If you’ve read Horse Junkies recently, you’ve heard about my adventures in attending this summer’s Phillip Dutton Eventing Camp.  As part of that expedition, I got the experience of packing my new trailer for the first time, and driving solo for the two hour trip, covering a four day camp.  Lots of “firsts” here!  As you can imagine, I wanted to make sure I was properly prepared for any eventuality.  Charlie Brown feels like a second child, next to my daughter, Rachael.  So this came pretty close to new mother syndrome.

I scoured the web for any eventing or trailer packing list I could find.  Regardless of discipline, I dutifully added every item from every list I could get my hands on, even if I didn’t know exactly what it was used for.  I reasoned that I would either learn what it was for from someone at camp, or I could figure it out later.  I started with the USEA checklist, and amended, consolidated, sorted, organized, deleted duplicates, and shuffled categories from there.  When it was finally in a form that was “good enough,” I packed each section of the list’s contents into a plastic tub.  Here’s what it looked like when I finished.  Feel free to modify it for your own needs.

By the time I was done, my husband thought I had packed for the apocalypse — not just four days in Pennsylvania.  Sadly, I had to agree.  The bins covered the floor of the trailer’s tack room.  It was all rather overwhelming.  And the thought of labeling each bin was just too OCD for me.  I’m a neatnick, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

I needed the supplies I bought.  That wasn’t the issue.  The problem was that my normally finely tuned organizational skills hadn’t quite made the transition from my office or home environments to the horse trailer.  So what would have worked organizationally just fine in my basement or garage was just a hot mess in the trailer.  People who aren’t horse people just don’t get it.  What works in the regular world doesn’t always work in the horse world.  And I had walked face first into it.

Sue and Charlie Brown at Phillip Dutton camp

Sue and Charlie Brown at Phillip Dutton camp

Fortunately, when I arrived at camp, I met other campers who had a lot more experience with packing in an equine context than I did.  Especially impressive was a young rider and his parents who had packing for a horse show/camp/clinic down to an art form.  Instead of putting items in a plastic tub, like I had.  They pre-loaded their grooming kit, and stall-front bags.  I watched in awe as they literally got off the trailer, unloaded the horse and about four tack bags/boxes.  That’s it.  They were done.  Well played!

I was impressed, so I spoke to the rider’s mother, and asked her about how their horse expedition became such a well-oiled machine.  She said it had taken them nearly two years to figure out their current system.  But with two other children who participated in travel sports, they felt they had to get the packing really nailed down or they would spend their whole life packing and unpacking for the kids’ sports activities.  She showed me exactly what bags they had, and how they organized the contents.  They were workmanlike, not expensive or trendy or gimicky.

Then I spoke with other campers, and asked for a peek inside their tack trunks to see how they were organized.  One person had a small snap-top plastic container that Q-Tips used to be packaged in.  The car keys, and her cell phone went in there every time, and that container went in the tray in the top of her tack trunk.  So no matter who was with her, or how tired she was, she could always remember that consistent place for her phone and keys.  It avoided a lot of stress for her at the end of a long day.  Everybody had a packing tip worth using.

Taking a page from each of them, I have now adjusted my packing strategy to include some of the same equipment, and organizational methods.  The bags are basic black, so I’ve had them embroidered with our monogram to give them a little life.

Inside the trailer, in addition to the built in hooks that came on the dressing room wall, I now have extra strength magnets from the hardware store.  These magnets have hooks on them which hold the stall-front bags upright, but close to the floor.  So now, there is:

  • a stall-front bridle bag — large enough to hold the jumping and dressage bridles, plus the martingales and a spare halter
  • a stall front grooming bag — boots go on the top row of compartments, and then less frequently used grooming supplies underneath
  • a stall front blanket bag — which holds saddle pads, a cooler, and a couple of small towels
  • a hand carried grooming bag — this serves as the primary grooming kit, including the usual brushes, and detangler, and other things we use every time we groom
  • a wrap carrier — which holds Charlie’s pillow wraps and bandages for standing wraps, and a couple of sets of polo wraps
  • a tack trunk  — which holds larger towels, the first aid bin, feed/supplements, a bucket with wash supplies, and other smaller bits in the tray
Tack trunk - photo by Grace Barnett

Tack trunk – photo by Grace Barnett

What stays inside the trailer is an additional stall-front grooming bag.  But this one holds the things I hope I don’t need daily — leather repair, spare parts for tack (extra flashes, etc.), extra bits, trailer cleaning, and the like.

What did I miss on my first outing?  Two things.  First, pre-measured food/supplements and a spoon.  I feed a pelleted feed with supplements and oil.  I packed plenty of feed loose in a bin, with my own feed scoop.  But next time, I’m going to pre-measure my feed into Ziploc bags, like my fellow campers did.  It’s a lot easier than scooping before my morning coffee kicks in.  Plus, I can add my supplements to the bag and avoid carrying the SmarkPak containers separately (they’re convenient but bulky).  I’m also going to pack a large plastic spatula or kitchen spoon to mix everything together.  I was stuck mixing Charlie’s feed with my hand, which I’m happy to do, but it’s not the most effective method.  The oil really sticks to your hands.  That feels pretty nasty, and I have other uses for my towels besides getting oil off my hands.

Second, was a dry erase marker or laminated stall card with contact information on it.  True Prospect Farm has a small white board attached to the front of each stall.  When we arrived, each rider’s name was written on one of the boards.  It’s how we found our stalls.  Riders with a dry erase marker simply added their horse’s name, and some emergency phone numbers.  Others taped up a laminated stall card with all the necessary contacts.  I had a stall card, but ran short on time and didn’t get it laminated before camp, so it was pretty ragged by the end.  Now I have three copies of a laminated stall card in the truck, so I’ll always have one handy.

For our next outing, here’s to Charlie and me being more of a well organized and well packed crew!

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