Thursday, December 14, 2006

How To Start a Pack Horse or Mule

I'm following up on a question from Steve on an earlier post. In my experience, most good horses and mules take to packing very easily. Let's assume the animal is broke, or at the very least has had a lot of ground work, been sacked out, etc. First, saddle him with a pack saddle and let him get used to the breeching around his rump. Lunge him or run him around in a round pen until he seems comfortable. Then, tie a couple of empty Clorox bottles to the saddle, one on each side, with some string or rope. Put some small rocks in them so they make lots of noise while you trot him around. This will help your pack animal get used to odd sounds emanating from the packs. If your prospective pack animal is on the calm side, this should not take long.

Next, I like to put a set of Ralide-West panniers on with tin cans and rocks in them and go through the same exercise. Then, I like to do a couple of rides up my “training trail.” This trail starts off by crossing a short wooden bridge. I figure I might as well find out immediately where the problems might crop up. Then there is a creek crossing followed by some turns through a boggy area. I prefer the Ralide-West boxes because they are virtually indestructible. The quality of panniers enters into play because there are a couple of places where an inexperienced pack animal will whack a tree with the boxes. Usually, after two times they learn that they have to move out away from a tree to keep from getting that hard pannier jabbed in their ribs.

By the end of that 14-mile round trip, I usually have a pretty good idea if there are any problems that need special attention. It’s hard to make a good pack animal by merely practicing at home. If you have gotten this far without serious trouble, it’s time to just do it.

One last thought: don’t try to make a pack animal out of a horse or mule that didn’t make it as a saddle horse. A calm disposition and willingness to work are very important.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my friend and I started a pack horse today (6 year old freebie cayuse from where ever?). halterbroke and quiet that's it. i strongly suggest to take things slow and at the horses' own speed. don't be in a hurry, don't use gimmicks (ie: apache nerve line, scotch hobble) the horse WILL remember this. work with the horse UNTIED. this forces you to work at the horses comfort level. at the end of one hour we were: passing garbage bags between her legs, horse got fully tarped, and rubbed a whitetail bucks' head all over her. despite that the thing she flinched the most for was the back cinch.

when i first started out (18 hired for overnights) we had a pack horse jump into the cooktent and have a blowup. put a big tear in the new outfitter tent and my partner and i got big shit for it.