Hoof Prints and Camp Smoke


October 23, 2015

Often when travelling down a Forest Service or a county road, one will see a sign “Narrow Bridge”.  Or “Two Ton Bridge”.  Or “Low Bridge”.  So tell me, what does your rig weight?  How high is it?  How wide?  Because it doesn’t matter how fast one drives trying to get across THAT bridge, you aren’t going to make it if the outfit weighs MORE than the bridge can carry.  Or the rig is 4 inches wider than the bridge.  Or if an air conditioner is higher than the top of the camper and will hit the spanners on top of the bridge!!  Doesn’t matter.  You’re still NOT going to get over that bridge.  SAFELY......

To be on the safe side when it comes to weight, the next time you go camping and have a full rig – all the horses, all the feed, all the groceries, all everything you normally take – drive by a set of public weigh scales and get weighed.  If you go by a highway patrol office with scales, in some states they’ll let you weigh a rig for free.  At least the ones I’ve used in California have.  Private scales run from $25 up.  But knowing what your rig weighs will make you feel safer when approaching a bridge.

Next, measure the width of your rig.  Stand in front and look down both sides.  What sticks out the furthers from the sides?  I’ve got a diesel dually.  My wheel wells on my truck might.  But it’s not the wheel wells or even the little clearance lights ON the wheel wells, the widest spots on my truck are the mirrors.  The mirrors stick out about 2 inches wider than the wheel well clearance lights.  Why?  So I get a better view of both sides of my rig when pulling.  Plus if my mirrors clear, what’s following will clear also – to a point.  If hauling panels on the side of a trailer, measure from the edge of them.  Once you’ve determined the width of your rig, add 2 more inches to that measure for the grand total width.  It’s better to have a couple inches of clearance than scrap paint!  Or tear a fender off.

After weight and width, measure height.  To the very tippy-top of the rig.  Even with your roof vent open (in case you leave it open one day when travelling).  With an LQ trailer, to the very top WITH the roof vent open also.  You’ll need a ladder to do this and for any measuring you’re going to have to have someone help you measure.

In Arizona, saw an LQ trailer come zipping into a fuel station.  He hardly slow down.  Just headed to the nearest pump.  The ceiling lights under the station roof were hanging down and as he pulled through, he managed to break 8 of them even though they were hung on chains and swung as he wiped them out!  So when pulling into a fueling station, LOOK overhead.  In fact, ALWAYS look overhead when pulling under anything.  If not sure you’ll clear a light (or a tree branch), have a partner get out and watch or get out yourself.  It’s better to be safe than pay a couple thousand dollars to fix a fuel stations overhead lights!

Once you’ve got all this information, print it neatly on a 3 x 5 card.  Go to an automotive store and buy one of those little visor envelopes.  They clip onto the sun visor.  Slide the card inside and clip it onto the driver’s side visor.  If you’re not sure how much you weigh or how high you are or how wide the next time pulling into a fueling spot or coming to a bridge, simply flip down the visor and read it!!  You can even add the weight of the motor oil used in the engine!  License plate numbers for trailer and towing rig.

Tip:  If approaching a bridge with a weight limit and even though you’re within the weight limit, the bridge might look a little on the ‘shaky’ side.  Few boards missing.  No railing on one said.  Unload the horses and walk them across the bridge.  Tie the horses to trees or have someone hold them.  THEN drive across the bridge.  With the horses out of the trailer, the outfit can be 2,000 pounds lighter – or more.  Just be sure to tie horses in FRONT of you.  If I tied my horses in front of me, they just watched me drive across the bridge.  But if I tied them behind the trailer and they watched me drive off OVER the bridge.  They’d whinny, move around and even begin to paw.  In their minds, they were being left behind as bear food since I was driving AWAY. 


August 05, 2015

When out trail riding, I always let Nic get a drink where he can.  Even in mud puddles and run off spots.  I’ve watched him play and even drink from a puddle with runoff from the manure pile so I figure he can drink from a puddle on a trail too!

But when coming to ponds or pools, it’s always best to look the situation over BEFORE going to the water edge.  You never really KNOW how deep the water is until you get closer to it which itself can be unsafe. 

This particular pond seems ‘innocent’ but in reality wasn’t.  Notice the wet spot in the foreground going into the water.  It seems to slope down into the pond.  Looks safe?  But over the months of rain the bank under the edge had been soaked with water from pond.  When walking down to the water’s edge leading Nic, I could feel the ground sink and when stepped on it was mushy and water filled my footprints.  Which should not happen.

Ideally the edge will be dry.  Especially since the area around the pond was bone dry on the other three sides.  So to be on the safe side, tied Nic to a tree and then walked down to the edge – carefully.

Bonnie Davis
Credit: Bonnie Davis
Using a stick, I could feel the ground get musher and musher as I walked down towards the water.  Suddenly the stick went into the ground with little effort.  The pond water had under mined the pond edge on that side.  What I was walking on was the ‘lip’ of the pond edge.  Water went back under the ‘lip’ about 6 feet so the edge was actually floating on the pond surface.  If I had ridden Nic down to the water’s edge or just walked up leading him without checking the ground condition, both of us could have sunk into the mud!  And getting a 1200 pound horse unstuck from mud can be almost impossible.

So before walking or riding into an inviting looking pool or pond, take the time to check the edges.  If you see the bottom and it’s gravel or rocks, chances are it’s safe to lead a horse into for a drink.  If the area has been used by livestock, it’s a safe place.  But if you can’t see the bottom or the ground into the pond is soggy, muddy and actually wetter than the surrounding ground, be safe.  Tie your horse to a tree before checking the edge or just keep on riding.  Remember, YOU could get stuck in the pond’s edge too!

Be safe!

Bonnie & Nic


July 17, 2015

© Bonnie Davis This is a picture of Nic and I.  He’s a ham.  Likes to have his picture taken.  Get a camera out, point it at him and he’ll put up his ears and pose.  Sometimes he’ll give me a slight push to move out of the picture, HE’S getting his picture taken! 


Nic and I’ve been together 17 years.  Will have him till the day he dies.  I’m a believer that when a horse provides me hours of trail rides plodding the trail with me in the saddle, he deserves to have me take care of him in his twilight years.  With all my horses, we had a connection.  Sam, Sig, Bud, Flint, Chip, Cheyenne and of course Nic.  Some people tell me you really have him ‘trained’.  But in reality, I don’t have Nic trained...... 


Nic loves to roll.  After every ride and even when he’s just standing in his stall and paddock he likes to go out into the area and roll!  Give the old back a scratch and afterwards, a good brushing by me to remove sand and dirt.  Sometimes though I just can’t help myself because people think I do have Nic trained! 


A couple weeks ago these folks came to the barn to look at horses.  I was taking Nic to the outside arena.  They wandered over as I lead Nic through the gate.  They leaned on the fence as I began to unhalter Nic.   


Lead Nic about 20 feet from gate, tossed the end of lead rope over his neck and took the halter off. Pulled the lead rope from his neck and stepped back a few feet from Nic.  He stood there, looking at me.  I said “Nic, go sniff the dirt over there” and I pointed to his left, behind him.  


Nic looked at me.  Turned and walked to that spot.  He sniffed the dirt and then looked at me.  “Lay down, Nic” I said.


Nic pawed the dirt and then plopped down in the sand.  He laid there, sniffing the sand around his nose.  “Roll over, Nic”.  Nic sighed and rolled over to his left side.  “Roll over to the other side, Nic”.  He rolled over and laid there, still.


© Bonnie Davis “Come on, Nic, I know you’re not dead!  Just lazy.  Wiggle in the sand and rub your neck.”  Nic began to wiggle in the sand, stopped and then rubbed his neck back and forth.  After a few seconds, I said, “Nic, stand up and shake”.  With a heave and a big sigh, Nic stood up, shook his body and then looked at me......”If you’re ready to go Nic, yawn.”


Nic again looked at me and then gave this big yawn and began to scratch his nose on his knee.  “Got an itchy nose, hey Nic?  OK.  Come on over here, let’s put the halter on and you can go in your stall and have some grain!”


Nic began to walk to me.  Stopped.  Lowered his head.  I slipped the halter on and then we went over to open the gate.  Nic always stops and stays behind me.....at gates or just walking.  He waits for me to open a gate and his manners are so he stays behind me, to the side so I can see him out of the corner of my eye.  It’s called ‘my safety zone’. 


As I opened the gate, the folks leaning on the fence smiled, laughed and said, “That horse is really trained!!  He does everything you tell him.  How long did it take you to train him?  Was it hard?  He sure is a nice horse!”


© Bonnie Davis My reply was “Nic’s a good guy.”  But I had to smile to myself......I DO NOT have Nic trained.  In reality, Nic and I are trained together.  We have a regiment and we follow it each day.  I know exactly how long it will take him to roll, yawn and then walk to me.  We’ve done this for close to 17 years!  I know when to tell him to “lay down” and the time it takes him to roll, yawn and so on.  It’s just coordinating my comments to the time he uses.


Horses learn through consistency.  Do it over and over and over again and again and the horse develops a pattern in his mind and he’ll do it.  I’ve done this ‘trick’ with all my horses on more than a few folks leaning on the fence.  Kids love it.  Adults think ‘I am a real horse trainer’.  They all get excited at how well trained Nic is.  But I will admit, I have to giggle at myself and do feel a little smug with my ‘trick horse’. 


Safe trails!


Bonnie & Nic


Seen Anything Interesting?

May 27, 2015

It always amazes me when folks come back from a horsecamping trip or a trail ride and when asked if you saw anything interesting, they reply “NO”. My biggest problem when I go trail riding or horsecamping is I find to many interesting things to see, watch and even investigate. Which means I may not make many miles on a ride because I’ve stopped to look at this and that. Or in a horsecamp, enjoyed the peace and quiet so much Nic and I just kick back and relax! 


On one horsecamping we never made it out of camp one day because both Nic and I got involved in watching ants move bread into an ant hill. Or at least I thought it was interesting.  Nic just stood dozing in the sun. I’ll admit it wasn’t very exciting but the ants sure worked hard. 


They had a piece of a cinnamon roll about 4 inches square. I dropped it on top of the ant hill which first blocked the entrance so some ants had to move it to get in and out of the ant hill. After a few struggles, pushes and tugging they managed to move it down the side of the ant hill. Then the second crew moved in. They chomped pieces out of the cinnamon roll, dropped them and some other ants came out of the anthill and moved the pieces to the top. Then a crew came up out of the hill, grabbed the pieces of bread and went back down. Later when the roll was littler, different ants came out.. They tore pieces out of the roll and took them down into the hill. Guess they were the second shift.   


Ants are interesting to watch. They have an order to their rushing around. Like birds!


Nic and I were up in the hills above Pleasanton where I live. When coming over a ridge there was this long line of telephone poles among the valley oak trees and the steady tapping and rapping of birds. When we went down the trail a little ways, the tapping stopped. And as we got closer the birds flew away. Never paid much attention to where they flew from and to until another flock of birds flew back in – to land on the sides of the telephone poles!


Riding off the trail to look at a telephone pole it dawned on me the birds were woodpeckers.  Each one was tapping away at the telephone poles. One pole had about 10 birds on it. All busy tapping and making holes while on some other poles, birds were busy pushing and filling empty holes with ACORNS!


Some poles were full of acorns. Thousands of them. Other poles were riddled with pecked holes waiting to have an acorn stuffed into it. Each bird was busy pecking or struggling to fit an acorn into a hole. 


Riding around the poles it was interesting to notice the acorns were pushed in. Some fit neatly into a hole – pointed end in first all the time. On others the acorn had to be fitted into a slot or a slit where part of the original hole had fallen away. And many holes were unfinished because if completed, they would destroy a hole around it with an acorn in it!


Nic and I didn’t stay around the poles very long. The woodpeckers tended to get upset when Nic side-passed up to the pole for me to take a picture. But here’s one we managed to get just as a big Red Headed Woodpecker came at Nic. Nic wasn’t happy about being hit with a woodpecker and I wasn’t about to get off and walk UP to the pole either.

A Horse & His Bed...

March 13, 2015

I’m a firm believer that a happy horse will make your camping experience more fun.  And for some horses, shavings are a necessary ‘requirement’ to keeping them happy.  Here’s a few tips I use to make shavings last longer – and keep a horse happy.

When buying shavings buy ONLY PINE shavings.  Pine shavings are considered more ‘environmentally compatible’ with the surrounding environment.  Few forests have stands of cedar or fir trees.  Pine are the universal shavings for camping.  Pine blends into the surrounding forest plus pine breaks down quicker into the ground.  Also, some horses are allergic to both or either cedar or fir shavings.  And the last thing you want when out camping is for a horse to suddenly develop ‘bumps’ from an allergic reaction to cedar or fir.  Always stick to what you use and do at home when going camping!!

When opening a bale of shavings dump the bale into the CENTER of the corral.  Pile ‘em up and let the horse scatter them around.  Most horses will immediately lay down in them, wallow around and scatter them.  Some will roll completely over so if you horse does that, shavings in the center mean he’s less likely to get hung up in a fence or against a rail with shavings in the middle!  Once he’s done rolling in the shavings, he’ll generally shake and the ones stuck to his hide will fall back into the center. 

After the horse gets up, take your rake and rake the shavings back into a pile.  Horses like to urinate in shavings – most horses don’t like to get their legs ‘wet’.  So they like a fresh, dry pile of shavings.  Once the horse has done his thing, rake the wet shavings off to one side of the center pile and leave ‘em.  They’ll dry out in the sun and air.  What keeps shavings wet and soggy is the moisture is always down under and into the pile.  The wet shavings should be scattered around the edges to dry and then when dry, racked back into the pile.

If the corral is damp, keep shavings in the center to help the center ‘dry’ so the horse can lay down.  If really wet, look for another corral.  Keeping a horse in a WET corral is hard on a horse and uncomfortable.  He’ll get chilled when laying down and even through there’s a layer of shavings between him and the wet ground, the shavings will just disappear into the dirt!

When picking up horse manure, shake the rake.  Get the shavings out before tossing the manure into a wheel barrow.  If you toss it over the fence, rake the manure and wet shavings OUT.  Don’t let it pile up beside or behind the corrals.  It just becomes a huge mountain of horse manure and unless someone rakes it out, it will never decompose.  Horse manure scattered out will decompose faster as small animals – mice, squirrels – and birds look for pieces of grain, grasses, hay to use in nesting material and to eat.  Deer will even come into a camp and paw through spread out horse manure looking for something to eat and with all the pawing, the manure will break down and decompose.  Horse manure is the fastest decomposing waste matter in the world!!

If ‘managed’ right, one bale of shavings will last a week – or more – for a horse in a corral.  By keeping the pile in the center, the horse walks around the corral so all the horse manure is ‘deposited’ along the edges.  The horse will lay in the pile of shavings as night settles in.  And even through it’s a strange place, nothing says home better than a pile of shavings to snuggle in!!

Safe trails!

Bonnie & Nic

Follow Us