Five Steps of Preparation for Your Backcountry Riding Vacation

Friends, all I can say is that I have seen some wonderful country from the back of a horse! 

It’s a little different with a horse, they are doing the work for you, while you have the advantage of this perch to look around on.  While hiking, you are likely looking down and don’t have the elevated view!

  I spent twenty years riding and camping with my horse.  These are processes that have worked for me. My most recent trip was in 2012, after which my daughter, about nine years old at the time, wanted my company for vacations (!), and many areas, routes and destinations, were burning with rampant forest fires.  So I set it aside for a while.  I’ve kept track of favorite riding areas, and new ideas put out by folks gaining experience!  Hopefully, this will springboard you into researching your own ideas and what might work for you!

Where to Go?

This should be determined by the level of condition and trail experience of your horse, and of your riding buddies going with you.  In the old days, it was the folks who would commit to keeping their rig tuned and ready in good repair, and a consistent conditioning and exposure program for their horses.  Having dabbled in endurance riding for five years, I’d condition as if for a twenty five mile ride, and then I could be quite confident that I could go on my trip and not worry about my horse.

Lake basins are great places to visit.  Great views and moderate terrain that everyone can enjoy.  Diamond Peak Wilderness in south central Oregon is a good one.  Traveling through Crater Lake National Park, is wonderful.  Mt Adams is a repeat favorite, both from Mt. Adams Horse Camp and Keenes Horse Camp.  Author Kim McCarrel writes trail books that encompass many areas of Oregon and Washington.  She covers many areas I have ridden and her information is reliable.  Her website is http://nwhorsetrails.com/

Facebook site Holly’s Horse Tales and Trails is also good information on areas of Central Oregon that I have camped and ridden.  Her blog brings back many happy memories!

The Open Trail Project is a great site with a Facebook site as well, for an archive of national horse trails, and handy record keeping tools.  Check it out here:

http://www.opentrail.us

We Are Trail Riders is another .com and Facebook resource for the rider with national riding sites.  Check it out here:

https://www.wearetrailriders.com/

These resources will help with map selection and other land management resources.  I always used Green Trail Maps and checked with the Forest Service on trail conditions and closures.  Map stores are also great resources, Bend Mapping and Blueprint in Bend, Oregon, is a great resource for trails outside the Diamond Peak Wilderness area, which are every bit as nice to ride as those within the wilderness boundaries!

We all started out with camping in our horse trailers!  Over the years, we all managed to upgrade to some form of camper ( I had a pop-up for seven years), and while it afforded lots of comfort, what it really did was organize us!  It’s really nice to not have to set up camp when we arrived!  And it was really nice to have a sense of organization so we could concentrate on riding!  Not to mention sleeping with a warm face if you want to use the heater!

I found that year after year, August was a good time to travel the backcountry.  Late snow melt was generally gone, and bugs are scarce!  No issues with wasps or bees, and the no-see-ems are most active in July in those high mountain meadows. You have a little less daylight, and depending on elevation, you can encounter occasional overnight temperatures near freezing.  Still, I have found it to be the most enjoyable time to ride!

Thinking of packing in?  I always bring what I need to stay overnight if need be.  But I wouldn’t qualify that as packing in, lol!  There are a couple of near-30 mile loops that I would like to break into two 15-milers and stay out the night.  Tons of material out there, my favorite being the guys from Montana at Trailhead Supply.  Catch up on their blog!  They regularly attend the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW) Rondy in Ellensburg, Washington.  They have given a great mini-seminar on getting started in packing for women, always to a “sell-out” crowd!  Here is their website link:

https://www.trailheadsupply.com/

Here is a link to the rondy:

http://naturalhorsemanshipandyou.com/2983/backcountry-horsemen-of-washington-rondy-ellensburg

I like the idea of the over the saddle panniers to keep it easy!

What to Bring?

Food for a week!  The camper refrigerators, even the small ones, can hold a lot!  It’s fun to trade off meal duty with your buddies!  Fry pan burritos were easy after a ride, and quick!  And me, I can eat hot dogs the entire time!  Check around and you’ll find what suits you!  I’ve also done cheese fondue when it was my turn to cook!

A water resistant blanket for your horse and a lighter sheet.  When your horse has been working all day, they will appreciate a cover in the higher elevations, and whether it is your enclosure or a horse camp, not a lot of room to move around to keep warm.

Clothes to layer.  I used my cross country ski clothes!  I layer with tights and pants of choice for chafing, Sporthill sells a wind resistant ski pant that is tapered towards the ankle, which I found handy.  A stretchy vest, my Outback jacket, and  the Outback rain slicker that folds into a backpack, that is easy to tie on the back of the saddle.  Headgear of choice, which included helmet, or straw hat, or wool hat, or the Outback waxed hat for rainy days, all got their use!  Half chaps work well for bushwacking and for keeping the heat in your lower extremities.  I’ve used cowboy boots, rubber boots, riding tennis shoes, paddock boots with thinsulate, all had their place!  And remember, you are camping, so pack light, wear everything multiple times, its OK to get and be dirty!  I used conditioner for my hair so the dirt and sweat wouldn’t stick!  Maybe the suntanned face was part sun, part dirt!

How about water?

We mostly camped in designated horse camps, or primitive camped when there was an appropriate area, as in the Ochocos out of Prineville, Oregon.  It used to be that a trailer water tank only held about 25 gallons.  There are more options now, check out http://thedistancedepot.com.

I’ll take advantage of streams and nearby lakes to make my water last, and carry a camper hose that spirals into a convenient carry tray to take with me.  Those can be purchased most anywhere, I bought mine at the local Bi-mart discount store.

My horn bags are designed to carry a water bottle in each side.  I use a refillable stainless steel one, and the other is my Seychelle water filtration bottle.

Most campsites will have pens, either wood or metal, many in Washington State have highlines.  I carry my swivel attachment that will allow my horse to pull back and not panic.  I also carry my own highline kit.  You can purchase a highline attachment for your trailer, lightweight corral sections, or use an electric corral set-up.  Mainly it’s what you prefer and what you think is best and easiest for your horse.

Feed and Supplies

Equipment is quite sophisticated these days, but even with a simple rig set up, you can manage to have fun!  I take weed free grass hay and alfalfa, I find my horse appreciated a little extra after an all day trail ride!  I organized daily feed rations in baggies, and took loose salt to add.  Dynamite Specialty Products has an excellent loose salt, as even the vets rarely carry it anymore, our past go-to source.  https://dynamitespecialty.myvoffice.com/ShoppingCart/index.cfm?FuseAction=CategoryShop&CategoryID=91&ParentCategoryID=4

We would buddy up in twos, one hauling the horses, and one hauling the hay and supplies!  It worked great, and gave us the advantage of the extra rig in case we experienced any troubles!

Enjoying Mother Nature

We want to set up our trip in our favor.  Do our homework, plan our route, and also be flexible if conditions change.  Respect Mother Nature, and your limitations as humans, small pebbles on the beach.  Be thoughtful of choosing your horse buddy, and your riding buddies.  There should be a sense of responsibility and support towards each other when traveling the backcountry.

I do travel with a cell phone and battery pack. Will your battery pack last a week?  Likely not.  Will your cell phone work everywhere?  Likely not.  However, that is the part I like the best about horse camping, going far enough away to make you feel you are “away”, and not having to worry about anything except the needs of yourself and your horse.

Horses have a great sense of direction, they have never failed me.  They always prove the “no, it’s thatta way” person wrong.  Take some orange surveyors tape to mark intersections.  Everyone should pack a gun.  Three shots is the universal signal for help.  I figure if I had to wait it out while someone rode for help, I could stave off a few critters, or put my horse down if necessary.  Stay on the trail.  Avoid game trails that may look inviting.  Keep well hydrated and graze on saddlebag snacks.  Becoming dehydrated and having low blood sugar contributes to poor decision making.  Turn around if you encounter unexpected obstacles that will deplete your horse’s energy or put them at risk.  Use common sense.

Even though these methods and tools may be considered “old”, I would still be comfortable today traveling as such.

As a basic overview, I hope this inspires you to research for your own camping adventure with your horse!  There are lots of dude ranch offerings, but nothing to compare with your own fine animal taking you down the trail with cooperation and enthusiasm!

Happy Trails!

Terri

Photographs:  In order of appearance:  Blue Mountains, Oregon, Olive Lake in the background; Metolius-Windigo Trail from Sisters Cow Camp, Sisters, Oregon; Rim Trail, Newberry Caldera, La Pine, Oregon; Sister Mirror Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon; Croften Ridge Trail, Mt. Adams, Washington; The Ochocos, Oregon; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Muddy Meadows, Mt. Adams, Washington; Stag Lake, Diamond Peak Wilderness, Oregon

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Fan Lake, Ride High or Low!

Beautiful Fall colors, Fan Lake area.

Friends, Good Morning!

Being sociable saddling up
Being sociable saddling up

This day we hauled up North a ways to Fan Lake.  I believe some folks call this Rustler’s Gulch.  It’s become more popular just in a short amount of time, word spreads!

Fall ride with Handsome Guy
Fall ride with Handsome Guy

We started out on a single track through woods with lots of logs to step over, eventually coming out in the clear, and then meandering through some wetland, the trail being on solid footing.  From this point we decided to access the two track road, giving us opportunities to trot out, eventually climbing up, an old barn on the left hand side, around the road gate, and back to the trailer.

Beautiful day!
Beautiful day!

We spent a couple of hours riding low, the opportunity to ride up to Fan Lake and give your horse some water crossing practice will be for next time!

How are you doing on your trail practice?

Terri

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Blog From The Barn

The Deer Park Plateau from the barn, on Whiskey
The Deer Park Plateau from the barn, on Whiskey

Good morning, Friends! 

One day at the barn for lesson, we warmed up a bit in the arena and then headed out.  Mid-afternoon, no traffic yet on the country road, we headed over, crossing to the South, and up a dirt road, where farms and gentlemen farmers had places, large and small!  It’s always nice to see how your horse handles the chance encounter of a dog greeting, or traffic, in a quiet environment.

A little hill and dale. . .
A little hill and dale. .

We jumped off the road and down an incline, stepping over logs, and just ambling along.  I like to know if the horse will watch where he is going, how he negotiates down hill, and Whiskey was happy to just go along and take everything in stride!  He was happy to walk along for a couple hour ride!

a little amble from the barn
a little amble from the barn

On the way back, we encountered a little traffic on the short piece of paved road back to the barn, Whiskey handled all that with calmness, just how we like!  All of this is a set up for getting to know your horse in a variety of settings!

Stay tuned!

Terri

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Private Invites to Ride

post-ride bliss!
post-ride bliss!

We had opportunity to ride out today with a friend.  We rode from her place, fun and interesting!  Handsome was right there this morning, ready to catch me up, and loaded up.  This is always a great opportunity to ride unique areas that you may not have access to otherwise!  Take advantage, but return the favor if you can!

We did a little warm-up through the pasture looking for discarded fly masks.  We found both, crossing a little pasture creek along the way.  Handsome has no issues with riding out on the trails, but it was our first time out in a while!  He was enthusiastic!  So down the road to our trail ride, two-tracks through a canopy of trees making for a nice, cool ride on an early hot summer day!

We crossed two bridges twice, (the ride was an out and back), offered to have him wade in the creek, but he declined today, he does cross water, but we didn’t have to do everything today. . . . .there was some pretty good up and down hill work, some good pulls, and on the way back, my friend’s horses following us on the fence line.

’til the next trail ride. . . . .

Terri!

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A Secret Riding Place!

From here, we pull to the overview, on Whiskey
From here, we pull to the overview, on Whiskey

We all have one of these, right?  When I was interested in purchasing Whiskey, my instructor took me to this spot, a great area to try all three gaits, however, the condition was that I had to keep it a secret!  I had one such place in Ellensburg, up towards the Wenas, where the wild daffodils bloomed during early Spring and Summer!

"Secret" trail up the draw to the ridge overlook with Charley-horse
“Secret” trail up the draw to the ridge overlook with Charley-horse
to the first lookout point with Delilah, TWH mare deluxe!
to the first lookout point with Delilah, TWH mare deluxe!
at the top of the last pull, entire Kittitas Valley view!
at the top of the last pull, entire Kittitas Valley view!

Here is my secret draw that leads to this amazing overview of the Kittitas Valley!  Where is your Secret Riding place?  I’ve taken one or two people on this route, so it may be more well known now. . . . .

Girls just want to have fun!
Girls just want to have fun!

This area has at least one view of Loon Lake from above, and is a closed and gated road with nice footing.  It starts out up a gravel road, turns into a shaded single track, then dumps out on the main dirt road.  It’s fairly level, giving a good opportunity to trot and canter Whiskey!  He is very good, doesn’t get high with up and down transitions, moderated when I asked!  My instructor was ahead at one point, with her mare loping along on a loose rein, as she turned around and took pictures of me, laughing so hard at the whole thing!

Tightening the cinch after sliding off, lol!
Tightening the cinch after sliding off, lol!

I came to a mud puddle with that reflection of the sky, Whiskey side stepped a little, and I slid off, haha! I had a slick seat saddle that I had no grip!  I’ve since switched out saddles, but that is another subject for another day!

Scenic overlook
Scenic overlook

We were able to reach the viewpoint at the top!  then maintained a nice working trot on the way back.  What a ride!  I admit I scared myself, it had been so long since I had done any speed work like that out!  I was grateful for such a cooperative guy in Whiskey that I purchased him!  And slowed things down a bit, but nice to know that we can do that! Another day!

Post me a picture of your secret spot!  I’d love to imagine where it is!

Terri

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Riding at Riverside State Park

the view from Chica!
the view from Chica!

Spokane area has a lot of State Parks that accommodate horseback riding!  The most “famous” is likely Riverside State Park, with an equestrian center.  This central area has a large arena, a round pen, an obstacle course, day use parking area, restrooms, and a camping area, most are drive-thru’s, and I believe they have plug-ins for the living quarter trailers!  It’s really nice!  There are events held here, some of which have been de-spook clinics, horsemanship clinics, and demonstration days with various Backcountry Horseman Chapters.

Riverside with a friend, on board Chica
Riverside with a friend, on board Chica

There are trails from the central area, and also two other designated horse trailheads.  There are supposedly one hundred miles of horse trails, ranging from easy to some steep areas.  It is rocky, so I would shoe or boot accordingly.

Whiskey at Riverside
Whiskey at Riverside

So far, I’ve ridden from the Equestrian Center, along the river, and the bottom area.  I’ve also ridden from the trailhead off of Seven Mile Drive, where you can ride between that road as it ascends the ridge, and Hwy 291, lots of space there, single track, meandering in the pole line area and such . . . .

me on Whiskey, my instructor on Handsome Guy
me on Whiskey, my instructor on Handsome Guy

When I first moved here, there was a Backcountry Horsemen gathering and event, open to everyone, with a spaghetti lunch and lots of different demonstrations.  It’s a popular place for happenings, so I would check the website calendar if that is an issue for your weekend riding!

You can see the river from here, on Chica
You can see the river from here, on Chica
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My postcard pic of me and Chica!

They also hold an annual endurance ride in the Spring!

I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing at Riverside!

Terri

 

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Out and About with Natural Horsemanship

I really liked this mare, early season at Missile Site with Chica!
I really liked this mare, early season at Missile Site with Chica!

Spokane area has a variety of areas to ride, allowing you to match your horse’s condition and experience with location.  I missed the first season I moved here, July of 2014, so started with flatland riding, everyone being a little out of shape, that being more of an understatement!

Summer ride with Chica at Missile Site
Summer ride with Chica at Missile Site

When getting your “groove back”, understanding and patient friends, and a trainer for “eyes on the ground” and who can make it fun, is essential!

Whiskey at Missile Site
Whiskey at Missile Site

I started off in the arena for some basic tune-up and gaining confidence for being on my horses again!  I will make the general statement that I think all of us find a lack of confidence every so often!  Set the process up for a favorable outcome!

Nice trotting and loping possibilities, Missile Site
Nice trotting and loping possibilities, Missile Site

My instructor also goes out on trail rides with her clients.

Whiskey at Missile Site
Whiskey at Missile Site

Missile Site in the Deer Park area is a popular all season area.  The area is a blend of double track and single track, all with nice footing.  There are enough trees to make it feel shaded even during the heat of summer.  I had nice rides there with Chica and Whiskey, once with my instructor and a number of friends.

Where do you start out riding early season?  Whatever you do,

Just Ride!

Terri

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Persistence pays off, with a surprise ending!

one arena session. . ..
one arena session. . ..

After a few sessions at the arena with Handsome Guy, we had opportunity to ride out today with friend.  We rode from her place, fun and interesting!  Handsome was right there this morning, ready to catch me up, and loaded up.

Normally, I would go to a place I know for his first ride out for the season, and you know I missed last year, and have been getting everyone tuned up with ground work, arena time, and riding out.  It’s been a year or so since I’ve ridden Handsome!

two arena session. . . .
two arena session. . . .

Rode at the arena a couple of days ago, Handsome was making it clear that he was quite bored with my lack of “stepping up”, giving me some wrinkled lip and rolling his eyeballs, so to speak!  He is very subtle about it, and I promised him I would be stepping up my game for his sake!

So, we hauled out to a friend’s house.  We did a little warm up in the arena.  Handsome wanted to be resistant to bitting up, backing up with my efforts, but I outpersisted him, all of this  in the most polite way, let me emphasize!  I asked him to stand still for mounting up from the block, after a few circles he was cooperative, and stood still after mounting.  Always a good thing to emphasize!

take your bow. . . .
take your bow. . . .

We did a little warm-up through the pasture looking for discarded fly masks.  We found both, crossing a little pasture creek along with way.  Handsome has no issues with riding out on the trails, but it was our first time out, and in a while!  He was enthusiastic!  So down the road to our trail ride, two-tracks through a canopy of trees making for a nice, cool ride on an early hot summer day!

We crossed two bridges twice, (the ride was an out and back), offered to have him wade in the creek, but he declined today, he does cross water, but we didn’t have to do everything today. . . . .there was some pretty good up and down hill work, some good pulls, and on the way back, my friend’s horses following us on the fence line.

post-ride bliss!
post-ride bliss!

He was resistant to loading, backing out after loading three times,but I out-persisted him,  staying put on the fourth, allowing the divider to be placed.  I took the time for water and sandwich before heading back.

So. . . .I figured that if he had energy to be resistant, that he could unload himself, backing himself out.  That he could have an assigned task for the end of the ride.  So. . . . .I got the mounting block and put it in the extra stall so I could see over the divider, and with my Parelli Carrot Stick, created a visual barrier to turning around when I needed it, and applying steady pressure on the chest and saying “baaaaack”.

He had to think about it a bit, with Whiskey in the pasture outside telling him to get his rear in gear!, two steps back, thinking about it, then head down and backed all the way out!  Wow!! Lots of complements to Handsome, with a little encouragement from Whiskey!  Congratulatory carrots offered all around, with Handsome wanting to refuse!  Ha, ha, so Whiskey took them, and then Handsome did.  What a hoot!  Don’t you love reverse psychology?  Gotcha, Handsome Guy!

’til the next trail ride. . . . .

Terri!

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Backcountry Horsemen of Washington Rondy, Ellensburg

an important educational focus
an important educational focus

Backcountry Horsemen of Washington had their annual gathering for “Rondy” over the weekend.  Folks came from all over the state representing all the chapters.  What a great gathering!

hands on mule packing
hands on mule packing

The best part is reconnecting with old friends and trail buddies, but just in case you need some variety, there is a used tack sale, photo contest, seminars on horse packing, compass and trail skills, and all kinds of vendors!  I enjoyed a seminar on horse packing for women, which was really interesting, full of good tips, from the guys at Trailhead Supply out of Montana.  Make sure to check out their blog.  They invited anyone to call with questions!  Here is their link:

http://trailheadsupply.com/

Bounty from the event!
Bounty from the event!

Wild Rags and Scarves by Doris was there, and I think every woman at dinner was adorned with one of her creations! I made sure I picked out a favorite with a complementing scarf slide!   Here is her link:

http://www.wildragsandscarvesbydoris.com/

DSCN0742
More coffee please!

I went early to have breakfast from the Cascade Mountain Grilling, scrambled eggs with ham and sausage, and biscuits and gravy, all from the dutch ovens!  So good, it didn’t last long enough to get a picture.  Next door was the coffee stand for my usual soy latte!

Ladies and gents both competed!
Ladies and gents both competed!

Outside activities included a cross cut competition.  The saw was later auctioned off at the live auction.

DSCN0745
Ready for dinner!

This year I purchased dinner, and enjoyed a chicken and prime rib dinner with all the side dishes, again from Cascade Mountain Grilling.  I sat with the folks from the Ferry County Chapter up near  Republic  and made some new friends.

Each table is uniquely decorated!
Each table is uniquely decorated!

Every chapter is in charge of decorating a dinner table,  and prizes are awarded.

Original art up for grabs at the live auction!
Original art up for grabs at the live auction!

There was a bucket auction, a silent auction, and a live auction, as this event is the major fundraiser for the Washington State organization.  Put it on your schedule for next year here in Ellensburg, and consider joining and supporting this fine group!  Here is the link:

http://bchw.org/

What is your favorite event?

Terri

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Love with natural horsemanship

cowboy-2[1]But it was not of books that he had spoken much to-day.  He had not spoken at all.  He had bade her listen to the meadow-lark, when its song fell upon the silence like beaded drops of music.  He had showed her where a covey of young willow-grouse were hiding as their horses passed.  And then, without warning, as they sat by the spring, he had spoken potently of his love.

– Owen Wister, The Virginian

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