By Jeanette Henderson.
Your horse doesn’t care about marshmallows or hi-tech sleeping bags when you take him camping. Jeanette Henderson’s book The Best (and Worst) Horse Camps Across America is a detailed resource for those who plan to equi-camp in the U.S. on public lands. The extensive daily journal style that frames this valuable guide, while entertaining, sometimes overwhelms the useful information.
How the Journey Came To Be
Jeanette and her husband Roy have equi-camped on public lands in every contiguous state in the Union. Their tour began December 30, 2009. They had kicked the concept around while camping on Assateague Island, Maryland three months earlier. When Jeanette mused, “We got our horses’ feet wet in the Atlantic.” Roy added, “. . . now we have to get their feet we in the Pacific.”
Jeanette shared some of her original concerns: “How [the horses] would react to being in the trailer for long stretches, to arriving at new places where we had no idea what the conditions would be, . . . whether [the horses] would get sick from having to get different fodder along the way,. . . .” Jeanette had answers and solutions to share by the end of the tour in October 2014.
Organization of Information
The book is organized alphabetically by state. (Hawaii and Alaska are included in the adventure, but they did not ride their own horses.) Park locations are noted by GPS locations. The index lists 256 campgrounds with page numbers for easy reference (not every campground in the country, but a broad list). I would have found it helpful if a large city near each camp had been included on a flagged map.
Reviews of Camps and Trails
Opinions on the quality of the camps and trails are based on the Hendersons’ personal criteria, one being that their horses are shoeless. The Hendersons don’t require some services such as water because they bring their own water for the horses and for cooking and showering.
Given the first-person picaresque style of writing and the promise of “triumphs and tribulations,” I would have enjoyed reading personal revelations in the description of the ride. I looked for more entries like Jeanette’s trail warning for the Douglas Creek trail in Wyoming (“THIS IS NOT A TRAIL FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED RIDER OR SKITTISH HORSE!”) that was combined with some of the more visceral descriptions of the terrain and the beauty of the environs. I skipped the specifics of what the Hendersons and their horses ate for breakfast.
The Best (and Worst) Horse Camps Across America is a valuable resource of practical information to help make you, and your horse, happy campers. The book can be purchased on Jeanette’s website.