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Make horse camps for campers with stock only

Hi all –

This was in an email newsletter I get, and thought it might be of interest. It’s specific to the PNW area. Is anything like this being discussed in other areas?

Help BCHA to make horse camps for campers with stock only
June 6, 2023 by Oregon Equestrian Trails
Summer is here, and we (finally!) have fabulous opportunities to ride and camp. Hooray!
But amid all the fun, you might encounter people without horses staying in horse camps and occupying campsites that would otherwise be open for equestrian use. The Forest Service and other land managers know people without horses sometimes camp in horse camps, but at the moment there aren’t any rules against this. Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) would like to change that. They’d like to see land managers issue a formal rule stating that horse camps are for campers with stock only. Non-horse campers have plenty of other places they can stay, while equestrians are limited to official horse camps only.
We have a golden opportunity this summer to support BCHA’s efforts on our behalf and show our land managers just how widespread this issue is. Each time you see someone camping in a horse camp without a horse, take a photo if you can do it without antagonizing the person. Jot down the particulars: date, day of the week, camp name, land manager (Forest Service, State Park, BLM), etc. If you experience anything unpleasant as a result of the non-horse camper being there (kids climbing on the corrals or pestering the horses, having an equestrian turned away because there are no other
empty campsites, etc.) make a note of that, too.
Don’t confront the person or ask them to move. Just take notes.
Then go to the OET website: www.oregonequestriantrails.org, click on the News tab
(or Menu, if you’re on your phone), and scroll down to Horse Camps. Click on it, and the first item you’ll see is Non-Horse Campers. Scroll down to the bottom of the article and click on the Online Horse Camp Incident Form link. Fill it out and submit it. Or download the Horse Camp Incident Form and fill it out and submit it via email.
Either way, your response will go to BCHA. They’ll compile all the reports and present the data to the land manager. And you’ll have helped gather more ammunition in the battle to keep horse camps for horse campers. It’s easy to do, and it strengthens BCHA’s efforts on our behalf. Let’s do it! Happy Camping!
Article by VP of Public Lands, Kim McCarrel, vppubliclands@oregonequestriantrails.org or 541-410-4552.


I agree to a point, but I am also aware of perception if a horse camp has no one in it and the regular campgrounds are full. If it is not being utilized by horse folks, and that is noted as well, how soon before we’d lose that camp? Maybe a balance is better.

I stopped by a horse camp this holiday weekend (I’m camping there with horses in a few weeks, wanted to check it out). There were three (of 16) sites with horses. I think four other sites had regular campers. I thought for sure on the long holiday weekend there would be more horses camping (great trails, seven of the sites have pens).

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I think it’s a good idea but maybe a little bit ignorant. From what I’ve read about longtime campers in general campgrounds (not equestrian-specific) being turned away because the campgrounds they’ve used for years are being taken over by newbie campers, that phrase about non-horse campers having “plenty of other places they can stay” is not only inaccurate but out of touch with the current state of camping in America.
There’s also a problem (I’ve read) with people booking campsites in advance and then never showing up, so that campers who do appear, without reservations, aren’t permitted to stay.
Maybe the PNW and other horse-campground managers should communicate with non-equestrian campground managers and see about coordinating with them and referring campers to alternate grounds.
I have friends here in the SE who frequently camp at horse campgrounds but AFAIK these are private horse-specific campgrounds that don’t permit non-equestrian camping.

I also think whoever wrote that article should have used clearer language as at first I couldn’t tell what was meant by “stock only.” Only stock trailers instead of LQ ones? Should have said equestrian-only or something similar. Who refers to their equines as “stock” when talking about camping anyway?


In general I agree. On the east coast, though, it seems there are fewer and fewer horses on the trails, and your average person thinks all horse people are wealthy, so why should they have special areas set aside?

I could see a scheme allowing non-horse campers to make reservations starting 48 hours before the weekend, or trying to configure them so they are all in one area. I would worry about random kids etc getting in with the horses.


I would too. And random pet dogs.

This is actually a topic that the Forest Service and USDA released a white paper on a couple years ago. With COVID making the popularity of camping skyrocket, everyone was trying to find best practices to provide the best user experience for everyone.

This is actually a fairly big thing. I often go to reserve a spot and find only a few available, even months in advance. But when I get there to camp, there are tons of empty sites around me. I’d guess in some cases 25-50% of the people never show up.

I don’t have an issue with equestrian campgrounds being limited to only those with horses (I’ve never camped in one myself) but I think this method of going about it is a little creepy. Take photos and make notes on the behavior of people who are doing nothing wrong under the current rules?

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I am in the PNW, Oregon. I am a member of OET. I will tell you that this is a very real issue. The single biggest problem we are facing is that our trails are being overtaken by motorized recreation and bikes. These can be very dangerous to horses. Not to mention many of our wilderness trails are single track with nowhere to turn around or move to the side. Many of them have a downhill side you would not like to visit with your horse.
The PNW is a hub of outdoor recreation. With that comes any number of user groups who bump up against each other. We’ve had to create new areas for those with ATV’s; they were using horse/hiker trails and I can tell you it’s not fun to have somebody come flying up a blind hill or around a corner and not see you or be able to stop. Now we are dealing with ebikes.
On top of that, OET and BCH are the groups that maintain those camps. It’s not the forest service, altho they do help us. It is volunteer work, and it is HARD. You think we should just turn it loose to be used and not supported by non-horse people? The USFS does not have enough employees or money to do the necessary maintenance, hence the user groups who volunteer to keep something usable for their hobby. We are the ones who go in and fix corrals and clear trails.
Never mind that horse campers are not people campers. Horses are large and inherently unpredictable animals. Non horse people in our camps is a recipe for potential disaster and liability.
I’m going to stop here.


Do I want to see horse camping sites available for horse campers? Absolutely! But it does become murky when those sites are underutilized. We have a horse camp here in our closest national forest. I horse camp a LOT and I never use it. Mostly because the sites all have tie stalls that the rangers expect you to use. I refuse to make my horse stand in a tie stall after riding all day. Also, the camp used to be free, now it is a pay site. Which is fine, but there is a private horse camp that charges less per night, with box stalls and hot/cold water and showers, that accesses the same trail system. But apparently the forest service thinks I’d rather pay more for tie stalls, no potable water, and vault toliets?
Sadly, we are a small group, and becoming smaller with each passing year. Its not going to be much longer before the ATV/side-by-side riders push us completely out of these areas in my opinion. I think more push-back by horse campers over sites is likely to be counter productive.


I am shocked that your division of the forest service allows volunteers for trail maintenance. Ours does not allow volunteers to work on the trail. They don’t even allow forest rangers who are not chainsaw certified to work on trail. I know it sounds ridiculous to work for the national forest service and not be able to operate a chainsaw, but it’s true. We had to fight tooth and nail to get some additional people certified because they were continually using that as an excuse as to why all of our trails were impassable.


If you’re running a chainsaw you DO have to be certified. Periodically there is a day for certification where our volunteers show up and get certified.
OET & BCH have spent countless hours developing relationships with the forest service in order for them to trust us as a volunteer group.


Equestrian campsites in CA say you must have horses to stay there, though I couldn’t say whether or not it is enforced. But they do tend to be mostly booked up at least for the peak season. I’m getting ready to use one myself in a few weeks :grin:

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