Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trucks,Trailers, and Campers

By the time Goldie, my Appaloosa mare, was settled into her new quarters on our property she was close to 12 years old and a really settled bomb proof horse. In a nutshell a delight to ride. Our property is 3.5 acres and between the house, barn and 2 acres of turn-out area not much land was left for riding. We’ve got great neighbors so I was able to expand my riding area around our property to now give me about 20 acres to ride with their permission. I’m sure the unlimited free, bagged manure helped with the deal!

As is the case, as you begin your horseback riding activity, you want to explore more areas to ride. We live about 60 miles north of Atlanta in a semi-rural area so I had some options with a farm owner friend with a few hundred acres of land as well as quite a few Georgia State Parks which offered riding trails.

As all horse owners know, the least expensive part of owning and riding a horse is the horse. We owned a ½ ton pick-up which had a low ratio rear axle so I had to limit my trailer to something lighter. Cindy, a close friend of mine, suggested a two stall Sundowner with a storage area under the manger. The trailer weight was not within my truck pulling power range so we purchased a trailer that allowed me to expand my riding options. Over the next year we explored a lot of new riding areas and I began filling my “bucket list” with many new trails to explore that were a farther distance, but new and exciting. 

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is about a three hour drive from our home and has about a 1200 plus acre property with wonderful trails and just a superb set-up for riding. They also have an area for primitive camping, a 4 stall barn to stall your horse and a barn assistant to feed and muck the stalls.   Cindy suggested we plan a trip in mid-May while the weather was still cool in the mountains. Cindy had a four horse trailer with living quarters so she was all set to embark upon a weekend of camping, riding and eating!

My husband suggested we tent camp which sounded like a great idea but remember he was more city than country.  So we went to a very reputable outdoor camping store and bought a ton of gear including a first class tent, stove, lamps, and lots of other must have stuff. We even did a practice run in our living room pitching the tent so we were ready too. Since we had invested in all of this great camping gear, why not plan to stay two nights!

We drove up with Cindy and her husband and arrived at the camping area with now cloudy skies.  While Tim, Cindy’s husband, and Cindy set up their living quarters trailer, we scrambled to set up our tent which came advertised as rain proof due to the rain sheet draped over the top. Now the clouds are turning to a light drizzle.  My husband was actually excited to test this great tent we bought so while I took shelter he sat in the tent to check it out. Within 5 minutes or so the rain increased to a good steady down pour. As he sat in the tent a first drop of water penetrated the rain sheet and then the tent roof. As he quickly learned, if you have one drop, many more are sure to follow so within about 10 minutes the tent became an unplanned indoor pool-unheated.

We learned the weather was going to remain marginal for both days so we had no other option but to take our air mattresses and gear and sleep in our new 2 stall Sundowner trailer. So we hooked the trailer back up, pulled up to the barn and hosed down the stall of the trailer to accommodate our air mattress.  Any late night relief runs required using the escape doors and easing off the fenders. As if a rain and a leaking tent wasn’t enough, we had high winds which also blew down the tent where we had stored some of our supplies. Note to self- “always get a reliable weather check before horse camping.”  We also learned that our ½ ton pick-up was not suited for pulling a trailer in the mountains so Cindy suggested an equalizing hitch-more stuff to buy.

On the way back home I asked my husband how he enjoyed the trip. He responded, “Biltmore was wonderful, the food great but if we are planning to do more horse camping he had two simple requests-a toilet and a bed (real one). Oh AC, heat and a place to cook would be a real bonus.”

So our next move was to look at living quarter trailers which were well beyond our budget so a bumper pull trailer sure made sense. At that time, my husband drove a ½ ton Chevrolet Suburban so all worked out well. Add in a 19’ trailer, equalizing hitches, and a 2800 watt generator and now we were really set to horse camp. Over the next span of years, we made many trips with our two trucks, 2 stall Sundowner horse trailer and travel trailer. We traveled convoy style with some walkie talkies to stay in touch.

Of course, we out grew the 2 stall Sundowner and went to a 2 stall trailer with a tack room horse trailer which the Suburban could pull. We soon found a 19 foot travel trailer to be a bit close quartered as they say so we moved up to a 26 foot trailer which then required we go to a 1 ton pick-up truck. I think we once figured between equipment and fuel costs we could have stayed at a lot of Five Star hotels. Of course, Five Star hotels do not take horses so instead we made lots of memories which we will cherish for a lifetime.

Horse camping is some of the most fun you will ever have with your horse, just plan carefully and include all the proper equipment.  Equipping your trailer with all of those must have accessories will make your stay a lot more enjoyable.   If you need assistance in equipping your horse trailer with all of those essentials, go to our “Trailer Accessories” Category where you will find tire ramps, bumper pull and gooseneck hitch locks, water caddies and tack organizers.

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