PINEDALE – Heading out on the dusty trail into the wide unknown on a horse can be a frightening and dangerous experience when not taking the proper precautions both for a backcountry horseman and for the trusty steed. Simple obstacles, such as branches hovering over the trail or a small wooden bridge spanning the width of a remote creek, can be simple to overcome as a hiker, but when bringing in an inexperienced horse, it can be a very different story, which can put both the horse and rider at risk.
Because of this, clinics to desensitize horses to common obstacles along the trail can make the first trip into the backcountry much more enjoyable and safe for all involved. Last Saturday morning, a clinic was put on at the Pinedale Rodeo Grounds to teach members of the Mountain Man Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen how to properly pack for backcountry trails, along with an obstacle course to take horses through to become more comfortable around common obstacles experienced in the wilderness.
The event was put on through a collaborative effort between the Pinedale Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, the Mountain Man Chapter of Back Country Horsemen and the Sublette County Sportsmen’s Association.
According to Pinedale Ranger District recreation specialist Cindy Stein, the course is a good way to prepare in terms of packing a horse and getting inexperienced horses ready for the trail.
“We want to minimize the potential for risk on the trail,” she said. “We want to get horses and mules used to these obstacles.
The event was a trial presentation for members of the Mountain Man Chapter of Back Country Horsemen; however, the obstacle course will be remain throughout the summer for public use. To access the course, one must first contact the Sublette County Sportsmen’s Association to obtain access to the rodeo grounds. Stein says they hope to add additional obstacles in the future, and plan on holding a public event for horse desensitization event next year.
Packer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Pinedale Ranger District Norb Lorenzen taught attendees the correct way to pack in order to get into harder to reach areas. He went over various techniques, such as setting up a box or pack saddle and tying up a mantee – or a packing cloth – to make the backcountry experience optimal for the horse and horseman. According to Stein, knowledge of how to properly pack a horse for backcountry conditions is critical prior to departing into the woods.
“A lot of people like to go into the woods, but are afraid of packing,” Stein said.
Overall, attendees made progress with packing knowledge and their horses are even more prepared to embark into backcountry wilderness following the course.
“Everything went safe and sound,” she said. “It was good to do it as a test; it was well-received. Everyone appreciated the packing demonstration and obstacle course.”