friendly relationship with your steed. If you’re planning a long trip, he or she might be your lifeline.
How Challenging is Equestrian Camping?
Equestrian camping can be as fancy or as rugged as you like. There are even travel trailers that combine a comfortable air-conditioned stall for your steed, as well as a just-like-home compartment for you.
A state-of-the-art traveling stable for your steed can be combined with a top-of-the-line “glamping” tent for you.
If you like the idea of heading off into the wild but don’t want to be burdened with a pack animal, there are companies that will pack up your camp, move it to the next campsite, while you and your horse enjoy approved riding trails.
Or you really can emulate those cowboys of the Old West, and travel approved trails with your tent and bedroll strapped behind your saddle, your spare gear packed in saddlebags that fit across your horse’s back.
Just remember that your horse and his or her likes or dislikes are a big part of the equation.
A long riding journey can be a challenge for your horse since your equine will be doing a lot of the hard work of traveling.
Proper water, food, and shelter for your steed will be an important part of your journey.