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Going Wild

(Part 1 of a 3-Article Series about Exploring Wilderness on your Paso Fino)


When new acquaintances ask what our family does for fun, we all give the same answer: “Explore the wilderness on our Pasos.”  We can fill a book with pictures and stories about the breathtaking scenery, pristine lakes, amazing fishing, wildlife close-ups and campfire fun our Pasos have allowed us to enjoy as a family.  For us, this makes all the winter feeding, fencing, barn cleaning, hoof trimming and vet bills a real bargain.


Over the past five years we have done close to 30 trips, ranging from easy overnighters to seven day treks into deep wilderness.


We wonder why more people with Pasos don’t take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.  Pasos are the perfect wilderness horse.  The Spanish figured this out 400 years ago and it’s still true.  Some of our Paso friends say that the idea of going into the wilderness is a little scary, or, that they don’t know how to organize a trip.


This 3-part series will share how we do it.  I think we have worked out most of the bugs.


This article (Part I – Getting Started) concludes with our basic “Trip List” including notes to help you pull things together.  The next article will discuss how we choose a place and plan a trip (Part II – Planning Your Trip).  The last article will explain how it all works when you’re on the trail (Part III – On the Trail).  So, take what we have learned and Go Wild!



Part I - Getting Started (Our “Trip List”)

4 people – 4 horses


We travel light!  Space and weight are a premium concern.  Most of our gear and supplies are what backpackers use.  We can stay on the trail for a week without an extra pack horse.  This is what we take.


Horse Gear


ü      Trail Saddles (w/breast collars & cruppers)

·        We had our tack shop (West Brothers) add strong D-loops for attaching things behind the saddle.

ü      3-Bag Canvas or Heavy Nylon Packs (2 side bags – 1 for a back rest)

·        We bought quarter-horse packs and had them modified and reinforced by West Brothers to fit our Pasos.  The packs cost around $100 each ($80 for the pack plus $20 for modifications).

ü      Tack (bridle, halter & lead line)

ü      Hobbles (4 sets - lightweight nylon straps with a buckle)

ü      First Aid Kit for Horses (compact)

·        We take: dormosedan (w/needles), butazone, iodine, pressure band-aids and sutures.  We have only had one accident that required tranquilizer and a pressure band-aid.  The injured horse, an Arabian, belonged to a friend who had joined us for the trip. 

ü      2 Easy Boots (2 sizes) and basic hoof tools

·        We have only needed to use one boot – one time.

ü      30 ft. Nylon Rope

·        We string a “highline” between 2 trees that works like a hitching post.  We secure the horses at night and when they are finished grazing.

·        We use “tree saver” straps to minimize tree damage.

ü      Cow Bell

·        We put the cow bell around the neck of our lead mare when we are camped.  It helps us keep track of the horses while they are grazing (hobbled).  It also works as a bear alarm at night.

ü      Extra Latigo and Saddle/Leather Repair Kit

·        This is a small kit of extra straps, sewing tools and a punch

ü      Strategy (processed horse feed by Purina – plain grain is prohibited in Wilderness)

·        We take up to 4 gallon sized zip-lock bags full of Strategy for long trips (6 days).  We take 2 zip-lock bags for a 3-day trip.  We give each horse a quart of Strategy after really hard days or before a long trip out.  On easy days, grass is all they need. 



People Gear


ü      Slickers and Plastic Hat (or helmet) Covers

ü      The Clothes you Wear (jeans and a long-sleeve denim shirt)

ü      Lined Jacket (not too bulky)

ü      Change of Underwear and an extra Long-Sleeve T- Shirt

ü      Several Changes of Warm Socks

ü      Light Weight “Long Johns”

·        You can wear these at night, or, while your pants dry (if you get wet).

ü      Riding Gloves

ü      Sun Glasses

ü      Velcro Strap Sandals (protects feet while swimming/bathing in the Lake)

ü      Riding Boots (lots of waterproofing before the trip)

ü      Personal Items (tooth brush, hair brushes, feminine products & medications)



Camping Gear


  ü      Detailed Trail Maps

  ü      Tent w/ Rain Fly (compact & light weight – less than 3 lbs)

  ·        We bought our 4-man tent at a “Spring Camping Sale” for about $30.

  ü      Plastic Tarp to go under the Tent

  ·        This prevents moisture from seeping in from wet ground.

  ü      Warm Down Sleeping Bags

  ü      It can get cold in the high country, even in mid-summer.  We have good sleeping bags that compress into draw-string bags about the size of a watermelon. 

  ü      ThermaRest Sleeping Pads

  ·        They now make a comfortable pad that compresses to the size of a quart jar.  A comfortable night’s sleep is important.  We bought these at REI for around $75.

ü      Collapsible Backpacker’s Stove (butane)

·        There are many styles to choose from.  They cost $30-40 at REI.  The one we use collapses to the size of a fist.  It screws onto the top of a disposable butane can that is not much bigger.  One can of gas lasts about two days on the trail.  When camping in areas that have open fire restrictions, this stove is all we need for cooking.

ü      1 Aluminum Pot (large enough for 4 servings of stew or soup)

ü      1 Small Aluminum Coffee Pot

ü      Zip-Lock Bag with Salt, Pepper and Spices

ü      4 Plastic Bowls, Cups, Spoons and Forks, folded sheets of foil (for cooking fish)

ü      Several Quart Sized Water Bottles & 1 Gallon Collapsible Water Bag for Camp

·        We do not use iodine or water strainers in the high country.  If you are careful about where you get your water - you don’t need them.  Get your drinking water from springs or rushing streams.  Avoid stagnant water and areas below beaver ponds.

ü      A Good Sharp Pocket Knife & Sharpener

ü      2-3 Compact Flashlights

ü      All Purpose “Green” Camp Soap (squeeze bottle - most camping stores have it)

ü      T-Paper & 1 Pack of “Wet Wipes” (our luxury item)

ü      First Aid Kit (compact)

ü      Fire Starter Sticks and Plenty of Bic Lighters

·        Do yourself a favor.  Take what you need to quickly start a fire in the dark when you are wet and cold.

ü      Bug Dope (with extra for the horse’s necks in July)

·        By mid-August, the life-cycle of the mosquito is pretty much over in the high county and bugs are not a serious problem.

ü      Lots of Draw-String Bags (the cloths bags are your pillows)

·        This is how we organize.  Everything belongs to a particular bag, which is named or color coded.  This speeds packing and unpacking, keeps things from getting lost and allows you to redistribute weight in the packs by simply moving a bag from one side to another.

ü      Light Ropes (for hanging food bags and other misc. needs)

ü      Digital Camera

ü      Binoculars for Wildlife and a good Poetry Book (optional)

ü      Fishing Equipment

·        We have multi-piece and/or collapsible poles with compact reels.

·        Standard spinning lures work well at most high country lakes (mepps, small spoons, z-rays, crocodiles)

·        We love to fly fish (adams, irresistibles, ants, caddis, royal wolf, woolly buggars & grasshoppers should all be in your box).




Food & Supplies



ü      Breakfast

·        Instant Oatmeal & Coffee (or hot chocolate)

·        We keep it simple (2 packs per person/per day).  Add variety by bringing different flavors.  All you need to do for the morning meal is heat water.


ü      Lunch is “On the Fly”

·        We make our own low cost high energy trail mix: granola, raisins, nuts, dried fruit and M&Ms.  With 2 hand-fulls and a piece of jerky - you are good to go. 

·        Lunch should to be easy because you are on the go: riding, fishing and exploring. 

·        We also take dried soups for days when it is rainy or cold and we need something extra to warm us up.


ü      Dinners

·        We camp where we can catch fish for dinner.  We cook them in aluminum foil on the fire (no pans – no mess).  We do like some of the freeze dried backpacker meals (just add hot water).  We also like instant mashed potatoes or instant flavored rice to go with the fish.  Again, we keep it simple.  All we need to cook a meal is hot water.  The foil pack (fish) goes right on the fire.  We also like Crystal Light drink mixes and roasted marshmallows for desert.

·        This menu should allow you to pack a week’s food in two draw-string bags about the size of a watermelon, each weighing 2-3 pounds.


If you use this Trip List (nothing more) your packs should weigh less than 50 pounds.  Match your heaviest pack with your lightest rider, or, your strongest horse.  If your Pasos are in reasonable shape, they should be able to carry you and this load for 3-4 hours (10 -15 miles), in mountainous terrain, before they will need to stop and rest for the night.        


Now you are ready to pack and go.  The next article will be; Part II – Planning Your Trip, which will share our secrets for choosing and planning the perfect trip.




Coming Articles:


Going Wild Series

Part II - Planning Your Trip


Going Wild Series

Part III - On the Trail


Annex: Great trips we can give you information about: