Equestrian camping, also known as “primitive camping,” allows horse enthusiasts to ride scenic trails during the day and camp overnight with their equine companions. This unique outdoor experience offers riders the chance to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy extended adventures with their horses. Keep reading to learn all about equestrian campsites, packing lists, trail riding tips, and more.
What is Equestrian Camping?
Equestrian camping involves loading up your horse trailer and heading out to public parks, private campgrounds, state forests, beach areas, and other locations that provide horse campsites. These designated campgrounds have amenities for both human and horse campers, including:
- Horse-friendly campsites with hitching posts or tie lines
- Trails leading in and out of camp
- Stock tanks for watering horses
- Manure disposal areas
- Parking for trucks and trailers
Unlike car camping, where you simply pull into a campsite, park, and set up, equestrian camping requires much more preparation and equipment. Riders need to haul horses, saddles, feed, and all the other essentials necessary for camping with horses.
The main draw of equestrian camping is the opportunity to experience long trail rides during the day and return back to camp in the evening to relax around the campfire with your equine partner. Riders can enjoy cooking out under the stars, sleeping in tents or horse trailers, and taking multi-day trips through gorgeous natural areas only accessible on horseback.
Where Can You Find Wild Horses in the United States?
The highlight of many equestrian camping trips is spotting wild horses roaming free in their natural habitats. Some locations where you can see wild horses in the U.S. include:
- Assateague Island - This barrier island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia is home to around 100 free-roaming wild horses. Visitors can see the horses wandering the beach and swimming in the ocean.
- Cumberland Island - Off the coast of Georgia, around 150 feral horses inhabit this secluded barrier island. Accessible only by boat, the island provides many opportunities for horse sightings.
- Corolla, North Carolina - A herd of about 100 Spanish mustangs lives among the Currituck Outer Banks on the northernmost tip of the Carolinas.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota - This park has three different herds, totaling between 125-150 horses. Visitors might spot horses grazing on the badlands.
- Pryor Mountains, Montana - This mountain habitat has a band of about 160 free-roaming mustangs. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range offers excellent wild horse viewing.
So load up your truck and horse trailer to set out on an equestrian camping adventure that may allow you to see wild horses roaming free!
Also Read: How much does equestrian cost?
What to Look for in an Equestrian Campground
When selecting an equestrian campground, look for a facility that caters specifically to horse camping by providing amenities like:
- Large campsites that accommodate trailers and trucks
- Hitching posts - Look for sturdy, well-installed posts placed within the campsites
- Tie lines - Ropes tied between trees to tether horses securely overnight
- Manure disposal - Campgrounds should designate areas to dump manure
- Water sources - Troughs, tanks, or faucets to fill water buckets for horses
- Trails - Direct trail access from campsites is ideal
- Group sites - For camping with 6+ horses. Offers more space.
- Horse wash areas - Stations to wash off sweaty horses after a ride
- Arena - On-site area for riding within camp on off-days
Search campground websites thoroughly and call ahead to verify amenities. Some state park campgrounds or private facilities are not equipped for horses despite being advertised as “equestrian-friendly.” Make sure the campground can truly accommodate you and your horse’s needs before booking.
Equestrian Camping Gear & Packing Lists
To fully enjoy equestrian camping, riders need to haul a full complement of horse gear and camping equipment. While regular car camping necessities like tents, sleeping bags, cookware, and coolers apply to equestrian trips, you also need ample horse supplies:
Horse Gear & Supplies
- Saddles, bridles, saddle pads
- Grooming kit - brushes, combs, hoof pick
- Leather care - saddle soap, conditioner
- Fly spray, sunscreen, bug repellent
- Lead ropes, halters
- Portable corrals or electric fencing
- First aid kit - wraps, medications
- Hay, feed tubs & buckets
- Horse trailer - Dressing room, tack area
- Camp stove, grill, pots & pans
- Plates, utensils, cups, dish bin
- Cooler for drinks & food storage
- Folding chairs, camp table
- Battery powered lantern
- Firewood, matches, campfire pit
- Trash bags
- Portable shower station
Print out packing checklists to avoid forgetting important items. Check all trailer lights and connections prior to departure. Ensure trucks and trailers are in good working order to handle mountainous terrain.
Tips for Equestrian Trail Riding & Camping
Follow these tips for safe, successful horse camping adventures:
- Haul more feed than needed - Always better to have leftovers
- Bring extra water - At least 15 gallons per horse
- Make sure horses are shod for rugged, mountainous trails
- Check trail maps & conditions prior to arriving
- Apply fly repellent, masks, boots for insect protection
- Start each ride refreshed and well-fed
- Watch for signs of dehydration or lameness in horses
- Take rest breaks every few hours - Rotate horses if in group
- Abide by any trail number or use limitations
- Rotate between gaiting and walking to condition horses
- Practice “Leave No Trace” principles on trails and in camp
By using these trail riding and camping tips, equestrians can safely embark on multi-day adventures in the backcountry with their horses. Enjoy the experience but exercise caution and care for your horses’ well-being at all times.
Frequently Asked Questions About Equestrian Camping
What vaccinations or health papers do my horses need for camping trips?
Horses typically need proof of a current Coggins test, health certificate from a vet, and up-to-date immunizations like equine influenza, tetanus, rabies, and rhino pneumonitis vaccines. Requirements vary by location, so check with the parks or campgrounds you’ll be visiting.
Can I bring dogs or other pets horse camping?
Some equestrian campgrounds allow leashed dogs, but pet policies vary. Contact the campground ahead of time to verify their specific pet rules. Dogs must remain leashed and under control at all times. Be mindful of dogs startling horses on narrow trails.
What type of tow vehicle do I need for hauling horses?
You'll need a truck with the appropriate tow rating to safely haul a loaded horse trailer. Two-horse trailers generally require a half-ton truck. For larger three or four-horse trailers, a heavy-duty three-quarter or one-ton truck is recommended.
Where can I camp with horses other than established campgrounds?
Dispersed camping on certain public lands like National Forests and BLM land can allow equestrian camping outside of designated campgrounds. Check local regulations and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Can I bring stallions camping or do all horses need to be geldings/mares?
Most campgrounds prohibit stallions for safety reasons. Geldings and mares are better suited for group camping. Always verify horse gender policies when booking sites.
Enjoy an Equestrian Adventure Away from It All
Equestrian camping opens up a whole new world of scenic trail riding, stargazing by the campfire, and extended adventures with your equine partner. With proper preparation and packing, these horse camping trips provide endless opportunities to ride out in search of wide open spaces. So saddle up and get ready to ride off into the sunset on your next equestrian camping experience!