As I mentioned at the end of my last post about our trip, we blew into Kettle Moraine Horse Camp mid-afternoon on a Thursday. We immediately got the horses settled into their corrals and headed an hour north to try and get our malfunctioning coach slide repaired. Alas, we were not successful. It has a date in late December with the RV dealership…
When we arrived in camp, there were two other sites occupied. Two sisters were enjoying each other’s company. They were happy to keep an eye on our horses while we went north with the coach. They left the morning after we arrived, and we were the only campers there for the remainder of our stay.
Fond memories of Kettle Moraine
There were a couple of reasons that Alan and I headed east to Wisconsin. I had fond memories of riding here when I lived in Illinois from 2000 to 2005. I had remembered tall trees that appeared to be neatly planted as if I was riding down the magnificent road to Tara, Scarlett O’Hara’s estate! Kettle Moraine State Park is about an hour from where I used to live.
Additionally, my daughter lives an hour from this state park. Alan and I were quite excited about the opportunity to spend several days hanging out with her and the grandkids.
I wasn’t sure if my fond memories were solely based on my recollection of the park itself, or were related to the Arabian gelding I was riding at the time. His name was Serr Kari, and it was during a ride at Kettle Moraine that he demonstrated a profound lack of energy. Within weeks, he was diagnosed with Equine Cushings Disease. He foundered and rotated and life was never the same for him or me.
A nearly perfect camp
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at this camp. Apparently, it was constructed with the input and financial support of the Southern Kettle Moraine Horse Trail Association. It is nearly perfect except for one glitch… the lack of access to water. There were two available sources for water in what is really a very large camp.
There are 36 back-in sites, 20 pull-through sites, one group site accommodating up to 20 people, a picnic shelter, a horse shower, manure deposit stations, a shower building, and vault toilets. Nineteen of the sites have electricity. Some of the sites have corrals, and the Trail Association is steadily adding more corrals every year. Most of the sites require advanced registration.
A trail pass is required (link provided below) as well as vehicle stickers for Wisconsin State parks. It is best to order the vehicle stickers in advance and have them in hand when you arrive. We didn’t… but we were able to order them online and put our order number in the windshield of the coach and the rental car we had. We paid $210 for 6 nights of camping.
We had reserved a shaded site and that is where we put the horses the day we pulled in. However, the corral was muddy and it was so heavily shaded, it was unlikely that it would dry out. Additionally, we like to “glamp,” and we couldn’t get our Dish satellite to work through the trees. The second day we were there, we moved to a more open and drier site. We were right behind the shower house, which was quite handy. Of the four showers, only one had a decent showerhead. The water was tepid at best.
When I rode there nearly 20 years ago, there was no horse camp. There was only a parking area for day riders. (We did encounter several day riders on different days.) I’m not sure we ever found the specific area I had in my memory banks.
Miles of easy trails
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a trail map on their page, and they have this to say about the horse trails:
The trails were wide and well groomed, with easy footing. Additionally, if you get lost riding these horse trails, you don’t belong on a horse! I have never been on better marked trails! There is an excellent map available, and the trail markers are abundant and very clear. If most horse camps marked their trails half as clearly as they are marked at Kettle Moraine, we’d all be very happy equestrians!
We were only able to ride on two of the days we were there. We had many things going on with the coach and my daughter and her family. I have to confess, Alan’s and my perspective on what constitutes an awesome trail has changed. We thoroughly enjoyed our two days of riding here… but after riding in the mountains, mile after mile of woods is less exciting than it used to be.
A very enjoyable campfire night
Not only does my daughter live an hour away from this camp, but my cousin is two hours away. We had a cookout one beautful evening. My cousin was there with two of her kids, as well as my daughter and three granddaughters. We had brought along a kid’s helmet and saddle. I gave horseback rides to all five kids.
It was a clear and comfortable night and we enjoyed burgers and all the fixin’s, followed by the mandatory S’mores, of course! We literally had the entire campground to ourselves.
An unexpected storm and very helpful ranger
On one of the days that we spent with my daughter, a storm came up unexpectedly. The horses were in a 24 by 24 corral, but we had separated them by two strands of unelectrified tape. Kadeen has a love/hate relationship with Sadie. He can’t stand to be more than 10 feet from her but he abuses her if given the chance.
I could see by following radar that the storm was around our camp. I called the park office and asked if someone would be willing to go check on the horses. One of the rangers was ready to head for home around the time of my call, and he indicated he’d drive by our camp on his way out. He sent me a photo of two happy horses around 4 PM.
We returned to camp around 6 PM… and found both horses on Sadie’s side! Fortunately, no tussles had occurred. I was very grateful that the ranger had checked on our equine buddies. The dogs were in the coach, but I was less worried about them.
Our little deaf dog…
On the second day that we managed to ride, we had the horses tacked up and we were ready to head out. We had planned to take Finn and Kara. We no longer take Leah on our rides, as she is demonstrating profound deafness. She will stop and sniff the ground and be entirely unaware of an approaching horse.
On this particular morning, Alan entered the coach for some last-minute item, and Leah uncharacteristically bolted out the door. Our dogs know not to do that… Within a minute, we were calling her to put her back in the coach. No Leah. We were both shouting, and I rang a cowbell. No response.
Soon after that, a man driving through the camp (I have no idea what he was doing, as he was in a car) stopped and inquired if we were looking for a dog? We confirmed that we were, whereupon he informed us that she was down by the large-group camping area. She was lying down, waiting on us to rescue her. Alan rode a horse down there and brought her home.
We struggled with her the entire trip. She now wears a blinking light when she goes out at night, if she’s not immediately placed on a tether. There is no question that her hearing is severely compromised.
I wrote about Leah and her diagnosis of Acute lymphocytic leukemia. She is doing very well. I test her blood work regularly, and thus far she shows no clinical issues that require treatment. I doubt that her deafness is related to her leukemia. I believe it is just because she’s an old dog!
Next week, I’ll tell you about our 2-night stop in Indiana before heading on to Purdue for my 40th veterinary class reunion. There is much more to share about our trip, even though we cut it short by one stop.
Update on Kadeen
My boy continues to do well. At the time that this posts, we will be halfway through our mandatory 6-week prison sentence. Pulling the antibiotic beads last week was not a comfortable experience for him, and he was heavily sedated. His wound is healing well and he is now off of antibiotics and pain medications. All that remains is to keep the soft full-leg splint in place while his fracture heals. We are most anxious to head south to warmer weather!