In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Gearing Up – Tips to Make Ride Day Easier

Spring cleaning.  It isn’t my favorite chore, but I couldn’t put if off any longer.  My season’s first ride is coming up this weekend, so I was finally forced to get my truck, camper, and horse trailer ready to roll.

Sure, I should have done it last fall.  But seriously, I was beat.  Last summer, I:

  • Went on two, 1100+ mile dual sport motorcycle trips,
  • Spent 21 days rafting 290 miles through Grand Canyon,
  • Backpacked (topo style, off-trail) the White Clouds,
  • Rafted the ever-spectacular late-season Rogue,
  • Shared a score of hiking and moto day trips with my sweetheart,
  • Conditioned for and completed six endurance rides (we’d have done more, but it was Jam’s first year).

By the time I turned Jam out to pasture after his November 50 at Owyhee Chills, I was ready to spend a few weeks *not* frantically unpacking from one adventure and packing for the next.  (I needed to rest up for ski season!)  The camper sat forlorn, its floor littered with freeze dried flies.  I studiously ignored the messy tack room every time I trailered a horse off to a conditioning ride.  I put it off…and off…

But there’s something about starting the ride season with a clean slate.  Maybe it’s good luck, like beginning a road trip with a clean car.  Maybe it’s just nice to know that the grease on your camper stove is fresh, rather than a relic of last autumn’s bacon and eggs.  Regardless, I reckoned it was about time to sweep, vacuum, sort, stow, and wipe my way to a fresh start.

The project got me thinking about the handy tricks I’ve adopted to keep myself sane during busy ride seasons (which are liberally punctuated with interruptions by other activities — most of which, I observe, also require specialized helmets — and all of which leave with with less prep time between rides).  Below are some simple but effective ideas that make my life easier:

  • Create a standard, packing checklist and check it before every ride.  I used Excel to make a spreadsheet that separates items into categories like tack, feed, other horse stuff, dog stuff, riding clothes, other clothes, food, camping gear, toiletries, electronics, etc.
  • Have an extra hay bag or two for use during hauling only.   That way, you don’t have to shuttle them to and from your horse’s corral/hi-tie setup at the ride.
  • Keep a “vet box” (I use a clear-sided plastic tub) so you always know where to find vet wrap, banamine, stethoscope, electrolytes, dosing syringes, etc.
  • Keep a “farrier box” (mine is actually a bucket) to organize your collection of nippers, rasp, hoof pick, hoof boots, screwdriver for adjusting boots, hole punch for installing power straps, hoof boots & pads, nylon stockings, Cowboy Magic, and leather gloves.
  • Type up an “In Case of Emergency” sheet, laminate it or put it in a plastic protector, and post it on the inside of your tack room door.  Mine contains contact information for people who care whether I continue to exist, descriptions of my horses and myself, my cell number, my vets’ phone numbers, medical information (like drug reactions), and the location of my will.  (Ok, I’m kidding about the last one.)
  • Dedicate a pocket of your tack organizer to human conveniences like sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, and ibuprofen.
  • Stow an extra halter, lead rope, and reins in the back of your tack room as backup in case of broken tack.
  • Keep a pair of work gloves in the trailer tack room for handling hay at rides.  (Many of you may not need this, but I’m allergic to the stuff so I prefer to handle it with gloves.)
  • Bring along a short hose, as well as a couple extra buckets, for transporting water to your horse in ridecamp.  That way, you don’t have to go in and out of his corral to collect buckets every time he needs a refill.
  • Keep half a bucket of water around your camp for convenient hand rinsing.  Have a “not really clean” hand-wiping towel somewhere nearby.
  • Next time you buy a horse blanket, keep the plastic zip-up bag it comes in.  You can use it inside your crew bag to keep your horse’s fleece clean and dry.
  • Keep a rope in your tack room to hold your trailer door open in the wind or when parked on a slope, so you can safely unload and load your horse singlehanded.
  • Mix packets of your horse’s daily supplements for each day of the ride.  It’s easy to dump a baggie of pre-measured powders and pellets into his evening mash.
  • Put a small bucket in the corner of your trailer tack room to use for trash.
  • Pre-pack your saddle bags with everything you’ll want on ride day so that all you need to do in camp is add your ride card and map.  For lip balm, the medicated cream kind is nice because it doesn’t melt.  Those little sunscreen foil-packs (or foil-packed sunscreen wipes) are tidy and convenient.  Mini-packs of tissue make good trail TP.  Remember a plastic baggie to haul out the used ones!  Put your Larabar or Payday in a ziploc so its package doesn’t get rubbed open over the miles.
  • Outfit your camper/living quarters with its own set of kitchen utensils (don’t forget the can opener!), bedding, toiletries, etc.  This is much easier than trying to think of everything you’ll need to borrow from your house.
  • Keep a box of non-perishable food in your camper/LQ so you always have meal and snack options handy even if you don’t make it to the ride meeting.  Be sure you have proteins, fats, carbs, and hot meal options for chilly days.  My tupperware box typically contains canned chicken and tuna, jerky, kippered herring, nuts, dried fruit, canned chowder and soup, rice, dark chocolate, coffee, decaf tea bags, and whiskey.
  • Designate a “tech box” to hold your camera, Garmin, phone, e-reader, and miscellaneous gadgetry so you never have to scramble around the camper/LQ searching for them.

That’s all that comes to mind for now.  How about you?  Share your tips and tricks in the comments — I might need them!  🙂



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