Whether you plan to spend a few hours, or a few days, on the back of a horse in Montana's mountains, the following list will help you prepare. Remember, horseback riding is a 'physical activity' and, like all physical activities, is most enjoyable if you're wearing the proper clothes. In addition, riding in Montana's scenic country, you'll want to be sure to bring those few 'extras' which make your Montana horseback riding trip even more memorable!
What to Bring
Half-Day or Full-Day Trips: We provide your lunch and a bottle of water. Our outfitter provides your transportation. You bring your personal gear. We suggest you layer your clothing as the mountain weather can change rapidly and with little advance warning. Depending on the time of year we suggest your bring:
- Warm Coat: Essential for chilly nights or a windy day, a warm coat layered over a lightweight wool, fleece, or synthetic jacket will keep you comfortable.
- Rain pants and jacket or a slicker (preferably oil skin): Worth their weight in gold if you get caught in a late afternoon thunder storm, rain gear will keep you dry - a big step toward staying warm.
- Shirts / Pants: Depending on the weather, a short sleeve shirt covered by a sweat shirt will usually prepare you for any type of weather. The key is layering. For pants, we recommend a loose but comfortable fitting pair of jeans as the best.
- Shoes: A pair of sturdy boots with a heel and a smooth surface sole are best for your safety when horseback riding. If you don't own a pair of riding boots, a pair of hiking boots with an obvious heel will work as long as they are not large and clunky (this is not the time to break in a new pair of footware). We recommend oiling your boats (if they are not already water resistant) with a waterproofing substance before riding, in case you get caught in a mountain shower.
- Hat: A cowboy hat, baseball cap, or canvas cap will work. A hat with a brim is preferable to one without as it offers better sun protection and provides better covering if you get caught in a shower. Make sure your hat fits snugly enough it won't blow off if hit by a gust of wind.
- Gloves: Leather or suede gloves - or a lightweight pair of synthetic gloves designed for warmth and water repellency are useful. Proper fit and warmth are your goals.
- Toiletries: A large wad of toilet paper is always a plus on a backcountry trip. Half a dozen paper towels stuck in your coat pocket have a way of coming in handy, too. In addition, a stick of lip balm can come in very handy when spending the day in the sun and wind!
- Sunscreen / Bug Spray: Both of these can come in very handy in the mountains. Our air is pure, thus the sun's rays are very powerful. In addition, certain times of the year the bugs can be overly friendly.
- Camera / Binoculars: Although certainly not necessities, both a camera (and extra film or plenty of disk space) and binoculars are great 'tools' when traveling through the back country. Think ahead about how you will carry them to make them readily accessible - small carrying cases which clip onto your belt or waistline - or a fanny pack - are much safer than a cord around your neck, and often much more easier to get to than your coat pocket.
Overnight Pack Trips: For an overnight (or a several night) trip, remember, all your extra gear will be carried in by our outfitter's pack animals. Plan accordingly. We request you bring your gear in a soft-sided duffle-type bag - no hard edges, frames, or wheels. We suggest you line your bag with a large trash bag to help keep your things dry. Please limit your gear to NO more than 30 pounds - per person (excluding the gear listed above which will be packed on your person - or your horse). For an overnight (or several night) trip, in addition to all of the above you should bring:
- Toiletries: In addition to toilet paper be sure to include your toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable shampoo / bath soap, comb, deodorant, disposable razor, towel & washcloth, etc. Keep your items to a minimum, but think ahead - the nearest store is a quite a long way down the mountain.
- Clothing: In addition to your standard day wear, we encourage you to bring an extra pair of dry socks, a comfortable pair of walking shoes for around camp, an extra pair of jeans and a couple extra shirts - one long-sleeve turtleneck would be advisable (if you're doing more than an overnight), and, depending on the time of year, a pair of longjohns - the best are the newer synthetic type which wick moisture away from your skin.
- Flashlight: Handy for getting to the tent at night - with fresh batteries (or extras).
Bringing Your Own Horse:
- At Elk Lake Resort we offer a large corral for your use - free of charge - if you are staying at the Resort. However, it is on a 'first reserved' basis. Therefore, plan well in advance. The corral can be divided into two or three smaller pens using hot wire (bring a solar charger and battery) or your own panels, if you so desire. In addition, there is room around the old barn (near the corral), to set up additional panels for more horse pens, however, you will have to bring your own. Please note: The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (from which we lease the resort grounds) requires certified weed-free hay and straw. Plan to pack it in, OR, with enough advance notice, we can have it delivered for you.
All the trips listed above can be done, in cooperation with our local guide, his pack animals (for overnight or several day trips), and his camping gear. However, you will need to bring along all the gear you will need for your horse. In addition to your saddle, pad, bridle, halter and an 8' lead rope, saddlebags, and fly spray - you will also want to bring the following if you are going for more than a day ride:
- Hobbles: Handy for use while your horse is grazing - just be sure they are broke to hobbles before you arrive.
- Highline: A highline with rings for tying your horses is the best way to secure them. Large rings (2" - 3" in diameter work well) spaced 8' - 10' apart, with one for each horse and the last ring 15' - 20' from the end of the rope (at each end), allow you to tie them where they are secure yet they cannot damage the trees or get themselves tangled.
- Nosebag and a pound or two of grain: Although not a necessity, if you train your horse at home that the nosebag means a treat, you will find them much easier to catch should they get loose in the backcountry. Be warned: an exhausted horse (or so he appears) has an amazing ability to perk up when turned loose to graze. And, if you've never seen your horse run in hobbles, take note, they can cover the ground much quicker on three legs than you can on two!