Love the idea of heading for the hills to go camping with your horse? Wondering where you can camp with your horse at the end of the day? Check out this list of ideas of places that might be suitable for your and your steed to lay your weary heads for the night.
The idea of heading out for a long ride and going camping with your horse is an idea entertained by horse-lovers across the country, both young and old. Choosing where to go is easy enough- after all, you’ve probably taken your horse out on countless trail rides and no doubt have an idea of how to manage the day’s travel. Now you’re ready to take the next step and go camping with your horse…. but where?
Unlike free-camping as a walker, horse travel is a little trickier. Gone are the days of the horse-friendly pubs, complete with hitching rails and stables out the back, conveniently spaced a days’ ride apart. What bliss to order a bucket of oats along with your pint as you settle down to converse with fellow folks of the road.
Now clearly in the minority, equine travelers need to to be much more well-prepared. When seeking out a potential spot for camping with your horse, you might look for the following (listed in order of priority):
- Grass/ hay for your horses
- A buffer between the road and your camp
- Paddock/ yard
- Few/ no other stock present
- Trees for shade/ tying up
- Fallen sticks/ Wood (for fire)
Ideas on where to go camping with your horse
Traveling Stock Reserves (TSRs)
Traveling Stock Reserves (TSRs) are parcels of Crown land reserved under legislation for use by traveling stock, and a sight for every horse trekkers’ sore eyes. Local Land Services is responsible for the care, control and maintenance of almost 500,000ha of TSRs in NSW.
You’ll need to obtain a permit from Local land Services to use them, but once this is obtained, you’ll be free to camp, access water, and let your horses graze within the TSRs, most of which are fenced.
B&Bs / farmstays
Okay, so its not REALLY camping with your horse. But farm stays can be a great option for those new to horse travel.
Once you’ve planned your route, check out whether you’ll pass or come within reach of a local rural farmstay or B&B. Even if their website does not explicitly state that horses or catered for, its work making some inquiries. Being farm-based, most rural accommodation facilities have fenced areas or yards. If you are a paying customer, perhaps booking a room or chalet on site, most places will be happy to let your horses use a paddock for the night. Whats more, you’ll get to enjoy a hot bath while your horses are comfortably grazing and safely contained.
These can vary vastly in size and potential camp-comfort, especially from state to state. Along traveling stock routes, road verges can be especially wide. In fact, one of my favorite horse camps ever was a road verge. There was at least 50 meters between the road and fence, with a buffer of trees along the road for added shade, privacy and security for our animals, lovely green feed untouched by other stock, and a small dam for our water source.
Unfortunately, such roadside bliss is rare, especially here in TSR-poor Western Australia. But if you look hard enough, there are often pull-offs or small roadside clearings that can make adequate, if not luxurious horse camps. Road reserves are usually quite generous at places like river crossings/ bridges and these can often be a cosy spot to set up camp with your horse for the night.
Determining whether land is part of the road reserve or is intact unfenced private property can be made easier with the use of 1:25000 topographic maps. Generally, farms/ private property is marked by a thin black border. (The road reserves are the bits of land in between these.)
With the advent of the grey-nomad movement, most road maps and travel atlases now include great information on rest areas, public campgrounds and free camps. Some of these are suitable for camping with horses, providing there is a water source and grazing, space to contain your animals (or the possibility of a hay drop), and no risk of being mown down by sleepy road trains in the night (highly possible at many highway rest areas!)
While some public campsites (mostly in Victoria and the NSW high country) even provide yards and other facilities for horses, others are situated in National Parks and forbid domestic animals. If dogs are banned, there’s a good chance horses will be too, so choose your campsite accordingly.
Caravan parks in rural areas occasionally have access to a spare paddock which they might use as an overflow area in busier times. It MAY be possible that they let paying customers keep horses there for the night.
This is a bit hit or miss. With any luck, on a long horse trek, you will have passers—by offer you a corner of their paddock or even a bed for the night. Other times, you may not be so lucky.
Unlike in other countries, its not as easy as coming across a nice patch of land and strolling up the drive to ask the farmer for permission to camp. In Australia, the homestead may well be miles away, and the ‘absentee farmer’ is a common phenomenon. Ever-increasing bio-security concerns on productive farms may also limit your chances, and besides, the last thing farmers probably want is a tribe of mounted vagabonds rolling up on their doorsteps begging to camp. Perhaps best to treat this one as an emergency fall-back option for camping with your horse rather than an actual real possibility.
Note: I would never risk setting up camp on private property without permission, unless it was a life-or-death situation.
Blue gum Plantations
I know, bizarre, right? But with the lack of TSRs and established horse-friendly campsites, one must be creative.
In our South-west corner of Western Australia, Blue gum plantations are large and are often owned by a corporation who does not live on site. They must contain several water points, and often feature wide cleared areas between blocks of trees, which make excellent grazing strips for camping with your horse. Management information and contact numbers can usually be found on the front gate. In my experience, these companies are usually happy to give permission to camp for the night, provided you leave no trace and there’s not a huge number of raucous, beer-can throwing horsey vagabonds in your traveling party.
Country Halls / Fire Sheds
These often make a wonderful campsite, and no, you don’t even need the hall key. Instead, make use of the perimeter fencing to graze/ contain your horses. There is usually running water that can be accessed outside, and back verandahs are a godsend in foul weather. Make sure you ask permission first (in the absence of phone reception, neighboring properties are usually involved in the management or at least know someone who is), rather than help yourself to the yard.
Showgrounds/ Pony clubs
Ah, the ultimate 5 star B&B for horses. Water, yards, shade sometimes paddocks- the whole place had been set up with horses in mind, so you can rest assured that these are generally wonderful places to go camping with your horse. As always, ask permission and make sure your intended camp doesn’t clash with camp drafts, shows, or other events held on the grounds.
IN summary, with a bit of hunting around and a fair dose of creativity, there are a great many places to go camping with your horse. The key to camping with your horse is to be well-prepared, always ask permission when unsure, tread lightly for the sake of future camping expeditions, and never jeopardize your or your animal’s safety by choosing an unsuitable campsite.