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||This is the
first in a series of horsecamping articles by Bonnie Davis
One of the first considerations when planning a
horsecamping trip is: Has the HORSE ever been camping? Owners of horses boarded, stabled,
pastured in highly populated areas should remember that the horse's environment is
urbanization. The animal is used to 18-wheelers, city buses, baby strollers on trails and
the trappings of city life. This equine is a 'city horse' and may never have seen a
rabbit, squirrel or night raiding raccoon.
The same holds true for the horse
boarded, stabled, pastured in the country. This animal is used to outdoor creatures --
deer, squirrels, raccoons, skunks. He may never have seen a baby stroller or a bike on a
trail and such contraptions can be just as terrifying to him as that raccoon to a city
For the barned, stalled or stabled horse, nights are usually the
spookiest. The barn horse lives in a stall with an overhead roof and walls around him.
Even with a paddock, the barn horse moves INSIDE the stall if he becomes frightened or
nervous. He seeks the security of his stall where he's fed, housed and sheltered.
Pastured horses aren't usually as
nervous as barn horses on camping trip simply because they're used to being OUTSIDE. They
may have two- or three-sided pasture shelters. And they may even share the pasture with
other horses. But being outside at night is nothing new for them. Pastured and outdoor
paddocked horses are more used to open sky, night sounds and flying creatures such as owls
and bats than are barned horses.
To help a horse overcome some of his camping
anxiety, plan a 'camping trip' in his own barnyard. For the inside horse, put him into an
outside corral or paddock where he can't get hurt. Turn him in early in the day so he can
inspect the area and get a feel for the 'country' both inside and outside the corral
fence. Feed and water him there for a couple days if possible.
The first night he'll usually spend
on his feet pacing the fence and wondering why he's been forgotten out there with all
those night terrors around. The second night he'll be more relaxed. One can even 'camp'
along side the corral to get an idea of all the noise a horse naturally makes at night
plus providing some verbal assurance for the horse even if its only snoring. One will know
when the inside horse has accepted the outdoor life -- the animal will begin to lie down
in real dirt.
For the outdoor horse, move him into
the barnyard and turn him into a small corral or paddock. He won't be as nervous but he
will be concerned about losing all his pasture space -- and maybe his pasture buddies.
Horses will suffer some degree of
stress on a camping trip and when placed into that new environment. What degree of stress
and reaction will vary among horses. Once you know what to expect from your horse -- and
the horse knows what is expected of him -- both his and your camping trip will be easier,
happier, more enjoyable and a lot less stressful!!
Bonnie Davis (www.extendinc.com/twohorse) is a free lance
writer, horsecamping/trail riding advocate and BAEN Member with over 30 years of
experience. Her stories, articles, and columns have been published in foreign,
international, national, regional, and local publications such as Western Horseman,
Paint Horse Journal, Horse & Horseman, Quarter Horse Journal, Western Side
(Italy), Cascade Horseman, California Horse Review, Performance Horse Review, and San
Jose Mercury News. Meet Bonnie in person at Horsexpo in June '99.
© 1999 Bonnie Davis and The Bay Area Equestrian Network. The above article is
the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without