All the Extras
By Lora Goerlich
Recreational trail riding frequently involves trailering. And just like everything else that is part of the equestrian lifestyle, trailering to riding destinations requires extra money, time, knowledge, planning, and extra stuff. Whether it's a day trip, a close to home overnight or long-haul destination trip, planning and organizing the extras is absolutely necessary. When horses are involved it’s far better to be over-prepared than to find yourself in dire straits – without.
Day Trips – Long and Short Rides. Even short day trips require extra things and planning. Items I keep in my trailer that have proven useful on more than one occasion include: horse and human insect repellent and bug netting; horse
and human first aid supplies; lead ropes, halters, paper maps, tack including girths, bridles and reins; 5-gallon bucket of freshwater, crop and training stick, lunge line, helmet, leather gloves, rain gear, grooming tools, notebook, pen, heavy duty scissors and/or folding pocket knife, and last but not least, a manure fork. Keeping items in the trailer reduces the risk of leaving them behind from constant shuttling back and forth. My personal preference is to add a hay bag with fresh hay for the drive plus before and after riding.
On the trail – for short rides of less than two hours, in areas that I am familiar with, I typically pack a water bottle, cotton bandana, smoosh proof snacks for me and my mount, (bear spray in certain areas), a pocket knife with a seat belt cutter, reading glasses/sunglasses, a waterproof, shockproof, dirt proof digital camera in a pommel bag or clipped to the saddle; although I prefer the ease of sharing photos and videos straight from a cell phone, I don’t want to risk dropping it each time I take it out. Remember to ALWAYS carry a cell phone somewhere on your body. If you find yourself on the ground as your horse is wildly fleeing the area, you don't want a phone attached to the saddle or in a saddle bag.
For longer rides of two hours or more, in familiar or unfamiliar areas, fortifying “short ride” supplies is important. When arranged properly, the following essentials fit neatly on a saddle and inside saddlebags, cantle bags or a pommel bag. Baby wipes, microfiber cloth, sunscreen, lip balm, compass on a carabineer, extra carabineers, gear ties, a long heavy duty lead rope, a light weight rain poncho for warm weather or heavier weight canvas duck poncho for cooler weather, paper maps, compact insect repellent spray, pain relievers just in case the pre-ride dose wears off, antihistamine, a compact folding shovel, zipper sealed bag, hand pruners, rescue/emergency whistle, hoof pick and a GPS tracker.
Overnight Primitive Camping – Primitive camping isn’t for everyone, since it typically means no electric, running water or gas-powered generators. I would argue that there is a bit more planning involved compared to camping with a living quarter trailer that has full hookups. There are budget friendly, uncomplicated ways to make enjoyable accommodations, even on extended trips. Before deciding to stuff a low-profile cot into the roughly 20 square foot dressing room of my bumper pull trailer, I experimented with a two other sleeping options: a tent cot and a one-person ground tent. I found both to be comfortable; however, getting up from the ground isn’t as easy as it used to be, and fumbling with zipper doors at night is cumbersome and noisy. A cot in the trailer has proven to be the best option so far. It keeps me in close proximity to my chamber bucket; I stay high and dry during inclement weather; there’s additional storage under the cot, and… there are fewer “things” to organize, pack, set up, tear down, clean, then pack up again. The cot stays set up in my tack/dressing room throughout the year covered with a fitted sheet to keep the bedding horsehair and dirt free.
Solar power - is an efficient, low-cost way to incorporate power. My three favorite solar must haves are a battery charger, solar/crank weather alert radio, and a flashlight. I know a horse trailer conversion genius (Holli Jacobs), who retrofitted her horse trailer with a solar bank capable of powering a small refrigerator!
Food creativity and simplicity – a few years ago I began experimenting with the idea of a “No Cook Camp”. Some of the staples I lean on are precooked bacon, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables, jerky, nuts, nut butters, honey, dates, high end instant coffee, or I'll brew at home, freeze then drink as cold brew; overnight oatmeal, olives, hard cheese, summer sausage, artisan breads (and butter) plus other various snacks and beverages. I also pack a sauce pan, metal serving spoon, thermal mug and a single or double burner fuel stove in case I need to heat water or warm a pre-made, one-pot meal that I freeze in pint sized freezer bags beforehand. Using recycled paper products ensures dish washing and garbage are kept to a bare minimum.
Comfy camp – things that fold make it possible to take more extras! A wagon, manure cart, collapsible buckets, reclining or oversized chair, a foot stool and side table definitely make camp more comfortable and functional. Cool weather camping has benefits too, no bugs and no hot sweaty days and nights. It’s my favorite time to enjoy camping. I've stayed comfortable in nighttime temperatures down to 20°f with proper clothing and bedding.
Long Haul Destination Trips – In addition to everything already listed, water availability, water storage, horse accommodations and communication options must be projected because not every destination offers water. Some facilities that do have water might require a generator to operate a well pump. Water, forage, feed/grain and supplement rations must be calculated beforehand. Keeping in touch and on track in areas with no cellular service is possible with satellite message communication devices and handheld GPS units. There are units available that offer both services. That means one less “thing” to pack.
Road Things – Being stranded on the roadside with horses is dangerous not to mention stressful. Put together a tote containing high visibility vests, traffic cones or folding triangles, a tire aid to lift a bad tire off the ground, wheel chocks, a metal breaker bar (just in case), emergency contacts, and tire iron. These items are important for safety and repairs or while waiting for roadside assistance. Adding a tool bag with bolt cutters, a pry bar, mini sledgehammer and various wrenches, screw drivers and other hand tools may also prove to be beneficial.
*Ford owners… certain car and truck models have a lug nut recall. The lugs in question were coated with aluminum that can cause swelling and delamination making it nearly impossible to remove and change out a flat tire because the lug wrench will not fit over the caps* – we learned this the hard way.
Trail riding is an event requiring a considerable amount of pre-planning, organization, storage space and extras. Being ill prepared for riding or traveling with horses is trouble in the making. Putting forth the extra effort is worth it on every level.
Originally published in Horse Trails of America September 2023 "The Trail Journal."