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Published September 11, 2010, 11:33 AM

Equine Adventure - Horse camping is the ultimate pet get-away

Pet owners love to bring their animals with them on trips.

By: Story and photography by June Kallestad, Living North

Pet owners love to bring their animals with them on trips. It’s no different for horse owners. Of course, you can’t just open the car door and let 1,000-plus pounds of equine power jump right in, head hanging out the window like Fido.

But with a truck, a horse trailer and a camper there are many opportunities to take your favorite horse on a camping trip. People who don’t have horses might be surprised to learn that the Northland is rich with campsites specially set up to accommodate horses – basically that means a tie-line to secure your horse overnight, a system for manure management (a wheel barrow and a dump site) and a large, drive-through campsite for your horse trailer and camper.

But the best part is that these camp sites are always surrounded by miles and miles of trails to explore.

“Horses get bored with the same old pasture and same old trails day in and day out,” says Anne Gullion of Cloquet, who recently went with some friends and their trusty steeds to the Nemadji State Forest to camp for a couple of nights. “We like to think they enjoy this as much as we do.”

Like regular camping you need to pack for people – tent or camper, food and sleeping bags. But you also need to pack for your equine partner. That means bringing enough hay, grain, water, saddles and tack, first aid for any injuries to horse or human and – in the summer – bug protection. Horses on a tie-line or in a portable pen have less opportunity to rid themselves of mosquitoes and painful biting flies, so fly spray and covers are necessary.

It sounds like a lot of work, but experienced horse campers tend to keep supplies in their horse trailers at the ready, and some can throw together gear for a camp weekend within a few hours.

“I need very little,” says Kim Peterson of Cloquet. “I just throw in my clothes, some food, the hay and I’m ready. My trailer is always ready to go in the summer.”

Horse camp for these women is a time to get away from cell phones, computers, work and family obligations – and because there are many horse camp sites within an hour’s drive of Duluth, it can be a quick retreat.

But it’s the horses that are the focal point.

“I love my horse!” Gullion enthuses while trotting down a deep pine trail.

Spending focused time with their horse is what these women enjoy most. As a social creature, horses respond best when they’ve bonded with their rider. On this trip, four hours of riding through new trails in the Nemadji Forest on the first day and a good three hours the second day. gave horse and rider plenty of time to bond.

“Riding all day and then campfire, good food and laughing with friends in the evening…” says Holly Lundquist of Wrenshall. “Really, what could be better?”

Nemadji State Forest is a multi-use forest, but it’s not specifically set up for horse camping, so for this trip the group brought their own water and portable horse pens. The trails are also heavily used by ATV riders, so only experienced horses and riders are recommended. Other favorite nearby horse camping areas are Cutfoot Sioux in Grand Rapids, Horseshoe Lake in Wisconsin, and Kathio State Park on Lake Mille Lacs in Onamia.

Many more options can be found at horsetraildirectory.com

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