Securing Your Horse
By Catherine M. Sheets Tauer - Hill View Farms
(Written by request of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2002)
Dear Horse Riders,
The debate regarding the best ways by which to secure an equine has come to my attention. Therefore, I will share the various methods that I have had encountered over the years.
First allow me to introduce my self. My name is Cathy Sheets Tauer. Since 1965, I have been involved with horses. I have a B.S. degree with honors in Animal Science-1982 specializing in veterinary medicine with emphasis on equine management, and ESMT Certification (Equine Sports Massage Therapy) from Equissage. I am a member of both the International Association of Equine Massage Sports Therapists, and Minnesota Horse Council.
I have worked in corporate sales and marketing for over a decade and have ridden and trained horses all of my life. I have been schooled abroad and at home in the hunt-seat, equitation, dressage, western and English pleasure and saddle seat riding styles and I have participated in gaming.
Now as a family we trail ride, participate in endurance and competitive rides, logging 20 to 100 miles nearly every weekend. We own, ride, breed and train both gaited and non-gaited horses. In 1996 we decided to share our knowledge and experience with others by providing products that we ourselves use and have thoroughly tested, so we launched a national company called "Proven Products for Horse and Rider", where we test and provide products for the horse people. Our business has its own catalogue and Web site. We have since expanded, and now import products from abroad and have a wholesale division.
We travel extensively conducting clinics, educating horse lovers, testing new products and evaluating equines and their facilities. Here is some of the ground we've covered.
• Beaver Falls Co Park
• Camden State Park
• Cedar Rock Ranch, Delhi
• Crow Hassen Park Reserve
• Forestville State Park
• Fort Ridgely State Park
• Granite Falls
• Hay Creek State Park
• Huntersville State Forest
• Huston, "The Bunk House"
• Huston, Whispering Hills Resident Girl Scout Camp
• Isabella, Boundary Waters of Northern
• Jorden River Bottoms
• K-Bar Ranch, Franklin
• Lake Elmo Park Reserve
• Lake Louise State Park
• Lake Maria State Park
• Maplewood State Park
• Morton, Franklin Redwood River Bottoms
• North Redwood
• Outback Ranch, Houston
• Pillager State Forest
• Pillsbury State Forest
• Reno Unit Dover Forest
• Renville County Park
• Sand Dunes State Forest
• Sibley State Park
• Spirit Mountain, Duluth
• St. Croix, Hinkly
• St. Croix State Forest, Tamarack
• Upper Sioux Agency State Park
• Wetbark Oak Ridge Unit Dorer Forest, Houston
• Wild River State Park
• Zumbro Bottoms Unit Dorer Forest
The United States and the World
• Yellow River St. Park, IA, - Paint Creek Unit
• Brushy Creek, IA
• Volga River State Park, IA
• The Natural Gait, Harpers Ferrey , IA
• Wild Cat Mountain, Ontario WI, "End of the Trail Equine Camp"
• Kickapoo Valley-Reserve, WI
• Black Hills, Custer, SD - T.C.Ranch
• Sisseton-Prairie Sky, SD
• White, SD, - The Leiferman Cattle Ranch
• Jamestown TN, East Fork Stables
• Kedron Valley, - VT
• Phippsburg, ME
• South Hampton, Long Island, NY
• Malibar Farm, OH
• Pikes Peak, CO
• Meyer, AZ - Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch
• Shawnee National Forest, IL
• Lexington, KY, - Long View Stables
• Buffalo National Park, AR
• Lewis & Clark National Forest - Bob Marshall & Scapegoat Wilderness, MT
• Coasta Rica - cross country to: Parque Prussia, Tucanet, Tango Mar, Valley of the Monkeys, Monteverde Cloud Forest and Tabacon.
• Valle de Bravo, Mexico - Finca Enyhe-La Sierra Cabalgatas
• Ontario, Canada - Muskoka Region
• Le Touquet, France
• Buenos Aries, Argentina, - The Jockey Club
We ride our horses over 1,000 miles every year and have seen lots of things and will continue to see and do new things as life allows.
I will now share with you the good and bad things that I've seen or experienced over the years about the ways campers secure their horses.
Let's get started. We need to look at the three areas:
• The horse camper.
• The horse and its safety.
• The Park or Equine Camp and its financial and legal obligations.
1. The Horse Camper
Horse campers and their horse trailers:
- Horse trailers can be bumper-pull style towed by a pick-up truck, SUV, van, RV, bus or even a utility truck.
- Horse trailers can be gooseneck or 5th wheel style towed by a pick-up truck or a semi tractor.
- Horse trailers can accommodate anywhere form one to eight head of horses, and be up to 60 feet long! The park or campground has to plan for these various rigs, which are getting to be larger and larger.
Horse campers themselves:
- Horse campers come either by themselves or with families or friends or both. You may see several vehicles at one campsite and even several trailers if the family is large and needs more than one trailer to haul all the horses. The park or campground has to accommodate all these variations.
- Horse campers have different sleeping arrangements. Some sleep in their horse trailers, some in tents or RV's, or in a combination of these. What they all have in common is that they all would like level camping spots.
2. The Horse and It's Safety
(The horse owners must be able to see or hear their horses from their rigs so that, in the case of an emergency, they can quickly get to their animals and lend assistance. This is an absolute must for all of the following types of equine restraints - or indeed, any other type of restraint you might devise.)
Using portable corrals:
- This is a great way to allow your horse to move around and not tie up, (cramping of the heavy muscles in the back and hind quarters, a medical condition that can lead to colic, which is an intestinal disorder that, if not properly treated, can lead to death).
- Horses roll, play, jump, squeal and kick. I have seen horses trapped under the portable gate panels. I've seen legs stuck, and shoes pulled off. When trapped, some horses lie calm and allow you to help them, but most will struggle and injure themselves.
- Horse campers bring and set their own corral. But not every camper has the means to do this. The park or campground has no expense is associated in securing the equine.
- Because this corral is portable, the wear and tear on the campground's "lawn" will be widely distributed and not confined to one spot. This is pleasant for the next camper, but the campground has to provide more room to accommodate these corrals.
Tying to the trailer:
- This method allows minimal movement by the horse, thus increasing his risk of tying up or colicing, especially after a hard day on the trail or if he isn't as fit as he should be.
- People try to compensate for the horse's lack of mobility by leaving lead ropes long, furthering the risk of major injury. I've seen horses tangled in their leads from scratching, lying down or rubbing pulling the rope so tight that the only way to free the horse is to cut the rope with a knife. The quick release fastener, if used, usually is not on the trailer, but on the horse's halter. (Have you ever tried to get close to a thrashing horse's head to release him? It won't happen). I've seen horses that lie down and get stuck under the trailer. These horses' legs look like raw burger when they get unstuck and sometimes the soft tissue damage is so severe that the horse is out for the season. If tying to the trailer is your only option, tie the horses short enough so they can't get their head below their knees.
- Ideally, this method of securing the horse tying should only be used for tacking him up.
- This method is easy for the park or campground. No extra cost is involved and wear and tear to the ground is spread out. But this method carries a very high risk of injury to the horses. I have witnessed two horse deaths associated with trailer tying.
Using a portable electric fence:
- This method is super for allowing your horse to move and graze, but as I said before, horses will be horses. I've seen horses play in the morning and run right through the fence. Others get chased through the fence by their best buddy reinforcing the pecking order. These horses try to stop but end up sliding through the fence, getting tangled, panicking, breaking the wire, and then being free to run.
- Sometimes the posts that hold these lines can't be set into the ground properly and topple over in the slightest wind. And horses also try to eat that last blade of grass from under the fence and get themselves into trouble. (This goes for portable corrals as well.) The worst incident I witnessed was at an endurance ride in the fall when the horses were blanketed. For some reason they got out of the pen (maybe they didn't feel the shock of the fence through their blankets), but for whatever reason they escaped and got out on the freeway. One horse was killed instantly as it went through the windshield of a car. the people were not hurt. The other was horribly injured. I knew both the girls who owned them and the horses. I cried. Granted, nothing is entirely safe, but we all do our best.
- The park or campground has no expense is associated with this system because the horse owners bring and sets up their own corral. But not every camper will have the means to provide this for their horses.
- This corral is portable, so the wear and tear on the campground "lawn" is distributed and not all the damage is confined to one spot. The down side is that these corrals require a lot of space, which the park or campground must provide.
Using a picket line or high line, with a permanent line (rope, cable, or chain) attached:
- Using this method allows the horses to move, walk or trot in a small circle, and lie down. They can kick and rear, and even scratch themselves with a rear foot. The freedom of movement helps prevent tying up and colic.
- The issues I have had over the years (and I picket 5 or 6 head each time we hit the trail) is that during an itch, a horse may get his foot in the lead rope or even tangled in a halter. When a horse is attached to a permanent cable or heavy marine rope, he may be hard to release if he gets tangled, but, more importantly a cable does not give or stretch, so the horses leg is rubbed so raw that, once released, the horse will be lame for an extended period of time. The horse owner must have a quick release snap on the end that attaches to the line, for a lead that is tied can't be released quickly, especially if the lead it is damp or pulled tight, which it will be in a case of entanglement.
- Sometimes these permanent lines are not set far enough apart to avoid horse entanglements or horsy disputes. Standard-sized horse needs 8 to 10 feet of space between them to allow for the weaker or lower ranking horse to move away from an aggressor.
- Many of these permanent lines do not have loops or rings permanently affixed on them, so the horse owner must figure out a way to jerry-rig the rope so the horses' leads do not slide together.
- The park or campground has the expense of installing and maintaining posts and the high line. Because this is a permanent fixture, erosion will occur in one spot and that one spot must be maintained so when it rains, the horse is not standing in mud or water and the rider will be able to approach and tend the animal with out getting covered in mud and slop.
- The park or campground also must make sure that the camp is large enough to secure the number of horses that one camper unit may bring (1 to 8 horses).
Using a hitching rail: (Two posts with a cross piece at the top)
- Using a hitching rail works well for tacking up horses. The horse can stand fairly still while the rider moves around him.
- The hitching posts horizontal crosspiece should be made of a material other than wood because horses will chew wood.
- The park, has an on-going expense of replacing crosspieces.
- The horse gets splinters in his gums and mouth.
- The owner has the responsibility and expense of treating the horse, which could involve the assistance of a medical professional to remove splinters treat abscesses in the horse's mouth. To avoid this, the park could choose to use a pipe cross piece.
- The height of the crosspieces also is an issue. Horse owners bring horses in many sizes, from a miniature, standing at 9 hands (36 inches) high. To a warm blood, who can easily be 17 hands high (5 feet 6 inches) high. Ideally, the crosspiece should be at the horse's chest level, so where do you put a crosspiece.
- I also have issues with these crosspieces themselves. Not only are they never the correct height, but a small horse or a horse who lies down can get under these crosspieces and get into serious trouble. I have witnessed a permanent back injury to a horse that got stuck under on hitching rail crosspiece. One of my horses got under a crosspiece and came up on the other side. Of course she could not get down and crawl back under, so she struggled with her head below her knees and the lead rope so tight that she could not move. Fortunately the horses on the "wrong" side did not panic or viciously attach her, but she did receive a kick (from one of her herd mates, telling her to go back to her own space, which clearly she could not do) before I got to her.
- Because the hitching rail is a permanent fixture, it will cause erosion in one spot and that one spot must be maintained so that when it rains the horse is not standing in mud or water and the rider will be able to approach and tend the animal without getting covered with mud and slop.
- The park also must make sure to provide enough area to secure the number of horses that one camper unit may bring. (1 to 8 horses)
Using a hitching rail and picket line combination: (Looks like a goal post or the letter 'H', with a cable, chain or heavy rope at the top)
- The horses can move, and lie down (with a risk of back injury, but does allow them some freedom of movement as the do not to tie up). They can kick, rear and even scratch themselves with a rear foot.
- The issues I've had with this arrangement over the years (and I picket 5 or 6 head each time we hit the trail) is that, during an itch, a horse could get its foot in the lead rope, or even a halter. Releasing a horse attached to a permanent cable or heavy marine rope can be hard. Also a cable does not give, so the horse's leg can be rubbed so raw that the horse will be lame for an extended period of time. The horse owner must have a quick release (panic snap) on the end of the lead that to the line, cable, chain or rope, because a lead that is tied can not be released quickly, especially if the lead is damp or pulled tight.
- Some of these permanent lines are not set far enough apart to avoid horse entanglements or horsy disputes. A standard size horse needs 8 to10 feet of space between tying to allow for the weaker or lower ranking horse to move away from an aggressor.
- Many of these permanent lines do not have loops or rings permanently affixed to them, so the horse camper must figure out how to improvise an attachment that does not allow the horses' leads to slide together.
- The height of these cross pieces also is an issue. Horse owners bring horses in many sizes, from a miniature, standing 9 hands (36 inches) high to a warm blood who can easily be 17 hands (5 feet 6 inches). Ideally, the crosspiece should be at the horse's chest level, so where do you put a crosspiece.
- I also have issue with these crosspieces themselves. Not only are they never the correct height, but a small horse or a horse who lies down can get under theses crosspieces and get into serious trouble. I've already talked about some of the injuries this arrangement has caused.
- The park or campground has the expense of installing and maintaining the posts and high line. Because this a permanent fixture, erosion will occur in one spot, and that one spot must be maintained so that, when it rains the horse is not standing in mud or water and the rider can approach and tend the animal without getting covered in mud and slop.
- The biggest expense for the park would be the crosspiece that runs parallel to the ground attached to both upright poles if it is made of wood. Horse's love to chew on these crosspieces; in fact they chew on any horizontal positioned piece of wood. This chewing is bad for all involved. The park has the ongoing expense of replacing these crosspieces. The horse can get painful splinters in the gums and mouth, which can become infected. The owner has the expense of treating whatever damage the horse does to himself. To avoid this, the the park could choose to use a pipe crosspiece.
- The park must also provide enough area to secure the number of horses that each camper unit will bring (from one to eight horses).
Using a picket pole and hitching post: (For either high or low tying or for use as a picket line):
- A hitching post should be a metal pole at least 5 feet tall and 8 inches in caliber with a rounded top. The pole should have rings welded at several heights to accommodate different sized horses. This configuration gives the horse nothing to chew on and is tall enough that a horse rearing would not come down on the post and impale himself. It also allows horse campers to secure their horses at the proper height for each horse.
- The picket poles should be arranged in-groups of three, spaced so that the campers can secure up to eight horses. Each pole should be at least 10 feet high with rings at various levels so that the campers can select the proper height for their horses. Campers can either tie their horses directly to the poles of or use the upper rings to run their own rope between the posts to set up their own picket lines for the number of horses they plan to tie. Using their own unattached rope lets the camper space their own rings or "stops" in the rope using the proper spacing avoiding the horsy conflicts that so often arise.
- Using a picket post allows the horses to move, walk, trot in a small circle, and lay down. This gives them enough freedom of movement to prevent tying up. The horse can kick and rear, and even scratch themselves with a rear foot.
- I picket 5 or 6 head of horses each time we hit the trail and have only one issue with a picket line. While trying to scratch an itch, a horse can get his foot caught in the lead rope or even a halter. Using a removable picket line, all it takes to free the horse is to drop the line or undo a quick-release snap on the lead rope or cross tie. To free a horse's foot from a halter requires sheer strength. Then make sure the halter is properly tight the next time! The worst injury I ever encountered was a slight rope burn on a rear pastern and the horse could still be ridden; he was not lame. The "give" in the picket line keeps the rope from binding and cutting-and laming-a horse. The only other incidence had happened when we left a young horse behind by herself. She reared up and her front feet went over the picket line. The line gave, so she could move around. She felt as if she had a girth or lead rope under her belly, and all we had to do to free her was release the lead rope and drop the line. She didn't have a mark on her because the line gave.
- The horse campers will have to bring their own rope for a picket line or they will just have to tie off on the post using their own lead ropes.
- The park or campground will have to install the round posts, preferably not wood if they're being used as hitching posts. Square wood posts have corner edges that invite horses to chew on them. Large round 10 to 12 inch caliber utility posts, such as electrical companies use, last for many years and do not invite much chewing. The campground also will have the expense of setting the rings or wooden blocks with the tops nailed to the posts at the various heights. The height selection allows the camper the option of using the picket post as a hitching post, eliminating the need for an additional hitching post. Also the post should have wooden blocks nailed to it or metal blocks welded or bolted to it as a two step, step-up so the campers can set their picket line or "high line".
- Using this system makes erosion easier to manage because campers will try to select the highest ground for their horses; they too do not want to step in mud and muck, so the war pattern at the posts will be fairly even.
- The park or campground will have to determine the number of horses it can safely accommodate and space the posts so that the campers can safely secure that many horses.
- Safely setting your lead rope on your line. Adjust your line so that with your picket fasteners, rings, or other stops are spaced far enough apart so that your horse's leads can't tangle with others. Then tighten the line with your "tight rope" or self-tightening knots, hang your leads so that when tugged on, they won't get closer to the ground than 16 to 18 inches. This allows the horse to get his head to the ground without any interference from the lead. If you hang your hang your hay bags from your line instead of the posts, you might need to retighten your line. Your rope might have a tendency to stretch. Also when tying horses on leads long enough to let them lie down, make sure your lead is 8 ft away from obstructions (e.g., vehicles, trailers, trees). We also have added D-loops to the top of our trailer so we can picket from our trailer and our friends have done the same, so we literally have a picket line city when we camp. All in all, we have found the picket line our best choice. It is the most versatile for all sizes of horses and can accommodate the ever-changing number of horses that we haul around. Also, it is by far the safest means of securing a horse, even though we have had the troubles I shared with you earlier.
Using a ground tying-type picket:
- A ground tying-picket is a permanent block of concrete with a ring set into it. The block and ring are sent into the soil and extend about 4 in. above the ground surface.
- This is the this is the least expensive restraint method for the park or campground, but the low cost of each station is somewhat offset by the need to have many stations because for only one horse can use each station.
- This restraint method can be the risky for a horse who is not trained to handle a rope. When ground tying-type picketing, the horse is restrained by having a picketing hobble attached to one foot, usually a hind, and a rope of whatever length the camper chooses attached to the hobble by one end and the concrete block by the other.
- This restrain method allows the horse to move about, lie down, etc., but is not widely used in the US today.
Using permanent corrals or box stalls:
- When permanent corrals or stalls are installed properly, they are the best, but also the most expensive type of restraint for the following reasons.
-Fences must be at least 5 ft high and should be made of pipe. Horses will chew anything made of wood and can break any board that is not at least 2 in. thick oak. Cattle panels and woven wire and strands of wire can cause horses to pull their shoes off and can cause severe, even fatal cuts. Each stall also must have hardware so that the camper can tie hay bags and water pails.
-Stall walls must be 8 ft. high and solid from the ground up. The smallest stall size suitable for a horse is 10 ft by 10 ft. The largest practical size is 12 ft. by 12 ft. Each stall also must have hardware so that the camper can tie hay bags and water pails.
- Permanent corrals and stalls also require the most maintenance of any restraint type. They are permanent fixtures, making erosion and issue, especially for the stalls because horse in dirt-floored stalls paw more, and the resulting holes and uneven ground must be filled regularly. This requires huge amounts of dirt fill.
- If the stalls are covered, they will become excellent breeding grounds for contagious diseases, because rain and the sun's ultra-violet rays are unable to kill the germs left by previous occupants.
- Horse campers seem less willing to clean up after their his horses in a corral situation because they are not willing to walk all over a corral and clean up manure. More manure left behind means more flying insects, objectionable smells, and potential for parasite infestation.
- If the facilities are safe and well constructed, this is the ultimate restraint method form the campers' viewpoint. They just come in and put their horses to bed, no setting up, no worries, and no extra equipment to take along.
- The park or campground will need a lot of room to provide the number of box stalls and corrals needed to accommodate the number of horses that a camper could bring.
- The park will also need to schedule weekly maintenance to replace and repair what the horses have pawed up, chewed up, and pooped on the previous weekend.
3. Park Obligations
To keep the campground full, the Park must provide the following:
- Safe and secure accommodations for horse campers
- Ample space for large rigs
- Level camping sites for the rigs
- Ample space for campers who bring large families and a large number of horses
- An ample water supply (preferably piped-in running water, not hand pumps)
- A manure compost site (rakes and wheelbarrows are optional)
- Bathroom facilities, including showers
- Trash receptacles
- Picnic tables and fire rings
- Optional electrical hook-ups
- Horse wash station on a pad of concrete near a water supply (most horse campers bring their own hoses, buckets, and washing materials).
- Do not be afraid to charge for the amenities you provide.
- If you do not charge enough, you will not get the quality camper that you would like to have at your facility.
- Offering family and group rates and taking some reservations, you can provide a financial incentive for the quality of camper your would like to have using your facility. Remember that if a facility is welcoming, safe, and allows the campers some freedom, the facility will stay full.
I sincerely hope that I shed some light on the various needs of campers with horses and the ways they restrain their mounts. I know I haven't seen it all, but I have seen a lot. I respectfully submit this proposal for use in your debates and planning forums. I would also be available to speak and provide photos and documentation with additional information if needed about the various restraint methods used throughout the country and other parts of the world.
You also can simply visit our web site www.american-flex.com and click on Hill View Farms "Proven Products for Horse and Rider"
Cathy Sheets Tauer
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