Horse Containment

5 Horse-Containment Options

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price

These handy containment options will keep your horse Houdini safe in camp.

Horse camping adds an extra dimension to your trail riding experience. After a long day exploring the wilderness, contentment mixes with fatigue when you and your horse settle down in camp.

As dusk falls, stars twinkle and the pleasant munching that you hear just beyond the campfire adds to this ambiance. You drift off dreaming about the next day’s adventure.

Wait, there’s more. Your sleeping bag is now your bed. It’s quiet, way too quiet. It’s quiet, way too quiet. You get up to investigate and find only silence.

Horse-Containment

If your horse runs away from you and goes off on his own, nightmares can quickly become nightmares. There’s at most the inconvenience of trying to catch him. The worst-case scenario is for your horse to be injured or lost in the wild. For overnight trips where permanent accommodation is not possible, it is crucial to have safe and secure confinement.

We’ll be covering five options for horse-containment: portable corrals, portable electric fencing, hobbles, and two tie systems, an overhead tie arm and a highline. We will discuss the pros and cons of each option as well as price considerations.

Containment Option #1: Portable Corrals

Corrals-2Go makes its metal panels out of three-quarter inch square tubing. The matching racks attach to the sides of horse trailers so that panels can be hung from them for storage or transport (typically, over the trailer’s wheel wells).

Description These corrals can be very sturdy and reliable. These corrals are usually made of lightweight metal or plastic tubing. They can be disassembled into pieces that you can store in your truck or trailer.

Trail riders have many options for containment, but portable corrals are the most expensive. Even a few panels can cost over $500 and a large pen well over $1,000.

The pros: Portable corrals are highly visible, sturdy, and can be customized to allow for ample movement, casual grazing and rest. You can also move the panels to another grazing area. A lot of corrals can be attached to trailers with brackets. This increases the corral’s circumference.

Cons: Your horse might discover that he can move the entire pen by himself to gain access to new grazing areas. The portable corrals can’t be completely escape-proof. Excited horses or scared horses can pull the pen aside if they catch their leg in the tubing. This can be dangerous. Make sure your horse is familiar with the portable panels before you go on the road. Mobile fence panels can be difficult to transport so they are best left at home.

[READ: Barn Life Made Easy]

Containment Option #2: Portable Electric Fencing

Description Portable electric fencing is usually sold as complete kits with a bag. A battery is required to charge your fence if you are camping far from a 120-volt AC power source. A 12 volt DC fence charger is the most common. It has a small solar panel that can be used to charge the battery in sunny weather. The battery will last for days, if fully charged before you go, and even for weeks.

A fencing kit typically includes temporary fence posts made of fiberglass rods. These rods are lightweight and can be used in a variety of terrains, including sandy or moist soils.

The kit will include lightweight, visible, and highly visible electric tapes/ropes. Avoid electric fencing wire as it can be difficult to set up and take down and is not easy to see. These are made of woven UV-resistant, polyethylene and have conductive wire strands in the weave.

You will also need insulators to protect the posts (except if they have grooves to hold the tape/rope), a ground rod and a wire between the fence and the charger. Some kits include a reel that allows you to run the electric fencing tape in and out.

Electric fencing costs between $200 and $300 per kit. However, it is more expensive than portable corrals but less than hobbles or some other tying options.

The pros:Portable electric fencing can be transported by horses and is very cost-effective. It can also define large areas with very little material.

Cons It is also easy to pass through if a horse is scared. It is important to take the time to teach your horse how to use electric fencing at home so that he can respect it even when he is scared.

You should also consider the weight of the battery when you choose which one to buy.

DescriptionBobbing is an inexpensive and time-tested way to keep a horse contained. This involves tethering several horses’ legs together. It can interrupt regular strides and could nearly trip a horse who doesn’t move or stands still.

Allen Russell, a seasoned guide and long rider, is a well-known Western photographer. Hobbling can help horses stay close to their camp during overnight camping trips. His Quarter Horse Kono and he made a continuous trip from Canada to Mexico on their own.

Russell states that a horse who has been on the trail for only a few days will appreciate the opportunity to rest and eat whenever he can. Therefore, hobbling becomes more effective the longer the journey.

Russell suggests that you attach a bell to the halter of your hobbled horse so you can track him down if he moves out of view. A string of horses is turned together and a lead mare should wear the bell. The herd will usually follow her lead.

Russell recommends keeping one horse with you if you are turning out more than one horse. This way you will have a horse that can find the other horses if they slip or cover significant ground.

The pros: Packing hobbles can be as simple as attaching a belt to your rig. It is also very light. The versatility of a hobble is especially helpful in rural areas where horses can’t be tied to the ground. It also makes it easy to carry for brief periods of confinement almost anywhere.

Russell also notes that horses can roam and graze in large areas. This allows for maximum feed and helps to avoid obvious bare spots that are undesirable in wilderness areas.

Cons: You must train your horse to take the hobbles with safety before you start riding.

Another problem: While tying the front foot together is a common hobbling technique, it doesn’t stop a horse from striding at the lope. Both front feet are traveling together during the walk and trot.

You might think your horse is free to lope and cover a lot of ground before you even notice him. This loophole can be countered by carefully training your horse to accept a hobbled hindfoot.

Containment Option #3: Hobbles

Hobbling is an inexpensive and time-honored way to keep a horse contained.

DescriptionHobbling can be a cost-effective and time-tested way to keep a horse contained. This involves tethering several horses’ legs together. It can interrupt regular strides and possibly trip a horse who doesn’t move very well. Allen Russell, a seasoned backcountry guide and noted Western photographer, says that Hobbling can be a good way to keep horses near camp for overnight-camping trips. His Quarter Horse Kono and he made a continuous trip from Canada to Mexico on their own.

Russell states that a horse who has been on the trail for only a few days will appreciate the opportunity to rest and eat whenever he can. Therefore, hobbling becomes more effective the longer the journey.

Russell suggests that you attach a bell to the halter of your hobbled horse so that you can track him down if he moves out of view. A string of horses is turned together and a lead mare should wear the bell. The herd will usually follow her lead.

Russell recommends keeping one horse with you if you are turning out more than one horse. This way you will have a horse that can find the other horses if they slip or cover significant ground.

The pros:Packing hobbles can be as simple as attaching a belt to your rig. It is also very light. The versatility of a hobble is especially helpful in rural areas where horses can’t be tied to the ground. It also makes it easy to carry for brief periods of confinement almost anywhere.

Russell also notes that horses can roam and graze in large areas. This allows for maximum feed and helps to avoid obvious bare spots that are undesirable in wilderness areas.

Cons: You must train your horse to take the hobbles with safety before you start riding.

Another problem: While tying the front foot together is a common hobbling technique, it doesn’t stop a horse from stride at the lope. Both front feet are traveling together during the walk and trot.

You might think your horse is free to lope and cover a lot of ground before you even notice him. This loophole can be countered by carefully training your horse to accept a hobbled hindfoot.

[READ: Packing for a Trip]

Containment #4: Highline

Description High lines are a favorite of horse campers. The high line is a safe and inexpensive way to keep a horse or horses in a trailer camp environment.

A high line is simply a rope that is strung between two tall, stable mounting points. These are usually two trees (eliminate dead trees as they can be unstable) or a trailer and a tree.

You can tie a single horse to the halter from the halter to a high line using either a bowline or half-hitch quick release knot or a snap quick release snap that allows the rope to move along the full length of the highline.

The halter rope should be tied so your horse cannot easily step over it (or entangle a leg), but not too long so that he can graze and eat.

Multiple horses can be tied to the same high-line, but make sure they are in a fixed position. Space them apart and give them plenty of room to move freely so that they don’t touch each other and get caught between the lines.

High lining can be made easier with a variety of inexpensive and useful products. Tree-saver straps are nylon straps that are several inches wide and about a foot long. They can be attached to metal D-rings, or other attachment points. To save the bark, place tree savers around trees where you will be tying your lines. Tree savers are required in certain areas for high-line lining.

Consider using knot-eliminator tools if you plan to tie multiple horses. These are basically small, metal figure-eights that you place on the highline to create stable purchase points from which to tie each of your halter ropes.

A metal swivel is a good option if your horse turns around, causing the halter rope twist and shorten. To prevent the halter rope from bunching or twisting, attach the swivel. Continue to work with your horse at the barn to teach him how to remain calm and composed while riding on the high line.

The pros: A high line is affordable and will keep your horse safe. It can be used to secure multiple horses. The lightweight high lines make it easy to transport to remote camping spots.

Cons: You’ll need two trees or another stable object to tie the highline; it’s not always possible in all camping areas.

To set up a high-line, it takes effort and time. You will need to be vigilant for bark damage, even when you are using tree savers, if the high line is attached to trees. You should also be aware of any damage to the ground from your horse’s hooves.

Finally, a high-line doesn’t allow horses to relax and walk freely like a portable corral or electric fencing. It’s best to use it for short camping trips.

Expert tip If you intend to tie your horse while camping make sure that he is comfortable. Tie him with a quick-release clasp or knot. Always carry a knife for quick release if you need it.

Containment Option #5: Overhead Tie Arms

Credit: Photo by Kent & Charlene Krone. Overhead tiearms can be described as flexible metal arms that attach to the trailer’s side.

Description Overhead tie arms are usually metal brackets that mount high on trailers. These brackets, similar to high lines, serve as an overhead tie point. However, they are only applicable to one horse and one point.

The Hi-Tie model, for example, has a fiberglass arm that extends out four feet from the trailer’s sides. This flexibility gives your horse the ability to pull, and allows for a little more space.

The Tilt-Tie is another product that adds flexibility to an arm. It’s a spring-loaded aluminum unit with heavy-duty construction.

The pros: An overhead tie arm is very easy to set up and use. Attach it to your trailer and simply rotate it 90 degrees from the traveling position. Then tie your halter rope at the end.

Cons: The overhead tie arm is a more expensive containment device, costing around $280. Some models can be noisy so make sure you choose one that is quiet. This will ensure that your horse doesn’t have any excuse to scare you, and you can enjoy some peace while still being able to see the world.

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