Hoof Prints and Camp Smoke


February 03, 2017

Right now in the Sierra Nevada snow is 10 - 20 FEET deep.  Driving over Interstate 80 from Reno to Sacramento is like driving through a tunnel. With no roof!  Snow banks on each side are at least 10 - 12 feet high and the blue sky is all one sees for about 30 miles!  It's really quite beautiful -- if you don't have to work, walk or dig in it.  Skiers are loving it but for some horseowners -- that lovely snow is ear deep on a tall horse!

Have a friend up around Tahoe. She has 20 acres and 5 horses. Stopped to see Stel a couple weeks ago and it took me 3 days to get out. It snowed!!

Around her barn, all one can see is the roof from one side. She keeps most of the snow off the roof on the paddock side because of weight and actually the horses aren't that cold IN the barn. Lights in the barn keep it lite and provide some heat. The snow helps to insulate the roof and to get out into the paddocks, Stel dug trails for the horses to walk in and out on. Once in awhile snow will slid off the roof but usually it's only chin high.. A horse can still see out and even climb over the snow bank to get into the paddock.

Stel's horses know snow. All 5 have spent most of their lives in, on, plowing through and eating snow! They have no blankets on and their winter hair is about 6 inches long. I spend one day cutting hair around the horses' eyes so it wouldn't hang in the eyes. They actually look more like giant prehistoric critters than modern day horses!

She takes darn good care of her horses!! Especially in the winter. A vet is almost impossible to get out for an emergency so Stel makes sure all the horses have warm water in their stalls. A gas powered generator makes sure the power is on when the PGE goes out! Along with warm water, there's plenty of mineral salts and hay is measured for each horse and fed 3, maybe 4 times a day. No horse gets to much but they maintain a layer of fat under the hair. Feeding is through the day from about 7 am to last feeding at 10 pm at night. Once a day they each get a grain feeding with whatever else Stel thinks they need. Like all of us horse owners, we have our 'secret' method of feeding that keeps our horses healthy and happy.

Once a day, Stel and I brushed and combed each horse. Took about an hour. Starting at the front end, worked back. Made sure ALL the hair, body, mane, hooves were combed and cleaned completely. A good hair coat, soft, fuzzy where on can run fingers through are signs of a healthy and happy horse according to Stel. And I have to agreed with her!

Biggest problem in the snow, horse manure! After each stall is cleaned, manure is put into a small automatic manure spreader that tosses it all over an area called the Gang's Spot. It never seems to pile up or at least it didn't when I was there because all the local critters wander in to check out the Gang's Spot to see what's to eat. Deer pick up the loose hay. Late gathering squirrels, chipmunks, even mice pop out of snow pockets when they hear the tractor coming and forage around for loose grains and such. In addition to the normal gains from the barn, Stel usually adds two or three coffee cans full of whole and cracked corn. Keeps their teeth in shape Stel says. There's even an ole fox who manages to catch a mouse or squirrel once in awhile!

A years ago an ole lame bear spent the winter wandering around her place and sleeping in an old pile of trees, brush, etc. Came out every few days to sun himself and see what he could find to eat. Stel said he spent the winter but never bothered the horses, her dogs and the cats took great delight in tormenting him around the brush pile! She said he got tired of the cats and left early spring -- she hasn't seen him since!

Told her if she ever wanted to get away from the snow for awhile, come visit! See the bright lights. Watch television. And the other mass of humanity in the SF Bay Area. She politely declined and said very quietly, "Thanks. But no. I belong here. Days are getting shorter for me and I love this place. Wanta stay as long as I can. Somebody has to take care of the critters and that old lame bear. Humans ain't as kind as they used to be.......to much I want and not enough of I care."

Safe trails......and remember to care!

Bonnie & Nic


November 28, 2016

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone. And each year I find something that Nic (or for that matter any of my horses) loved!

It all started about 30 years ago and now has became sort of a 'tradition'. Plus it helps to get rid of left-overs that wouldn't fit into the refrigerator. The first time I took some stuff up to the horses, they sort of sniffed 'em, looked at me, sniffed again and then began to eat. Ultimately they discovered even sprouts taste good -- after they've been rolled in a little butter, cinnamon and sugar. But before any vegetable was introduced into their diets, I did some research to make sure they were horse healthy.

In Sam's (one of my past trail horses) case he'd eat -- or at least try-- just about anything in his feed tub. He wasn't big on lettuce but he loved cabbage. Once he got a candied apple cut neatly into fours! He sniffed and rolled them around the feed tub for awhile and then discovered it was sweet. So he spent about two hours just licking the red sweet flavoring off the skin. Next he chewed and chewed those apple chunks with his eyes closed and the expression, "I LOVE this candied apple".

Sam was more the 'dignified' eater. He'd sniff everything first. Look around to see who was watching. Sniff again. Look around. Sniff. And then begin to rearrange what was in the feed tub. He was the only horse I owned that arranged everything into little piles before he'd stop, look it all over to make sure everything was arranged just right -- and then begin to eat. What he liked the most -- oats -- first. Then flattened corn second. Next barley. And so on. The only problem Sam had was when mixing, I'd try to 'bind' it all together with something sweet. Usually maple syrup for the holiday. As Sam divided his feed, the syrup would get all over his nose and mouth. When he was done, he'd spent another couple hours walking around licking his lips and trying to reach that one spot on his muzzle his tongue wasn't long enough to reach!

Bud always got a little bucket full of lemons. He'd eat a whole lemon by biting into it, juice dripping into the feed tub. They'd all be about 2 inches in diameter and cut into halves. It would take him about an hour to eat all of 'em. He'd eat about 4 or 5 halves and then wander over to get a drink from the trough. Then back to the lemons. When all the lemons were gone, he'd lick the feed tub, get a drink and stand there smacking his lips.  He had the freshest breath of any horse in the barn!!

Sig was the stay away from MY feed tub horse. Put anything in his tub and he'd look around to see if another horse was looking or getting close. He'd never kick or try to bite but he'd lay his ears back and circle the feed tub on the ground. He'd even drag it into his stall to keep another horse from getting a nibble.  His favorite Thanksgiving treat was celery. Cut into one inch pieces he'd carefullly pick up two or three and eat 'em. Chewing and crunching thoughtfully.

Nic's favorite Thanksgiving treat is carrots -- cooked with a little cinnamon on 'em. Both Nic and my husband loved 'em. Usually I made carrots for dinner but since my husband has passed away and I'm not a big carrot eater, I only make enough for Nic. I'm probably about the only person anyone knows who cooks carrots and cinnamon for a horse's Thanksgiving dinner!!

If you have a favorite 'treat' for your horse, let me know.  Nic might enjoy it too......especially if it has carrots and cinnamon in it!

Hope all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving......with or without carrots!

Bonnie and Nic
horsecamping@ comcast.net


October 12, 2016

In case you're wondering who's at the end of the trailer, it's me.  NIC.  Bonnie is my partner but she's been under the weather so I trotted in to help.  After all I spend a lot of time standing at the end of the trailer.  That's because I'm a TRAIL HORSE and darn proud of it because I WORK at being a trail horse.


Some folks don't consider us trail horses as working horses but let me tell you, WE work!!  My partner, Bonnie, and I have covered some of the most beautiful trails and country in this Nation.  Thousands of miles over the years.  We've crossed rivers.  Gone down mountains on trails of granite.  Plowed through snow.  Rain....there's been a few hairy moments and a couple slides but I've always gotten Bonnie back safely and in one piece.  On every trail ride, my partner has put her life in the saddle on me and my job is to get her there and back safely -- to the end of the trailer!


With all of us horses, we try our best to please our partners.  Sure, some of us are a little on the more, ah, how do I put this nicely, "hard headed" side.  Even demanding but if partners would just think about it, it's not that we're being 'hard headed' it's just that for every reaction we have there's been a cause that started the 'hard headedness". 


We horses don't say much.  We react and sometimes those reactions are misunderstood.  Why won't Bell cross water?  Because when her first partner put her into a deep pond to cross, Bell couldn't get up the other side!  Now, she hates water and balks when having to cross through.  Lady Bug hates to be bitted up.  Why?  She had a bit that didn't fit in width shoved in her mouth, clank her teeth and rubbed sore spots on the insides of her mouth.  Her partner never checked Bug's mouth inside and out to make sure the bit fit!  


It's not that I know it all......I'm a horse.  My specialties are trails and horsecamping.  But I'm lucky.  My partner takes TIME with me.  Regardless if it's when she's sitting on a bucket in the arena, scratching my ears in the paddock, getting back from a trail ride or me just following my partner around the corral, she talks to me, pets me and checks me out.  If hair is ruffled on my back, partner checks it to make sure it's not the beginning of a bug bite or a scratch spot from rubbing on tree branches.  (Sometimes I ruffle the hair by rubbing on a low branch just to get her to scratch my back!)   We've got good body language because we respect each other.  Take time to figure things out.  And have spend time together doing nothing but plodding down trails!  


Nic (and Bonnie)



September 16, 2016

It seems to be the biggest concern when going horsecamping -- where to put everything IN THE TRAILER!!  Space is a valuable item!  Where to put it?  How to pack it?  What to pack?  When it comes to actual packing, the important thing to remember is 'squares' and 'rectangles'  plus I always follow my motto 'if I can't use something at least 2 ways, I won't take it with me'!


Regardless of what it is, items pack together easier, simpler and quicker if put into squares and rectangles.  They just naturally fit together.  So planning what to put where may take a couple trips to finalize but when done, one will be amazed at how much can be gotten into the tack compartment of even a 2-horse trailer where before there wasn't enough space for anything!


The biggest items to fit into a tack compartment are saddles.  I've got a saddle rack that hold two saddles -- one above the other -- in the corner by the door.  Heaviest and biggest saddle goes on the top.  Smaller on the bottom.  May not be the easiest way to put 'em.  LIfting that heavy saddle up can be difficult but it keeps the muscles toned and after 15 or 20 times of lifting a 50 pound saddle up and onto a rack, it will be easier!  I promise.  Since the bigger saddle is the largest the space around the bottom saddle (smaller) will allow for more storage.  


On top of saddles go saddle blankets, cinches, breast collars, bridles, saddle bags and every thing else that one uses, takes or needs when riding.  It's all in one place!


Next, I went out and bought some plastic boxes.  About 2 feet long, 18 inches high, 20 inches wide.  Into these goes cooking gear.  Pots, pans, dishes (use paper plates and when they get dirty, toss 'em in for first starter), silverware, salt, pepper and so on.  One box holds all the cooking gear.  Another groceries.  


Next, either pack a square or rectangle suitcase for yourself or have another plastic box for clothing.  This includes underwear, utility and personal items, so on.  Personally, I like jeans and t-shirts.  Both can be washed in a stream and hung over a highline for drying.  No ironing!!  I don't iron at home so I'm definitely NOT going to iron when camping!  Everything is basically drip and dry!  


Since I sleep in my tack compartment, bed is on top of the plastic boxes that hold storage, clothing, etc.  I've got a 3 inch foam pad and it works great!  If I need a box, pull it out from under the bed.  Across the front of trailer inside tack compartment, 3 extra shelves hold other personal items.  Along the front wall, 4 rectangle water cans.  Horses water pails, buckets, my wash pan, etc. fit on top of cans.  And when ever I'm in a grocery store, I check out the smaller square and rectangle boxes that canned goods come in.  They're heavy duty and can be packed with items and shoved into small areas.


Probably next to saddles, horse blankets are the next biggest items.  I put 2 heavy duty winter blankets, 2 sheets, 2 water proof blankets and a large box (biggest I can buy) of plastic garbage bags into a cardboard box or a plastic box.  Fit in where ever it will go.  You can put a lot of blankets in a box if you lay a blanket out on the ground, smooth flat, fold it over and over itself into a square and then squish it down.  Walk on it to really squish it down!  The horse may roll on it.  To keep folded, tie with string.  One can get all those blankets into one box!!  Or one or two into smaller boxes.  Stuffing loose blankets here and there takes up space and one tends to lose area to put other things in -- remember squares and rectangles!


Safe trails and camping,

Bonnie (and Nic)


LOADING -- in the dark!

August 15, 2016

Horses load into trailers all the time -- or the majority of them do.  But once in a while a horseowner may be faced with loading a horse in the DARK.  At the barn, an emergency trip to the vet!  When horsecamping, a sudden emergency evacuation.  It was during one of those 'emergency' loadings from a horsecamp during a forest fire evacuation that I learned 'emergencies' in darkness addsa whole new dimension to loading a horse INTO a trailer.  


Back home safely it was time to work on night-emergency loadings.  Here's a few tips I used back at the barn to help that  horse realize loading in the dark is no worse than loading in the day light.


1)  Start at home!  Make sure the horse will already walk into and out of a trailer.  Any type of trailer.  A horse may balk once or twice but the third try should be the charm -- walk INTO the trailer and stand there.  If you don't have a trailer, 'borrow' one and work on loading. Once started, keep going until the horse loads.  Remember, the horse that won't load day or night is the horse that is usually left behind during an evacuation.


2)  For the first few night loadings, work under a full moon -- more light.  Or in an area that has some light.  A lighted arena is good.  Let the horse walk around the trailer.  Look it over.  Stand a few minutes to relax.  Once the horse has relaxed, walk him up to the trailer and then into the trailer.  If a horse stops or is nervous, talk to him and then put him in the trailer.  Once in, leave him there about 15 minutes.  Put some hay in trailer (unless you may have to evacuate through a fire area) and let him nibble on that.  After the 15 minutes, start the towing vehicle and drive out.  Take him on a ride for about 20 - 30 minutes.  When working on loading for the first few times, I've found using a lighted area or with a full moon for first-time night loaders, seems to help the horse.  If the horse just flat out refuses to load, it's back to the basics during day light hours and once loaded and comfortable, work on night loading!  


3)  Next, go to an area that has no lighting.  It's just dark.  Very dark.  No moon!  Use an arena -- outside if possible -- since one doesn't want a loose horse running around in the dark always use an enclosed area so if the horse gets away he can be caught.  You're asking your horse to do something that is strange and different but remember safety too!  Always under control with halter and leader rope, let the horse sniff the trailer, discover, explore, look, encourage and talk to him.   There will be a lot of 'night sounds' so let him listen.  Look.  Even snort but always under control while keeping his mind on going into the trailer.  If a horse is in a night-lighted stable or barn turn the lights off for a few nights.  Take him out of barn, walk him around outside and let him realize the dark isn't so bad even when trailer loading at night.  


4)  Use a flashlight for your own safety in the dark.  'Dance' the light around on the ground and on the horse.  Let him realize that 'bobbing' lights won't hurt him.  Just don't shine into the horse's eyes.  If there's lights in trailer, turn 'em on for the first few loadings.  After the horse becomes familiar with night loading, turn the lights out and load in the dark.


5)  It's usually noise and commotion that upsets some horses.  So load easier loading horses first. Hard loaders last.  Once your horse walks into the trailer day or night in an arena, move to an outside location.  Middle of the pasture.  In a grove of trees.  Anywhere you can think of that you might trailer to for a ride or camping adventure.


6)  Add some 'reality' to the night loading situations!  Have some friends join in.  Turn on a radio.  Blow whistles.  Make noise.  Turn on emergency flashing lights around the horses and on towing vehicles so the experience is 'real'.  Organize a trailer night loading clinic. Invite the local fire department in for a pot luck dinner or a 'combined' training exercise.  Turn on the fire engine lights.  Drive around the barn and property.  Sirens blaring. People yelling.  Fire hoses being unreeled and stretched out while owners are loading horses into trailers for 'evacuation'.  In this way, firemen see how horses react to changes and noises during an evacuation.  Owners realize what firemen need to do in their jobs.  Horses reactions are seen by all  -- and horses are exposed to what could happen with a real emergency!!

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