: The US National Forest rule is that anyone delivering horses (or ATVs) on National Forest lands must have a permit to do so. There are multiple permitted rental horse suppliers in Colorado and performing a quick internet search for "Horse Rental Colorado" will give you a good starting list of possible suppliers. Some outfitters also have permits but are restricted to a particular area within a National Forest. If you find a rancher or other horse owner renting their own animals, you might have to pick up and return the horses to their home. Search the web for “U.S. National Forest Service Offices” or go to www.staythetrail.org
for more information on horse rental outfitters and permits.
Information on renting horses is also available at the Forest Service website
. Most of the offices maintain a list of folks who will pack meat out or rent horses. They also have a list of all outfitters permitted for each National Forest. Another source for outfitters is the Colorado Outfitters Association
Check your chosen supplier's website for their rates and restrictions. Note that each rental horse typically comes with riding saddle, bridal and halter with lead rope (no packing equipment), but you will want to be sure and clarify with your supplier as to what equipment will be included with your rental. Note: 25 lbs. of hay (almost half a bale) and 2 gallons (12 lbs.) of grain/day for each horse, is recommended. Assuming this, small bales of hay (50-55 lbs. each) and a 50 lb. bag of grain (150 lbs. total) will last 4 days per horse. You can also refer to the Equine Network's nutrition page for additional guidelines on feeding working horses.
When renting horses, make sure you’re getting well-trained/broke, well-behaved and well-shod horses along with good riding gear. Nothing will ruin a trip faster than bad horses or shoddy gear. Consider it a bonus IF the horses have packed before. Remember that a great riding horse doesn’t necessarily make a great pack horse nor does a great pack horse make a great riding horse.
Note: Horses being transported into Colorado must have a current Certificate of Health inspection (less than 31 days old) and proof of a Coggins blood test within the last year. The official contact for more information is the Colorado Veterinarians office (303-239-4161).Alternatives to Renting Horses
There are a few outfitters in Colorado that rent llamas – about $50/day for less than 30-days and about $45/day for over 30-days. Max load for an average sized llama is 45–50 lbs. So 3-4 llamas/hunter (Note: you cannot ride them). They usually provide a 2-3 hr. Orientation before renting.
Outfitter Drop Camps
Drop camps vary greatly in price depending upon the area and what is included. Check with the outfitters in the area you will be hunting. One outfitter in the White River National Forest Flat Tops Wilderness area charges $1,695-$1,895 for a fully equipped camp (bring your own bedding and food). They check on you every other day to see if you need meat packed out. It is a costly alternative, but you are spared all planning and work involved with hunting with pack horses.
Camping with Your Own Horses
You can always set up camp near a county or forest road and ride your horses from camp to/from your hunting spots. You’ll need extra time for riding but you won’t need to pack anything in.
Choosing the Number of Horses
The general rule of thumb is one horse for each hunter (to carry that hunter’s personal gear and some of the general camp gear). Just like backpacking, think light. Each hunter should restrict their total gear weight to 75 lbs. or less. A horse can comfortably carry approximately 15%-20% of its body weight. This means a 1,000 lb. horse can carry about 200 lbs. of gear including rider. Hunters heavier than 200 lbs. that intend to ride will need a bigger horse. You also need 1 horse for every 3 horses to carry horse feed, hay/cubes and other gear for the horses.
Two hunters might get by with 2 horses if they lead the horses instead of riding them and are able to keep the weight on each at or less than 200 lbs. Two trips might make more sense with slightly lighter loads if you’re not packing farther than a couple of miles.
It’s best to not overload a horse as, depending on its condition (which you might not be familiar with), they might quit on you after too many miles with too heavy a load.
You must use certified weed-free hay on BLM and USFS land. For a list of providers, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture
(303-239-4149). Hay is not allowed in any wilderness area so you must substitute with certified weed free alfalfa cubes or pellets. Horses should be fed any of the above for at least 4 days prior to entering BLM or national forests so as to have weed-free manure. Refer to the Horse Journal website
for alfalfa cube feeding guidelines.