Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Be Seen!

It’s that time of year again. Hunting season has begun (or will soon) and safety is on everyone’s mind. What’s the best way to be safe? BE SEEN! What’s the best way to ensure that you are visible? ORANGE!

There are some easy ways to add orange to your gear so that you can enjoy the backcountry and be seen. The most obvious is to wear orange yourself. An easy way to do this without much additional expense is with an orange safety vest worn over your usual clothes. Orange hat and helmet covers are also available.

The next way is to put orange on your horse. Get some orange on his head with an orange halter, like the TrailMax Packer’s Halter. Wrap his neck with an orange neck wrap. Tie orange safety ribbon in his tail. If you use leg wraps or sports medicine boots on your horse, get a pair in orange or another loud color.

Another way to add orange is to get orange saddle accessories. TrailMax Horse Saddlebags and horn bags are offered in orange in both original and junior sizes. In fact the entire line of TrailMax products are available in orange for your safety.

If you are a packer, orange gear is readily available. Ralide-West HorsePac and ProPac panniers are both available in orange. TrailMax Decker Style and Sawbuck Style Top Packs are also available in orange. We also offer an orange pack pad from Diamond Wool.

Already have your packing equipment in another color? That’s OK. The TrailMax Packer’s Rain Cover is available in orange. It will protect your entire load from inclement weather and make you extremely visible.

Hunters…want to add some additional orange to your set up? The Guardian Rifle Scabbard is offered in orange. Protect your scoped hunting rifle and yourself at the same time.

TrailMax Saddle Panniers and the TrailMax Pack-A-Saddle are both available in orange. Use your western riding saddle as a pack saddle with either type of saddle panniers. Ride in and pack out and BE SEEN doing it.

Here in Montana (and in many other areas of the country as well I am sure), fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year to be in the backcountry. There is no reason not to enjoy it, with a couple extra precautions. And it is easy to be safe if you are willing to BE SEEN.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How much weight can my horse carry? Part II

Sorry for the delay. With hunting season right around the corner, we are so busy that it is tough to find time to get to the blog. Here are some additional points I wanted to make on the remaining factors regarding how much weight your horse can carry.

Live Weight versus Dead Weight
Additionally, it is important to remember that live weight (i.e. a rider) rides differently than dead weight (i.e. a pack load of any kind) and the 20% rule doesn’t necessarily apply to live weight. A rider can move and shift in the saddle to compensate for rough terrain and can get off and walk. A good rider is also easier for a horse to carry than an inexperienced one. An experienced rider in a good fitting saddle on a fit horse could be fine on a long, tough ride, even if the combined weight of saddle and rider is more than 20% of the animal’s body weight.

Packing the Load
Dead weight, on the other hand, does not have the ability to adjust to terrain changes and, therefore, must be carefully packed to stay put and be comfortable for the animal to carry regardless of conditions. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to pack a load. It depends upon what you are packing, what pack equipment you are using, your animal and all of the other conditions listed above. However, there is one rule to always bear in mind…equal size, equal weight and equal weight distribution. If you follow this rule, you should generally have less trouble packing a load.

  • Equal size. It is easier to balance a load that is the same size on each side. This is easy with panniers and saddlebags, which have a fixed size. It is more difficult with mantied loads. This is one reason I recommend panniers to beginning packers.
  • Equal weight. Any kind of load should be balanced from one side to the other. This means that if your panniers, saddlebags or horn bags do not weigh the same, you need to balance the lighter side by hanging something else off of that side such as your rifle scabbard, pack saw, camp axe or another such item.
  • Equal weight distribution. Try to pack each pannier, saddlebag or horn bag so that the weight is distributed evenly throughout. Do not pack all of the grain in the front of one pannier and your down sleeping bag in the back.
  • Additionally, while weight rides better and is carried better higher up the animal’s sides, be careful not to make a load top heavy. Remember the top pack is meant for bulky, lightweight items.
Both pack saddles and riding saddles need to fit well to be effective and not cause additional problems. A poor fitting saddle will not properly distribute weight across the horse's back. If the fit is particularly bad, it can cause sore muscles or even open wounds. Before loading any weight on your animal, be sure to double check the fit and condition of your saddle.

When loading saddlebags, the weight and ability of the rider should be factored with the horse's size and condition as well as with the fit of the saddle. An inexperienced rider can unknowingly throw the horse off balance and too much extra weight will make recovery more difficult. Additionally, poorly designed saddlebags can hang too low or constantly shift, which can irritate your horse and put extra strain on him.

No simple answer
There is never a black and white answer to the question “How much weight can my horse carry?” The answer always has to found on an individual basis considering the factors mentioned above. As I said, most of these items are simply common sense, but so many of the "horror" stories that I have been told over the years could have easily been prevented if the people involved had just critically and honestly judged their animals (and themselves) against this list.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    How much weight can my horse carry? Part I

    I hear this question often in reference to all manner of weight: the rider, western saddlebags, horn bags, pack loads, etc. There is no simple answer. Just like humans, some horses will be able to comfortably carry more weight than others and each animal needs to be evaluated individually.

    Factors to consider
    For every ride you plan, you should take the following into account when determining each animal’s load size.

    • Size and weight of animal
    • Health and general state of the animal
    • Conditioning and fitness of the animal
    • Conformation of the animal
    • Attitude of the animal
    • Age of animal
    • Size, fit and weight of the riding/pack saddle
    • Ability of the riding/pack saddle to distribute weight across the animal’s back
    • Weight of the rider or pack load
    • Ability of the rider
    • Design of the packs or horse saddlebags
    • Distance of the ride
    • Type of terrain
    • Altitude
    • Temperature and weather conditions

    Many of these are self explanatory, but I do want to touch on some important points.

    Individual Assessment
    I can not stress enough that you have to know your animal and for every trip you need to evaluate at least the animal’s condition as well as the distance, temperature and terrain and base your load weight on those factors.

    A long ride on uneven terrain at the height of summer requires animals in peak condition. An animal should also be given time to acclimate to a change in altitude. Humans are not the only ones who can suffer from altitude sickness. If your animal is not up to the task you are asking of him, you may be endangering not only his life, but yours as well.

    To pack a heavy load, an animal needs to be in good health. This doesn't just refer to whether or not he has a cold, but whether his feet are in good condition and properly shod or trimmed, whether he has any bites or sores in spots where they could be irritated by the gear and whether he is well rested and prepared for the trip ahead. Good fitness means your animal should be regularly and well-exercised.

    As examples of individual assessments, I once owned a tough, raw-boned mule named Henry. Henry only weighed about 1100 pounds, but he could pack a 250 pound load for 15 miles in hot weather and dance the whole way. However, I currently have a mule, Daisy, who is pushing 35 and would be retired if she didn’t pitch such a fit when she gets left behind. Daisy’s loads typically weigh in at maybe 15% of her body weight. We all walk a little slower to accommodate her and I keep her in mind when deciding how far we’ll go each day.

    Percentage of body weight
    When packers ask me how much weight they can safely pack on a horse or mule, I give them the basic rule of thumb of 20% of the animal's body weight. Once again, this depends on all of the factors in the list above.

    The animal's conformation can be a factor in how well your pack load or horse saddlebags ride. For instance, a low withered animal will need to be packed carefully and evenly because even a minor difference from one side to the other can cause the saddle to constantly shift as you go down the trail. At best, this is an inconvenience causing you to constantly adjust. At worst, the saddle could slip completely and cause a wreck. In another example, a short-backed horse may not be able to carry large western saddlebags as they will sit uncomfortably too far back on the horse's rump.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Which panniers should I use? Part II

    When deciding on panniers for your pack saddle set up, there are two basic types to choose from: hard panniers and soft panniers. Last time, we discussed the pros and cons of various styles of hard panniers. Below I have described several styles of soft panniers.

    Soft Panniers
    Soft panniers are lighter weight and flexible and can, therefore, be useful for the odd shaped loads you might have on your horse pack trip. To protect fragile items from bumps, you can add a pannier insert, like the Ralide-West PolyPac Insert, to many types of soft panniers. Pannier inserts also provide a stable platform for using a top pack.

    Probably the most classic soft pannier is one made from canvas and leather. The TrailMax Canvas and Leather Panniers look great going down the trail, but the leather on them requires more care and makes them non-machine washable. If the pack bag has leather ends, it may have more stability and offer more protection than one without, but once again, a pannier insert is the best way to get structure and protection for your contents.

    Our New TrailMax Canvas Panniers also offer you a traditional look for an economical price. Canvas panniers also have the added benefit of being machine washable. These soft saddle packs are also sized for use with the PolyPro Pannier Inserts to give them stability and protect your contents.

    We had many requests for a pannier that could carry a big cooler, so we designed the TrailMax Oversized Canvas and Vinyl Panniers. These soft pack panniers are canvas on the outside and vinyl on the inside. These panniers are perfect for coolers up to about 70-quarts or your large duffel loads like camp furniture, tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Because of the vinyl lining and soft shape, they also make terrific meat bags and are completely machine washable. These panniers offer a lot of room, so be careful not to overload them. And realize that you will be wider than normal going down the trail.

    Soft panniers are also available in Cordura-type nylon, like in our Pack-A-Saddle Saddle Panniers. Cordura is lightweight, durable, economical and easy to care for. The Pack-A-Saddle is a complete pack system that includes panniers, pannier inserts and top pack. It is also convertible so that you can use it on your pack saddle or convert it to use on your riding saddle. When using it on your riding saddle, like all saddle panniers, you can also roll them up and tie them on behind your saddle so you can ride in and walk a load out.

    Iron Cloth Pack Bags, or Utah-Style Pack Bags as they are sometimes called, are great for packing meat out. They are made from ballistic material, a type of heavy-duty woven fabric that is breathable and washable. Their unique shape (tall and wide, but not very deep) and design (no lid) makes them well suited for this type of load but not many other pack loads.

    What panniers do I use?
    When I go on a pack trip, I typically pack 2-3 mules. I will pack 1-2 mules with HorsePac panniers and ProPac panniers with my kitchen gear and food. I then use top packs for my duffel type gear. The third pack mule is packed with a mantied load because manties are flexible for large, odd-shaped items and are very handy to have around camp. When I hunt, I use a set of the Oversized Canvas and Vinyl panniers. They are perfect for packing out elk quarters.

    So to choose pack panniers, I suggest that you assess the gear you want to bring in, your animals, the terrain you will be traveling in or through, etc. Then choose the panniers that best fit your needs, your tastes and will make your next horse pack trip the most enjoyable.

    Which panniers should I use? Part I

    So you are ready to start packing. You’ve got your pack horse or pack mule. You have chosen a Decker Pack Saddle or a Sawbuck Pack Saddle. You have chosen your pack pad. Now it is time to choose the panniers. But which ones? Below I have outlined some options and have also let you know what I like to use when I go on a horse pack trip.

    Types of Pack Panniers
    There are several styles of pack saddle panniers (or saddle packs, as I have sometimes heard them called) which can be quickly grouped as either hard panniers or soft panniers. Hard panniers, as the name suggested, are a box type carrier made from a solid material like wood, aluminum or molded plastic. Soft panniers are more of a bag style made from materials such as canvas, leather, vinyl, etc.

    Hard Panniers
    Each material used in hard panniers has its pros and cons.
    Wood is solid and strong, but heavy. Wooden pack boxes are usually mantied. Also wood is porous and can take on water and may shatter more easily in a wreck than other types of hard panniers.
    Aluminum panniers are lighter weight, but are also noisy and dent easily when banged against trees and rocks. Once dented, it can be difficult to reshape them back to their original form, which can prohibit your lid from fitting correctly again.
    Molded plastics are lightweight, but tough and can be shaped to fit the animal’s body. They seem to survive wrecks as well, if not better, than the other types of materials. These panniers are strong enough to be used as a step stool or seat in camp and some models are designed to convert to a table or flat work surface. I personally prefer hard panniers made from molded plastic.

    Molded plastic hard panniers
    There are three types of molded plastic hard panniers: horse shaped, box shaped and bear resistant. Horse-shaped pack boxes, like our Ralide-West HorsePacs, are curved in the back to follow the shape of your pack animal’s ribs. These panniers hang straighter on the animal and, therefore, provide you with a slightly narrower load and a flatter shelf for your top pack. We have recently redesigned the Ralide-West HorsePac Pannier with molded handles and to double as a table or flat work surface with the purchase of a pannier leg set. However, the curved shape of these boxes affects the amount and shape of the packing space available inside the pannier. You have to work around the curve and large, square items may not fit as well in these pack boxes.

    Box-shaped panniers, on the other hand, like our Ralide-West ProPacs, are rectangular in shape, which can simplify packing your gear on a horse pack trip. These panniers are large enough for a smaller wall tent stove like the Riley Side Kick. However, the rectangular shape does not lay flat against the animal, so your pack load is a little wider going down the trail and the pack boxes ride at more of an angle. This means the tops of the boxes will not be as flat, but your top pack will ride just fine.

    Bear Resistant Panniers (sometimes known as Bear “Proof” Panniers, although this is misleading) are designed with lids that are inset and screwed down to keep bears from being able to pry the lid off. These panniers are often required by the Forest Service in areas with high bear populations to prevent bears from getting into human food and becoming habituated and a nuisance or danger to humans. If you travel through or camp in these areas without bear resistant panniers, you will need to hang your food to prevent bears from getting into it (100 feet from the tent, about 15 high between two trees). These panniers are shaped like our HorsePac panniers and therefore, ride well.

    Next time, I'll talk about your options for soft panniers.

    Friday, August 11, 2006

    Wendy stays with some Vermont farmers

    I have to say Serendipity continued to follow me on my journey. One very rainy day I found myself in Sheffield thinking it would be great to find a roof for the night. Some folks told me of a farm up the mountain that breeds Walking Horses. So, up the mountain we went, the fog falling behind us into the valley below. It seemed like we rode forever- it always seems like that when it's pouring however- and finally we came around a corner to find a very well cared for, well built horse operation. We ambled up the driveway, to find the two owners, Tim and Ann Leverette, sitting on their porch, and when I told them what I was up to, they invited me in, put Jolie in a luxurious stall- after a ventilin bath of course- and let me loose in their shower and then led me to their laundry room. The result: Clean pants-sort of.

    Later, when we began to talk of origins, Ann mentioned she'd sold a horse to a fellow over in Shelburne- where we began the journey. Not only did I know the fellow but he had actually given me Tim and Ann's address should I get to Sheffield. I had forgotten the paper with their name, and I ended up in Sheffield only because the roads led me there....I spent a few days at the farm and got the opportunity to ride one of their fabulous horses. I'd never ridden a Walker before and it was like getting on a Ferrari after riding a Mack truck (sorry, Jolie). The ground covering ossibilities are astonishing... It was from the Leverettes that I first learned about the aforementioned Wind Project and as I rode I heard more and more about it, because everyone in the region is going to be effected.

    The Nelson farm in the Albany/ Lowell region is another extraordinary spot just below the ridgeline of the Lowell Mountains, where more windmills are planned. Their farm is on the Bailey-Hazen trail, an old road built during the revolution- It was planned to run all the way to Canada but the builders stopped at Hazen's notch because of fears of Indian Ambush and also with the realization that if they opened a road to Canada it would make it easier for the enemy to attack from the north... Don and Shirley Nelson milked cows for 30 years and raised their children on the farm. Don mentioned that he didn't love milking but that he did love animals. He told stories about his "boys"- raccoons he raised, and led me out to the barn to watch as he stroked and fed a wild one who comes in for his supper at night. He also told stories of a young deer a friend had asked him to keep during hunting season. I guess it was a fawn whose mother had died, and who had been raised with cows. After hunting season ended they let the deer out of the barn and he began to wander off. So Don and Shirley put bread and other deer-loving snacks in the back of the car and followed him until he noticed they had food. Then they opened the hatch-back and he jumped in! They said he rode between them in the car like a dog. Eventually I guess the game warden came for him because he was bothering fisherman, and tangling their lines...and so he vanished.

    That's it for now. If I haven't said it before, I would just like to say that during this trip it was wonderful to be out of touch with the rather grim news of the world, and to experience instead the generosity and goodness of people. I would like to thank everyone who helped me on my way. It made the journey into something very special, and connected me to people I would never have had the opportunity to meet.

    More later... Best, Wendy

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Wendy taking a break


    I'm at home for the next few weeks, spending some time with my family and theoretically waiting for the weather to cool off. The thing is it's a perfect riding temperature right now-which is unusual for August-and it's hard to not just get up early in the morning, pack up and head out again. Horse travel gets into your blood and it's difficult to stop once you and your horse establish a rhythm. Jolie looks at me expectantly these days, and though I'm riding her hard everyday to keep her in shape, I think she might be missing the road as well.

    Jolie had two behavior changes on this trip: She used to hate fly spray and would get wildly alarmed when I sprayed her legs or any part of her body really. But one day she was attacked by flies so badly-we were in dairy country and cows seem to generate zillions of the face fly variety-that she suddenly understood why I was spraying her-it was stunning to watch as she seemed to say to herself "O.K. now I get it" and then she suddenly relaxed and stood still. And so now she seems to breathe a sigh of relief when I appear with my spray bottle.

    The other behavior was a surprise and also lucky. I had let her loose in a field one morning, something spooked her and she took off running toward the road. There was nothing I could do but call her and, amazingly, she turned around and came galloping back to me. This is a horse that never came when called- unless food was involved... Even though we have encountered nine million of them, large rocks still make her suspicious. Crouching lions, I suppose. I'm not sure if she'll ever get over that one.

    My trip from Danville took me up through the beautiful Northeast Kingdom hill farms and forests north to the St. Johnsbury/Lyndonville area. Then we were on to Sheffield, Barton, Albany, Lowell, Westfield, Montgomery, Bakersfield, E. Fairfield and Fletcher- where we stopped. I encountered wonderful people and stayed on some extraordinary farms-big ones for the East- 800 acres, 650 acres-high green pastures, pine trees and mountain ridges. The Ridges are controversial in the Kingdom because there's a plan to put several large industrial wind farms on some of them. On first hearing, wind sounds benign enough, but these projects are slated to place miles of 450' towers with red lights on top along the most beautiful mountains in the state. They'll be visible for miles in all directions. When I learned that changing 5 lightbulbs in every home would save what they would generate in a year, and that the only benefits to the locals are revenues that don't amount to much, comparatively, and they don't get the benefits of the energy.....well you can imagine where I've landed on the issue. It seems to me that Industrial wind should be located in windy industrial places...not in beautiful rural regions...

    to be continued

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Wendy's stories from the campground

    I guess the last time I wrote, I was taking a break in E. Montpelier. From there I rode with two wonderful folks – Brenda and Morris Lasell – over to Groton State Park, one of two campgrounds in Vermont that takes horses. The route was along a very flat and shady rail trail which carried us for about 20 miles high on the sides of the hills. The park was great except that the water was laced with uranium in the horse area...which was declared not potable for humans but fine for horses. I didn't want Jolie to glow in the dark, so I managed to get water from another well on the grounds.

    I camped for two days there, and the first night I realized that it was obvious to others that I was alone. When you're tucked back in a field somewhere, it's easy to make yourself invisible, but in an organized campground it's not. So that first night I was a little restless and alert because there was a group of men cruising around on Harley's and though I don't want to make any judgments, there were 3 of them and 1 of me. The next night I felt pretty comfortable and settled down for a good sleep when a couple drove in and took the campsite next to mine. They lit a roaring fire and because the crackling sounds and the smell of the smoke were soothing, I began to slip off into a beautiful dreamlike state. Suddenly though, I began to hear some fairly questionable sighs and rumblings and realized that my neighbors were "starting in" (so to speak) and soon they began to make such an expressive racket that I began to worry about the children in the campground. This went on for hours, very loudly. It was hilarious in a way- except that I'm sure I was not the only one in the place who couldn't get to sleep. I figured that when the whole thing ended there'd finally be some quiet, but no – the fellow began to talk in a very deep and booming voice. And so, after covering my ears with as much clothing and baggage as I could find, tossing and turning, and grinding my teeth, I decided I'd had it. The moon was still up, no signs of dawn, no birdsong, I caught Jolie, packed up and rode away...which turned out to be a bad idea, because I missed a crucial turn and ended up riding a good 10 miles out of my way...and as dawn came the first of the day's storms came with it.

    There were 4 that day. One came with a particularly violent tornado-like wind that blew the roof off a building in Barnet- the next town over. I hid out in a dairy shed during that one, talking to the drenched farmer and his wife who had been trying to get their hay in before the deluge....As the next one hit I was riding by a tidy farm that had a ranch gate over the entrance-so I made for the barn and fell asleep in the hay while Jolie snoozed and the rain clattered on the tin roof. Later, the owner showed up and we had a nice chat about his dreams of riding from Maine to the Dakotas...sounds like a good idea to me. I ended that day quite late on a beautiful tidy hill farm in Danville with views of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

    To be continued.....Best, Wendy

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Bernice's adventures in Minnesota

    Mary Jo Blend gave me my second ride out of Hettinger, ND on Highway 12. I stayed at Hettinger after the Gilies dropped me off at the fairgrounds and a number of local horsewomen found out about me. Fourth of July was just around the corner and my time was fast running out. I only had two weeks to cover a lot of distance.

    From Mobridge, SD on it got nothing but hotter and hotter and hotter. Drought conditions, but like Keith Gilie said they don’t know what “no water is” – yes, the crops were behind, but there were crops and even with the absence of water, it was still green, the ditcher were thick with alfalfa, clover, buffalo grasses. I let Honor eat as we moved. The ditches along Highway 12 were mowed (hayed) wide and smoother, very little glass and South Dakota is very pastoral, quiet and flatter than any other part of the country I’ve yet ridden through. We no longer saw cowboy hats, but rather caps with a John Deere emblem or a name of a town. We met many, many people along that stretch of the ride – all very friendly and curious about the ride.

    I did not realize Minnesota was home to a large hog industry – huge, long, white hog sheds housing thousands of pigs all automatically fed. Unfortunately, there is the smell no matter how pretty the farms and landscaping was, it still had a strong odor through the entire western half of the Minnesota ride. But one must expect some smell. Coming from a dairy background, I’m quite familiar with farming practices. And for the most part, these new farming techniques are efficient and very clean.

    I was tipped off about the Luce Line Trail that runs from Cosmos, MN into the cities (Minneapolis) and it was a lifesaver to be off the hot roads on a shaded, soft green RR track turned trail. We had cool lakes for poor Claire and even my shoes came off to walk on the grass. We were able to walk/ride two entire days, something we had not been able to do for week as the temperatures were every day in the high 90’s and 100’s. On Friday, July 14th, we were getting close to our Waconia destination; New Germany just ahead. At the T-Road Bar, I stopped for a beer and water for Honor. Of course, when one rides up on a fully packed traveling horse, heads turn, questions flow and rarely do I buy my own beer. Some one trotted off to fetch Honor grain. A bucket of water appeared from nowhere and before we left, we’d made many friends and the TV station from Minneapolis was on our tail.

    Honor is now road safe – semis, trains, heavy equipment do not bother her. We left Montana still pretty iffy and now, two and a half months later, we are a tight group that has it down and will only get better as we travel the country, hill and dale, together. One horse, one dog, one woman.

    We leave August 15th for New Mexico. The horizon calls to me, but first a good rest. Many, many thanks to all of those that helped make this part of the ride possible. There are so many that fed us, gave us a clean shirt or a place to camp. We met hundreds of interesting, generous people – to each my deep appreciation and sincere Thank You’s.


    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Letter from Bernice Ende

    July 24th, 2006

    Greetings to all!

    Well, we arrived July 14th – late after 11pm making my family all quite anxious. All very tired with sore feet and wary from having to push thru the awful hear that pursued us from Forsyth, MT to Waconia, MN. Most days we rode from 4am to 11 am, then rested as best we could as bugs (all of which bit) and melting heat made it so uncomfortable. Then back on the road from 6pm until dark. But all in all it was a very interesting ride. Challenges that arose were met with more confidence, more to draw from with last year’s experience behind me.

    The saddle and saddle bags are holding up wonderfully – great – no rips, no zippers have given out. I rave about the ease and durability of the bags. They tie down solid and wash out without soap. They are, of course, faded and stained in places but holding up very well. All seams are holding even through my brutality with them. They are truly put to the test with this much packing and unpacking as each day I pack and unpack at least 3 times. The Tucker Saddle no longer has a nice new polished look to it. After 1200 miles, it is well broke in, stirrups are set, fenders are soft. It has been from the beginning a comfortable, lightweight saddle. I’ve never regretted using it. I’ve added a crupper as the saddle needed to be held back off Honor’s high, narrow withers. With the crupper and breastcollar I’m now far happier – as is Honor – with how the weight of the saddle, pads and myself ride. We are in and out of ditches. Perhaps it is not mountainous riding, but the saddle gets shifted a great deal.

    Eastern Montana was historically very interesting. So very much happened that helped shape this country during the 1800’s – the Indian wars, early pioneers and the now ghost towns that were once thriving communities that simple sank once the RR’s were discontinued. Yet the flavor of the Wild West, cowboys, open space and freedom still remains. We traveled highway 20 from Mobridge to the Minnesota border. Small towns dotted the entire ride across South Dakota. We no longer had plentiful creeks and rivers which meant stopping to ask for water at least 3 times per day. This meant longer stops for visits but it also meant we were generously supplied with food – for all us.

    We fell behind – heat, sore shoulders and so much visiting put us far behind schedule. We caught three rides – one in Forsyth with the Gilies, Vicki and Keith, who were ranchers I met while staying in a corral north of town. They also took me on a cattle drive using one of their horses. I came away with a much greater appreciation for the skill it requires to move 200 head of cattle – not only rider, but horse. The terrain is anything but smooth. Those horses had to be fast, surefooted and able to withstand the roughed pitching, jumping and turning required of them to maneuver run away calves. Vicki has a beautiful line of colored Quarter Horses matched with excellent confirmation and nice dispositions.

    to be continued

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Wendy Copp sends word

    We received another email from Wendy Copp. We had asked her a while back to tell us what she packs in her saddlebags because we knew many of you out there following her travels would be curious about what she carries. She has obliged us in her most recent email.

    Wow, it's been a long time since I've even seen a computer. Most of the folks I've stayed with have ones that are so slow and ancient that they don't bother trying to use them.
    I'm taking a break during this excruciatingly hot weather. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't ride in it anyway because it's too humid, the bugs are atrocious and the air never cools off. So Jolie and I are going to take a rest for a while.
    Let’s see. My saddle is a custom made endurance saddle made by a fellow named Fred Pokrinchak. It weighs only 14 pounds and has a flexible panel tree, which seems to be working beautifully. I replaced the fenders with ones made by Torsion, and also exchanged the nylon billets with leather ones. I use two pads – a wool felt one and a wool blanket. They've worked well, except that they don't stay in place when I'm off my horse walking down steep hills. I use a mohair string girth.

    I'm carrying about 42 pounds in my saddle bags-12 pounds in front, when my water bottles are full- and 30 pounds in back. I've packed a tent, sleeping bag, airflow mattress, D-cell battery fence charger, 4 fence poles cut into 3 pieces with connectors attached, 4 insulators and enough hot tape to make a small 25 x 25 paddock, first aid equipment for both Jolie and I, toiletries, leatherman, headlamp, pepper spray, rain poncho, really good rain pants and jacket, portable water bucket, tape recorder and notebook, about 5 pounds of grain, combination curry/brush, hoofpick, mane comb, insect repellent for horse and human, food for me (jerky, nuts, fruit, bread, cheese yogurt, etc. I've been able to replenish my food at the occasional little store I come across, or at the various farms where people have invited me in), 2 pairs of socks, 3 underwear, extra t-shirt and long sleeved shirt, 1 pair of pants and 1 extra horseshoe. I think that's everything. I didn't bring a stove because I just didn't have any more room. The leatherman and headlamp have been
    particularly indispensable.
    You might notice that my hat looks a bit’s because I'm wearing a detachable sun visor which has been great in both bright sun and pouring rain. People have told me I look like a traveling gardener, a pic (?) or a samurai. The thing seems to be a Rorschach test of sorts. All I know is that it works really well!
    I've attached a recent photo and will tell you of my travels in my next installment...tomorrow, I think. Hope all is well with you,
    Best, Wendy

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Waterproofing a Canvas Wall Tent

    It's that time of year. Hunters are getting ready for the season and pulling out all their gear to check it, including their wall tents.

    If you feel that you need to retreat your canvas wall tent for waterproofing, there are right ways and wrong ways to approach it. You should purchase a product made specifically for this purpose, such as Canvak. People have used other products in the past, such as Thompsons Water Seal or other types of wood sealants. But these are not intended for waterproofing canvas tents and are consequently, inappropriate products for treating a fiber that should be able to breathe.

    To use Canvak, set up your tent on its frame. Make sure it is clean and dry. You can then apply the Canvak like you would paint: roll it on, spray it on or brush it on. Let it dry. The can suggests 1 gallon for each 100 square feet of canvas. It seems to take a little more than this, so be sure to buy more than you think you need to save yourself two trips or two shipping charges.
    For those of you who own a Montana Canvas wall tent, you should not have to worry about retreating your tent, as long as you take care of it. Montana Canvas uses only canvas that is pretreated for water resistancy (as well as mildew and fire retardancy) and as long as the tent is taken care of, that treatment should be effective for the life of the tent.

    Taking care of your canvas wall tent means making sure that it is absolutely dry before storing it. It also means taking care of it while it’s in use. I recommend using a tent fly with any tent, wall tent or other, made of any material, canvas or nylon. A tent fly does many things that both protect your investment and make your camp more enjoyable:

    Why do I need a Wall Tent fly?

    1. It further shields you against rain and snow by protecting the roof of your Wall Tent and extending the dripline an additional 12” from the sides of the Wall Tent so that precipitation will not run down the walls of the tent.
    2. It helps insulate your Wall Tent by preventing heat from escaping through the roof.
    3. It protects the roof of your Wall Tent against damaging ultraviolet rays, debris from the trees, etc., as well as from interior condensation.
    4. A fly can keep a canvas tent much drier. A damp or wet canvas tent weighs more and will take longer to dry out when you get home.
    For those of you with a Montana Canvas Wall Tent with Relite, you also should not have to retreat the Relite. A can of All-Dri is sent with your tent simply to spray on the seams to fill in the holes made by sewing the tent together. Once this is done, you should not have to treat your Relite Wall Tent again.