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Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds

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Chapter 10--Securing Horses and Mules--Continued

Cattle Guards, Gates, and Latches--Continued

Hitching Posts

A hitching post is a variation of a hitch rail that has a single, solid upright with a ring attached near the top (figure 10-51). Riders tie the lead rope to the ring. While hitching posts save space, they have several drawbacks--they only accommodate one horse or mule at a time, and the animal can circle the post, wrapping the lead rope. Use other tethering devices in recreation sites.

Photo of a hitch rail in a grassy field.
Figure 10-51--Stock tied to
hitching posts tend to move in
circles, wrapping the lead rope,
restricting their movement, and
possibly injuring themselves.

Trailer Ties

Some riders prefer tying stock to the side or end of a horse trailer in such a way that the animals can eat, drink, and lie down (figure 10-52). When animals are nearby, riders who sleep in the horse trailer or towing vehicle can keep an eye on their stock. Access to equipment, feed, and supplies is also convenient. To allow riders to tie their stock to trailers, design extra length and width into parking pads and parking spaces. Consult Chapter 8--Designing Roads and Parking Areas and Chapter 9--Designing Camp and Picnic Units for more information.

Photo of two horses that are tied up to a highline on a trailer.
Figure 10-52--Riders frequently anchor highlines to their horse
trailers. --Courtesy of Kandee Haertel.

Stock tied to a trailer can only move sideways 180 or 270 degrees. They can untie themselves, catch their heads or a leg in the lead rope or under the trailer, or injure themselves on sharp, protruding objects. Stock tied to trailers require close monitoring.

Highline Ties

Some riders prefer tethering stock to a highline, also called a tethering line or picket line. A highline is a rope stretched taut between two secure uprights above the animal's head. The stretched rope has tie loops spaced for securing stock with lead ropes. Sturdy trees often are used as anchors for highlines (figure 10-53). When trees are not available, posts set in concrete may serve as uprights (figure 10-54). Riders sometimes park their horse trailers parallel to each other and stretch a rope between them. This is feasible only in locations with double-party or several-party parking pads or group parking areas. Many riders prefer highlines because their stock can move 360 degrees. Highlines are easy to carry and install, and they are an option for stock that shouldn't be confined in corrals.

Photo of two horses that are tied to a highline.
Figure 10-53--A highline allows stock substantial freedom of
movement. Care must be taken to protect surrounding vegetation
and ground surfaces.
--Courtesy of Kandee Haertel.

Photo of a post and hand winch where a highline is attached.
Figure 10-54--To be effective, highlines must be stretched taut.
A hand winch helps to apply enough tension.

Highlines require a cleared area of at least 32 feet (9.8 meters) wide by 24 feet (7.3 meters) deep to accommodate two animals (figure 10-55). Plan the location of the cleared areas to avoid sensitive soils. Refer to Chapter 13--Reducing Environmental and Health Concerns for more information on soils. Protect the vegetation, too--hungry or curious stock may devour edibles within 12 feet (3.7 meters) above the cleared space and within 7 feet (2.1 meters) to the side. Trees or branches anchoring highlines should be at least 1 foot (0.3 meter) in diameter. Permanent posts with sturdy tie hooks can be installed for highlines. Securely weld or bolt the tie hooks to the posts.

Drawing of a highline that is made for two animals. In the drawing the text reads, Plan View, 24 ft min. 12 ft min. (typical), Highline, Tie loop, Minimum cleared area, leveled, sloped to drain, and surfaced with suitable material, Post or tree, 1 ft min. 30 ft min., Elevation View, Nut with locking washer, Tie hook 1/2 in dia. galvanized eye bolt, 32 ft min., Tie hook welded or bolted to post, Highline post 6 to 8 in dia. filled with concrete, Concrete footing, 10 ft min., 12 ft min., 7 ft, Finished grade, and Nut with locking washer.
Figure 10-55--A horse area with a highline suitable for two animals.

In areas that are not prone to vandalism, managers may provide ropes for highlines. However, most riders prefer to bring their own ropes. Install a highline by stretching a suitable rope tightly between the trees or posts, about 7 feet (2.1 meters) above the ground (figure 10-56). Suitable ropes include a ½-inch (12.7-millimeter) multifilament polyesterplus-hemp rope or 3⁄8-inch (9.5-millimeter) poly Dacron rope. Using 2-inch- (51-millimeter-) wide, flat tree-saver straps (figure 10-57), or an equally wide padded rope, helps prevent damage to trees. Fixed tie loops should be at least 12 feet (3.6 meters) apart. The outside loops should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from trees or posts. At this distance, the animal's heavy front quarters are away from the tree, minimizing soil compaction on tree roots. Do not use metal cables and connectors with metal uprights, as they can be targets for lightning strikes.

Photo of a highline that is attached to trees. In the drawing the text reads, Padded rope or tree-saver straps (typical), 32 ft min. 10 ft min. 12 ft min., Tie loops, Highline, 7 ft, and 12 in min. trunk (typical).
Figure 10-56--A highline attached to trees.

Two drawings, one of a Quick-Release Knot (Nontightening) and of a Flat Strap around a tree. In the drawings the text reads, Insert second loop into first loop and Insert third loop into second loop.
Figure 10-57--Highlines can be quickly set up using
tree-saver straps and a rope.


Some campers like the security of keeping their stock in corrals, especially riders who have a corral at home. Stock have maximum freedom of movement in corrals, and riders don't have to monitor their stock as frequently. Of all the options presented in this chapter, well-designed corrals that include suitable gates and latches are usually the best choice for recreation sites.

Most stock want to roll on their backs after a workout. If they don't have adequate space to roll in corrals, they can cast a leg or hoof--get it stuck--in the rails. A 12- by 12-foot (3.6- by 3.6-meter) corral is the minimum a larger animal needs to roll, move, and turn around. It also provides enough space for a horse or mule to escape an aggressive animal in an adjoining corral. Where space allows, a 12- by 16- foot (3.6- by 4.9-meter) corral is preferred. Locate corral posts at every corner and midway on each side (figure 10-58). Place posts every 6 feet (1.8 meters) in 12-foot corrals, and every 8 feet (2.4 meters) in 16-foot corrals.

Photo of a single corral set. In the drawing text reads, 24 ft, 12 ft, 6 ft (typical), 2 3/8 in rail posts (typical), 1 7/8 in horizontal rail (typical), 4 ft gate (typical), 4 ft, and 8 ft.
Figure 10-58--Dimensions for a single corral set. A single
corral set holds two animals.

The greatest cost and space efficiencies are achieved when two 12- by 12-foot (3.6- by 3.6-meter) or two 12- by 16-foot (3.6- by 4.9-meter) corrals share a side, forming a corral set (figures 10-59 and 10-60). A drawback to corral sets is that the adjoining enclosures can only be used for compatible stock. Horses or mules that fight, kick, and bite should not be confined adjacent to other stock. It is the rider's responsibility to minimize aggression between stock. This may mean segregating aggressive horses or mules by tying some to the horse trailer. To avoid aggressive horse behavior, build no more than two adjoining corrals in a set. Construct multiple corral sets instead of additional adjoining corrals. Corral sets should be located far enough apart that penned stock can't reach each other.

Drawing and dimensions of a single corral set. In the drawing the text reads, 26 ft min., 2 ft min. (typical), 28 ft min. Corral set, 12 ft min., and Minimum cleared area, leveled, sloped to drain, and surfaced with suitable material.
Figure 10-59--The area required for a single corral set.

Photo of two horses that are in a single corral set.
Figure 10-60--Two horses relax in a single corral set. Water
buckets are tied to the lower rail.
--Courtesy of Janet Grove.

A single-party camp unit usually includes one corral set. Two corral sets are installed for a double-party camp unit, and three to four are supplied for a several-party camp unit. The number of corrals to include in a group unit depends on the anticipated use and the available space. If there are more than two corral sets, arrange them in a row. Separate corral sets by 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters). If space is not available for multiple corral sets in a row, arrange them as shown in figure 10-61. Stock may be uncomfortable walking down the center aisle when there are unfamiliar stock on both sides, so don't install corral gates facing the aisle.

Drawing of four corral sets that aren't placed in a row. In the drawing the text reads, 2 ft min. (typical), 10 ft min. (typical), 12 ft min. (typical), Corral set, and Cleared area with suitable surface material.
Figure 10-61--Corral placement for a horse area with four corral sets
that are not placed in a row. Four corral sets hold eight animals.

Related Facilities--Arenas and Round Pens

Riders frequently use round pens (figure 10-62) to exercise a high-strung animal before a ride, and to cool an animal down afterward. Round pens also offer a safe place for stock to roll. Round pens are appropriate for areas with high levels of development but are not essential at trailheads or in campgrounds.

Photo of a round pen made out of portable panels. In the photo the text reads, Gap.
Figure 10-62--A round pen is convenient for exercising stock
before and after a ride. When setting up portable panels,
connectors need to hold the panels close together. Install the
connectors carefully--a large gap could trap a horse's leg.

Arenas are spacious fenced areas that provide a comfortable setting to train or exercise stock, teach riding lessons, or hold group events (figure 10-63). In many cities, recreationists use a trailhead much like a community park, and an arena may be appropriate.

Photo of a large outdoor arena with a person lunging thier horse.
Figure 10-63--Group events and equestrian training sessions
often are held in outdoor arenas.

Size and Location

The minimum diameter for round pens that allow riding is 60 feet (18.2 meters). If the pen is smaller, it impedes the natural movements of a horse or mule moving faster than a walk. Suggested dimensions for a multipurpose arena are 100 by 200 feet (30.5 by 61 meters). Round all arena corners (figure 10-64). This allows smooth riding when riders are working their stock, and just as with perimeter fences, prevents stock from being trapped in corners. Because activities in arenas and round pens are likely to excite nearby stock, locate these facilities in isolated but convenient locations. Choose sites with dry, welldrained soil.

Photo of an arena with rounded corners.
Figure 10-64--It is more comfortable to exercise
an animal in a round enclosure.


Arenas and round pens must be reasonably level with enough slope to allow drainage. Crown the subgrade in the center and incorporate a 1-percent slope from the centerline to all sides. If the surface is not crowned, slope it 2 percent from one side to the other. For an arena or round pen to be functional year-round, regular maintenance is required. The surface needs to be dragged weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on frequency of use. The surface--or footing material--should be replaced every 5 to 10 years.

Dust Prevention

Activity in arenas and round pens can create dust that is unhealthy for stock, riders, and other people in the area. When water is available, a sprinkler system can effectively control dust. Install sprinkler heads that meet plumbing pressure requirements and provide complete and even coverage (figure 10-65). For the safety of arena users, install sprinkler heads where arena users or stock won't trip over or run into them. Common placements include the top rail or ground level adjacent to posts. For convenience and efficiency, allow users to control the sprinklers with a timer. Alternatives to plumbed sprinklers include portable water sprayers and dust abatement products.

Photo of a sprinkler head on top of a fence rail at an outdoor arena.
Figure 10-65--Sprinkler heads can be
placed on the top fence rail. Another
popular location is at ground level.
Regardless of the location, the sprinkler
heads should be placed so they are not
hazardous to riders or stock.


In areas with high levels of development, lighting may be appropriate for arenas and round pens. To minimize light pollution and maximize energy efficiency, install a timer that allows users to control the lights when needed. Properly selected fixtures reduce environmental impacts and minimize the spread of light into surrounding areas. For best results, have a lighting consultant or engineer design the system.

Photo of two horses in a pasture, one is standing and the other is laying down.

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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