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Packing Ahorse

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Well, many people here have given credit to their equine trail riding buddy, but lets not forget the pack horse, the one that brings some of the comforts of home along on a horse trip

I wonder how many here go on pack trips? It sure allows you to access a lot more wilderness and see so much more country. When we pack in 7 hours or so, we often don's see another rider the entire days we spend there.

Learning to pack a horse, takes some time to learn to do correctly, so you neither sore the horse, or wind up re-packing the entire load a few miles down the trail,, in pouring rain!

We had our fair share of marital discord, when venturing out on some of our first pack trips. Seems there was a bit of confusion, concerning the sequence of pulling ropes tight, tying on that diamond hitch!

You also have to learn to balance those panniers pretty evenly and learn to ignore the protest from the horse as you tighten both the front and back cinch! Unlike with a rider in the saddle , that pack load does not help balance the horse's burden.

You also need a sensible horse that accepts having those panniers tied to the side and then the top load and the tarp and diamond hitch

When we still lived in Calgary, we did have two saddle horses, but had to rent a pack horse. Thus, we rode a lot in the Ram area, as an outfitter there would rent horses at a very reasonable rate. He gave us a quick demo on packing, wished up luck, and on our way we were! I wrote a short humorous story that got published in a local horse mag, concerning some of the wreaks we had, when first packing a horse.

So, a few pictures, and Maybe I'll add one humerous account later. Also want to hear other packing stories





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wow! i've gone trekking but always with professional outfitters, and they did all the packing :ashamed0002: . there was one trip in wyoming where we didn't see any other human beings for 7 days but saw a wild horse herd and one day ran into three young stallions gadding about. our trail boss had his gun out :o . i do have tremendous respect for the pack horse--as you say, he has to do it all on his own.

i know the kind of fights my husband and i have just on the sailboat, so i can imagine what kind of lively debate can happen in this kind of a situation!

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This is how I pack elk out.


I've traveled a lot of miles, Mostly in the fall during hunting with a pack horse


Even my daughters have learned how to lead a pack horse.



This mare is getting her rest BEFORE we start up the trail;


After I pack in my camp, I often have to make a second or third roundtrip to get bags of feed for the horses. Often in October there is no grazing left on the mountain


I mostly use a riding saddle with Saddle Paniers thrown over the saddle. This allows me to pack in what is needed and still have a saddle for the extra people in my group to ride during camp.



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I have packed a little, sorry I don't have any pictures. It is interesting to see the different methods that Smilie and Utah TR use. And I use a different method as well. I use manties, which is just wrapping the load in a tarp and tying them onto a pack saddle with sling ropes. I think you can pack a wider variety of things this way- things that won't fit into a pannier. And I don't use a top pack, which eliminates the need to learn the dreaded diamond hitch! With a manty you not only need to balance weight from side to side but you also need to tie the two manties level to balance the load. Although it is an advertisement to other packers that "I am a crappy packer" I have wedged a rock or two between the manty and sling rope to try to even a load. It's nice when you have identical items on each side- bales of hay or salt blocks. I've also packed a couple of coolers, wrapped them up and packed them. That works pretty well, sometimes it is handy to have an ice chest in camp.

I have used both sawbucks and deckers, I like the deckers a little better because the sling ropes slide a little better (smoother).

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Forgot to add, have also used soft panniers, that fit over a riding saddle, and they are very handy , esp if you don't take a pack horse, when hunting

The soft panniers just get rolled up and tied behind the saddle, and if hubby shoots an elk, have packed one out using these soft panniers and a riding saddle.

I think you can guess as to who walks back!

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I have been off site for a couple months. I am glad to see everyone is still here! I got another Jeep Wrangler, and as the saying goes....J ust E mpty E very P ocket! = JEEP!

I have been out to run around the desert, and camping in the old Ghost town of "Bonanza Gulch/Bickel Camp.

And....Monday I leave for a week of exploring the "Mojave Road".

This runs from Fort Mojave, on the Colorado River, and crosses the East Mojave Wilderness on the trails of the pioneers, and Army outposts from the 1860's to 1930's. It is only 138 miles across, but is in an area with NO springs, or water except a couple of springs at Rock Springs, and at Afton Canyon. Oh yeah, there is a few spots with alkali springs, but drink that and you will probably DIE!

So, I'll be back to riding, and exploring on horse back after this trip. We plan on going up to our fav place above the Kern Plateau, and along Salmon Creek, if ANY water is still flowing. The Kern River is now just a trickle, and no grass for the grazing, or water for the stock. So, going to about 8000 ft will at least give us some stock water at Big Meadow, or Cannell Meadow.

Edited by siseley

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I was a packer and guide for many years back in the 50's and 60's in what was to become the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the Scapegoat Wilderness Area and the Great Bear Wilderness and also packed for a couple of summers in Glacier National Park. Hunting trips, fishing trips, sightseeing trips, photography trips, just kind of whatever the people wanted. (No hunting in Glacier Park of course). We primarily used mainly manty tarps which are tied with ropes before you put them on the pack saddle and tie them, although also used panniers and camp boxes. Although I know how to throw a diamond hitch, in all the years I packed (which also included some packing during my 29 year game warden and animal depredation career), I never used it. Was a waste of time and rope as far as we were concerned. 95% of the time used the barrel hitch or basket hitch and the rest of the time, winged it depending on what kind of load I had, Packed both horses and mules using primarily decker saddles but also had a few sawbucks if we needed them or the load called for it. Biggest load, and there were three of us involved, was a full sized Monarch wood range with warming oven and water reservoir. Had to take it up over the continental divide and down to the permanent hunting camp. Back then we were allowed to do that. Took our two big work horses, Baldy and Short Fuse. Short hauled it the 11 miles up and Baldy the 7 miles down. He got it right to the edge of the camp clearing and lay down. Basically told us if we wanted it any further, we could carry it ourselves.

Which we did.

Weight was 457 lbs total. Had to do it to get the camp cook we wanted or she wouldn't cook for us. Had the best eating camp in the entire wilderness for 7 years and it was well worth getting it in there.

And Smilie, you can top pack when using the basket and barrel hitch. Did it all the time.


Just bought a new horse. Weed has been retired for 5 years due to arthritis, Hobby is now basically retired because he's 22 and wore out and Willow came down with laminitis yesterday, and although got it real early and will get her through it, she will not be rideable for a while. Pick the new one up on the 28th. 7 year old QH mare. Really looking forward to it.

Edited by Grouchy Grizzly

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I've never packed a horse, I'm sure it depends on where you are & terrain you are in, just wanted to say it is interesting.

Grouchy, I wish you well with your new mare, & hope your fox trotter completely recovers so your can enjoy that comfortable ride again. Best Wishes. PD

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Sounds like you have had lots of packing experience, Grouchy!

In the one area that we have packed into (Panther ), one can get a wagon in, taking the lower route, and crossing the Panther river several times

The one outfitter would haul his camp in with the team and wagon, and had way more comforts of home, then hubby and I,camped up river a ways.

Could here that power plant start up in the night when it got very cold!

On a group week trail ride, we rode into the Banff National park. Our one friend likes to travel in comfort, thus one horse carried two big propane tanks and a tiger torch

Another horse carried as part of his load, a good supply of Crown Royal Whiskey and lots of coke. Don't know why you would mix good quality whiskey with coke!

Some of the pack horses were borrowed ( I think, so they actually could learn to pack, and not out of any generosity on the part of their owner )

One buckskin got the handle of Lucky (lucky to be alive). He would buck his load off at the least excuse, and trashed the BBQ and eggs, not far from where we first started our ride from.

After that, a pet moose of one of the Rangers, a group of swiss hikers, in wet suits, making tea in the middle of the road, all got him going. In the end, the only thing he was trusted to pack, were the two large propane tanks

(oh, and those hikers, there were going to rope themselves together and cross that fast flowing river.! ) We didn't have the heart to watch them drown themselves, just because that pack horse bucked his load off once again, so we did tell them of a swinging bridge up river!

Trip into Banff national Park


While not profession packers by any means, we did spend quite abit of time introducing our two sons to wilderness, when they were growing up


Oh, and a load Hubby's horse refused to pack! This was when grizzly draws were still available. When hubby advanced on his horse with that fresh bear hide, his reaction was, 'might look like you, but sure does not smell like you,', and he kicked out with both back feet, broke loose , and headed all the way back to the trailer by himself, by the time I caught up to him. Guess he drew the line at elk !

Hubby had to pack that bear hide out over his shoulders, crossing the river several times. As spring run off had not occured, the water was not that deep, just cold!


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I've backpacked into the Desolation wilderness and a few places in Oregon & Washington.

When we lived in the desert my friends and I would hang two backpack frames and canvas bags over a saddle for overnight camping.

My father was too fond of hot showers and flush toilets so we spent our camping time in state parks.

I used to go off trail camping when we were helping to round up cattle for members of the Grange. Everything was packed in and out with mostly mules. Some of the trails up to the high meadows were real cliff hangers and the mules seemed to shine when it came to careful placement of their hooves and balancing their load. Loopy equines have a short life when it's a long tumble downhill.

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