Horse Riding & Camping

Horseback Riding Ethics

people on horsebackTraveling by horse can add a great deal of pleasure to your trip through the Bighorn National Forest. Most trails are suitable for both horse and foot travel, although early in the season there may be downfall and wet areas on some trails. Keeping horses in Forest campgrounds and picnic grounds is prohibited.


A trip begins long before arriving at the trailhead. It starts with planning and preparing the stock, the equipment, and the stock user.  Use the least number of horses required. At no time may there be more than 15 horses in one part.  Develop a check list of equipment and review it before heading out on a trip. Gathering information about the route and terrain helps the recreationists prepare stock for altitude changes and long distances. Knowing distance, and trail conditions will help determine food, clothing, equipment, feed, and fuel needs. Utilize light-weight tents and sleep on lightweight pads instead of heavy cots. Stock should be in good physical condition, wormed, have current vaccinations, and be properly shod. Animals should be familiar with packs and with walking on trails. Prepare a stock first-aid kit with items such as fura ointment, elastic wrap, vet wrap, disinfectant, and an easy boot. Contacting local land managers for details on regulations and opportunities is essential. Managers of designated wildernesses provide specific information and rules concerning permits, campfires, group size, grazing, and more. Due to the serious and increasing problems with the spread of noxious weeds, all public lands in Wyoming require the use of certified, weed free hay, straw, or mulch. Contact your local Weed and Pest District for the names of suppliers for weed-free certified feed. Prevent overgrazing by packing in commercial concentrated horse feed.


Once all the gear is assembled, it's time to pack up. Mantie tarps and panniers are most commonly used for packing camp gear because they can serve a number of purposes. Panniers can provide easy access to gear on the trail and are handy for storage at camp. Be sure the saddle pannier fits the animal properly so the weight of the load is not pressing on the animal's ribs. Supplemental feeds, such as pellets and processed grain products, help reduce the amount of grazing needed and may allow a greater choice of camping spots.

Trail Travel

Animals correctly shod and properly packed tend to stand more quietly and cause less wear and tear when traveling on the trail. Pack animals need to be checked regularly to assure the packs are balanced and fit comfortably and that there are no loose ropes. Loads ride better, stock travel more comfortably and the chance of injury to stock is less when loads are well balanced. Once on the trail, try to keep all stock in a single file to avoid creating multiple parallel trails. Open ridges and mountain meadows are especially vulnerable to multiple parallel trail formation. Many trail users are unfamiliar with stock. If stock users politely inform other trail users of their concerns, user conflicts may be reduced. Hikers should yield to stock traffic, but not all of them know this. When encountering hikers who are unfamiliar with stock, ask them to stand on the downhill side of the trail and wait quietly for the stock to pass. If stock spooks, standing on the down hill side will encourage them to go uphill and lessen the chance of an accident. Llamas and their handlers should also yield to horse and mule traffic by standing on the downhill side of the trail. It is a good idea to let animals relax for a few minutes before leading them to drink in a stream. This break gives them a chance to relieve themselves away from fresh water sources. Most wildernesses have specific rules about methods for tying stock, even for short periods of time. Manure should always be scattered after animals have been tied. In some heavily used locations, stock users pack manure out in plastic bags. 


All wilderness users should be careful not to cause resource damage in fragile high alpine meadows. Rather than camp in these areas, it is better to camp at lower elevations and take day rides to visit these locations. Sorry, horses are not allowed in developed campgrounds. Tether horses where they will not damage young trees or fragile plant life. Use picket lines instead of tying stock to trees and move picket lines every day to prevent overgrazing.  Camp at least 100 feet away from live water. 

Grazing and Stock Containment

For specific information contact the land managers of the wilderness to be visited. To be sure that an area is not overgrazed, leave 3 inches of grass in a rough, tufted appearance. Do not allow animals to graze in areas where the grass looks short and smooth. Use a collapsible bucket to water stock or lead them to water at a rocky spot where little bank damage will occur. A high line is an effective, low-impact method for containing stock. Two-inch wide nylon tree-saver straps with adjustable buckles allow stock users to set up a highline quickly and easily with little or no damage to the tree. Flies and mosquitoes can aggravate stock that are tied. Bug repellent and flea nets or face screens such as fringed eye guards ease their torment so stock stand quietly. Grazing horses in dispersed areas of the Forest is allowed while accompanied, and during the length of your camping stay. Rotating horses to different grazing and restraining areas lessens impacts to resources. Other techniques include using high lines, hobbles, picket lines or electric fences rather than tying horses to trees (which can cause resource damage and be less comfortable for your horse) for more than short periods. Choose an area away from streams or wet, boggy ground. Try using a picket line in a location that won’t damage trees or the ground from horse pawing, or build a small corral (don’t nail poles up, please lash them). Please remove corral poles when you leave. As with firewood, it is not legal to cut live trees for corral poles. Scattering manure upon departure helps fertilize the site and helps to Leave No Trace for the next person

Breaking Camp

When it's time to break camp, nothing should be left behind., including any handmade temporary corrals. All refuse must be taken out. Burned cans and other unburned debris from the campfires should be crushed for easy packing. Pack out all garbage, including food scraps, grease and paper. Burying garbage or burning aluminum foil is not an acceptable disposal method and is illegal in some locations. Scatter manure piles to aid in decomposition and maintain an undisturbed appearance. Replace any soil removed by stock pawing or trampling. Any large objects that were cleared from the site should also be replaced. 

Be a Responsible Back Country Horseman

Practice the "Leave No Trace" techniques on all backcountry or Wilderness trips. Call 1-800-332-4100 for free brochures or visit their site at

Please understand your responsibilities when visiting these areas. Leave them as you wish to find them. Become aware of your impact, and knowledgeable of how you can reduce it. "LEAVE NO TRACE" is an organization dedicated to teaching responsible backcountry practices. Please visit their site. 


7 Principles of Leave No Trace

1. Plan ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors