Our horse vacations revolve around traveling to places with trails suitable for driving as well as riding. For me, it's a preference whether to ride or drive; others drive because it's the only way they can enjoy the trails, due to physical limitations.
Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, is home to a premier horse campground and trail system, with 99 miles of suitable driving trails. Driving is allowed on another 30 miles of dirt and old homestead roads that are numbered on the map.
I enjoy riding in the saddle one day and driving the cart the next, which gives my aging baby boomer body a chance to recuperate and regenerate. Our cart is designed for a single horse, so our other horse can have a rest day back at camp. I enjoy mapping out a day's drive and packing a lunch. The cart offers room for a small cooler, so lunches are more extravagant than the ones that fit in my saddlebag. A small tool box carries spare parts, just in case.
Some trails are gravel roads that are smooth enough for a two-wheeled cart. We tend to stick to these, for comfort's sake. But most people who drive here use wagons with car tires that can handle the bumpier dirt trails. Some old timers have been driving horses since they were children. I enjoy hearing their stories around the campfire. We've met folks in their 80s who are still driving the trails long after their bodies say no to riding in a saddle.
One nice drive is to the Blue Hole; the trail is a mix of paved road, gravel road, and dirt. Hitching posts and picnic tables make the Blue Hole a popular trail destination. It's a wide spot in the creek filled with slag, a byproduct from the old iron-ore furnaces that were located upstream in the 1800s. When the sun is shining, you can see blue sparkles in the water. The Blue Hole isn't marked on the park's map, so ask a local how to get there. You know you're getting close on Trail 6-7-8 when you see bits of blue stone on the trail surface.
For us, it's just not practical to drive a second tow vehicle to take our cart, especially when we factor in the price of fuel. Instead, we've invested in a well-made cart called "The Traveler" from Ahonen Carriage. The shafts and wheels come off in a jiffy with the removal of a pin. The seat comes off after removing four bolts. This leaves you with very small pieces that can fit almost anywhere, even in the bed of your towing vehicle.
We hired a welder to design and mount a bracket, so we can hang the cart body on our trailer's rear tack door. (Our wheelbase of 48 inches allows us to do so and still be able to open the other rear door for loading and unloading horses.) We store the shafts, wheels, and seat in our trailer's living quarters or our truck bed. We manage to take enough hay and grain for three weeks of travel in our two-horse gooseneck and still have room to haul a cart.
Check in advance to see whether your horse-camping destination allows driving on the trails, as some places don't. If you're looking for a deluxe campground with enough trails for a vacation, try Land Between the Lakes. The wrangler's campground offers several shower buildings, plus saddle barns if you want to rent a stall. Most sites have electric hookups, and water is nearby. Rental cabins can be reserved.
For more information on Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, call (800) LBL-7077, or visit www.lbl.org. For more information on Ahonen Carriage, call (800) 645-2123, or visit www.ahonen.com.