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Back Country Horsemen of Montana

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Who are Back Country Horsemen?

Back Country Horsemen (BCH) is an organization dedicated to

protecting, preserving and improving the back country resource.


share a common interest - use of horses and mules for recreation on back

country lands.

BCH is dedicated to public service, providing horsemen

with an opportunity to influence laws and attitudes that regulate the

historical right to use pack and saddle stock on our public lands.

What is the purpose of this book?

The main purpose of this booklet is to educate people to reduce

environmental impact on the resources, help create a positive impact

on the resources, and help create a positive public awareness of the

recreational horseman.

What do Back Country Horsemen do?

Back Country Horsemen offer volunteer time and equipment to

government agencies for such tasks as clearing trails, building trails,

building trailhead facilities, packing out trash, and other projects that

will benefit both horsemen and non-horsemen.

What is the purpose of the Back Country Horsemen?

• To perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in

America’s roadless back country.

• To assist the various government and private agencies in their

maintenance and management of said resource.

• To educate people to wisely use horses in the backcountry so

as to sustain the use of animals and the resource in a manner

commensurate with our heritage.

• To encourage and solicit active participation by members and the

general public in such activity.

• To foster and encourage the formation of additional BCHM


• To seek out opportunities to enhance existing areas of recreation

for stock users.

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Why keep public land and trails open for horse use?

The horse has earned a place in our western heritage.

Its usefulness and

devotion have been second to none.

It is the charge of BCH to assure

that horse use is preserved in its rightful place for future generations.

This can be best accomplished by our individual efforts to promote

wise horse use that results in minimum impact to the back country


When was the Back Country Horsemen founded?

Back Country Horsemen was formed in January of 1973 with a three-

fold PURPOSE: service to the back country, education of horsemen,

and representation in land use planning and management.

These basic precepts have been the reason for our growth, strength,

and effectiveness, and this growth has forced the formation of a

state organization – Back Country Horsemen of Montana.

The state

organization is charged with the responsibility of furthering these

same basic precepts on a statewide scale for the benefit of all affiliated

chapters, horsemen, and the back country we love so well.

This book is published by the Back Country Horsemen of Montana.

The concept

for it originated within the Mission Valley Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen

of Montana.

Cheryl Fraser of Helena did the original drawings.

The cover drawings were done

by Dave Owen of Kalispell, Montana, and a member of the Washington Back

Country Horsemen.

Sherri Hill did the highline sketches.

All artwork is copyrighted

by the artist.

This publication is the result of efforts by a great many people, all of whom donated

their time and talents.

© Back Country Horsemen of Montana 1973.

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Interested in joining the Back Country Horsemen?

Please contact a chapter in your area; below is a list of the chapters in


You can also visit us on the internet at www.bchmt.

org, then click on

State Chapters to fine a chapter in your area.


If you look closely you will see that Jeremiah Jay, better known as J.

J., is in almost

every picture.

He’s been watching back country users for a long time and has

become a wise old bird.

Listen closely and pay attention to what he has to say on

the following pages.

Beartooth BCH

P.O. Box 614

Absaorkee, MT 59001

Bitter Root BCH

P.O. Box 1083

Hamilton, MT 59480

Cabinet BCH

P.O. Box 949

Libby, MT 59923

Charlie Russell BCH

P.O. Box 3563

Great Falls, MT 59403

East Slope BCH

P.O. Box 126

Valier, MT 59486

Flathead BCH

P.O. Box 1192

Columbia Falls, MT


Gallatin Valley BCH

P.O. Box 3232

Bozeman, MT 59772

Hi-Line BCH

P.O. Box 1379

Cut Bank, MT 59427

Judith Basin BCH

P.O. Box 93

Lewistown, MT 59457

Last Chance BCH

P.O. Box 4008

Helena, MT 59601

Mile High BCH

P.O. Box 4344

Butte, MT 59702

Mission Valley BCH

P.O. Box 604

Ronan, MT 59864

Missoula BCH

P.O. Box 2121

Missoula, MT 59806


Wilderness BCH

P.O. Box 88

Hamilton, MT 59840

Three Rivers BCH

P.O. Box 251

Dillon, MT 59725

Upper Clark Fork BCH

P.O. Box 725

Deer Lodge, MT 59722

Wild Horse Plains BCH

P.O. Box 640

Plains, MT 59859

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Take only the amount of duffle needed.

Did you bring the kitchen sink? In all seriousness, ask yourself - is that

item really necessary? But don’t leave home without the things you

really need.

Remember your axe, shovel and bucket.

A saw may be a

good idea.

Rain gear and a warm coat are a must even when the sun is


A first aid kit may be worth its weight in gold.

Fly and insect

repellent are a good idea for both humans and horses; also horse gear

including a brush and maybe shoeing equipment.

Make room for a

rope to be used as a high line.

Fewer horses make less work, worry and impact!

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Locate camp away from trails.

This looks like Grand Central Station.

Set your tent away from the trail, 200 feet from water if possible, and

apart from other campers.

Pick a site that will stand the traffic.


edge of the clearing along the trees may be best.

Avoid wet spots.


an existing fire ring.

If you build a new one, tear it down when you


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Do not tie stock to trees.

A rope high line is a good solution.

(There is a section showing how to use one

in the back of this book.


Probably nothing gives a horseman more bad marks than tying to trees.

The scars are visible for years.

Use hobbles on a pawing horse.


get lonely.

Providing a horse with company will eliminate much cause

for pawing.

Train your horse at home to use hobbles and picket ropes

and to be tied overnight.

Fill holes when leaving camp.

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Keep stock and toilets away from water.

Tie stock away from water – 200 feet, if possible.

Locate your toilet at

least 200 feet from water, too.

Use that shovel for disposal of human


If the camp is to be used for a number of days (like a hunting

camp) dig a pit.

Fill it in before you leave.

Think about those folks camping downstream.

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Tie stock away from camp.

Get stock out of the immediate camp area.

A grove of trees on dry, solid

ground is ideal.

If you are one of those people who can’t bear to spend

the night away from your horses, pitch your tent out in the woods with

them, rather than bringing them into camp with you.

Scatter manure

when you leave.

Where you tie is as important as how you do it.

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Keep a neat camp.

Pack out your own garbage plus that left by others.

Check campsite and

be sure nothing is left.

Burn what you can, including all food scraps.

Throwing cans in the fire for a few minutes will clean them up.

Tie a

pole between two trees for storing your gear and tack.

When you leave

take it down, plus any other poles you’ve found, and stack them out of


Keep it neat and leave it cleaner than you found it.

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Be neat - Don’t litter.

That garbage probably came out of the saddlebag.

There must be room

to put it back in.

Take pity on our bird and remember that this is his

home that you are trashing.

Be mindful of yourself and those with you

and those who will come after.

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Don’t smoke on the trail.

During fire season stop in a safe place if you get a craving for the


There may be a hot time in the forest if you aren’t careful with

your fire.

Douse your campfire with water and stir when leaving camp.

Only you can prevent wild fires.

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Be polite when meeting others -

foot or horseback.

Even though the horsemen were using the trails long before it occurred

to anyone that hiking could be fun, we must remember it belongs to

hikers, too.

All people are created equal.

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Give right of way when possible.

Regardless of the rules, common sense should prevail.

If you have an

opportunity to get off the trail, do it.

Remember you’re out there to

enjoy yourself and feel good.

If you want a fight go to your favorite bar.

Be courteous of others.

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Horses do not always have the right of way.

Most of us have had at least one horse that never learned that hikers

are just people.

Speak to them and try to get them to answer.


horse will react better to a talker than he will to the strong silent type.

Give the hikers plenty of time to get off the trail in a safe spot they are

comfortable with.

It might be you and your horse that end up over the

bank. Very few horses are fond of motor bikes.

Take your time and be


You might avoid one of those spectacular wrecks that make

great stories, but aren’t much fun at the time.

Don’t crowd, don’t push, think safety first.

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Saddle horses should give way to pack stock.

Obviously one saddle horse is easier to control than a number of pack


Uphill strings have the right-of-way over downhill.

On some

heavily used trails incoming traffic has the right-of-way until noon and

outgoing in the afternoon.

Regardless of the law, observe the common

sense rule.

Give way when possible.

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When overtaken, let them by at first opportunity.

Good manners make good friends, no one has too many of either.

Be respectful of others.

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Don’t crowd the horse in front of you.

Many horses get nervous when crowded, and nervous horses may do

strange things.

It is a good way to get kicked and this can ruin your day

and maybe your whole trip.

Keep your horse under control at a safe distance.

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Stay on the trail -

Don’t take shortcuts.

Horsemen are not the worst offenders for cutting switchbacks, but

those that do leave a good sized furrow, which may turn into a gully

next spring.

Stay on the trail.

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Keep dogs under control.

Your dog is probably well behaved, but other people’s can be a


If you can’t control it, leave it at home.

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High Picket Line (High Line)

A preferred method of tying horses is with the use of a “high picket line.

This is a line stretched between two trees approximately seven feet above the


Lead ropes are tied along the high line.

Horses seem more relaxed

and content when tied to a high picket line than any other method.


seldom pull against the line because there is nothing solid to pull against.

Where the high line goes around the tree, the bark should be protected by

padding, using a cinch or 2-inch wide nylon “tree saver” strap.

The high picket line prevents the horse from getting around the tree, damaging

the bark or root system.

As with other methods of restraining horses, the high

picket line should be set away from the immediate camp area.

The best place

is away from the trail and back in the trees where the least ground cover will

be disturbed.

The lead rope may be tied directly to the high picket line as shown in Figure

A on the following page, or a loop knot, Figure B, can be tied at intervals along

the high line.

A ring or swivel can be placed on the line before the loop knot

is tied.

This is handy because the loop knot has a tendency to tighten on the

lead rope making it difficult to untie.

The loop knot can always be loosened and moved to suit any spacing or


If the lead rope is tied directly to the high line as shown in Figure

A on the following page, a half hitch thrown over the loop will keep it from

working loose.

There are three things to be cautious about when using the high picket line:

1. There should be a swivel, or the lead rope will become twisted or unraveled

as the horse moves around.

2. Tie the lead rope short enough so that horses will not become tangled in


3. Keep it tight.

The double Dutchman knot shown in the drawing will do


The high picket line is to keep stock from damaging trees or their root


If the lead rope is allowed to slide along the high line, it defeats the

purpose of this method.

1/2” hemp rope makes a good high line.

Nylon is too stretchy.


rope is best.

It will stretch more than hemp, but is stronger, lighter and will not

soak up water.

Many horsemen use their lash ropes for a high picket line.

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Double Dutchman and Other Knots

Use this hitch for a high-line as tight as a fiddle string.

Tied right, it’s

easy to untie, since it doesn’t jam.

Make the knots and loops in the

numerical order indicated.

Start with knot (1) 8 or 10 feet from the ring

on your tree saver.

Knot (3) should be close to the ring.

If your rope is

long or has a lot of stretch, you may need more distance between the


Figure C

Figure B

Figure A

Tie one end with a bowline knot.

Use a Dutchman on the other end

to tighten the high line.


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This booklet is copyrighted by Back Country Horsemen of Montana.

Printing by The Towne Printer, 237 Baker Avenue, Whitefish, MT 59937

Oct-2011 Q.


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