Trailhead Supply Blog
The sun is out, the snow is melting, and you’ve got shoes on the ponies. You’re ready to go…Where are you going??? You poured over maps all winter, at least half of you reading this called me once or twice and asked about this trail or that trail head or my thoughts on securing animals on your first overnight camping trip with your horses. So, all that freshly oiled tack and all the new gear you got for Christmas is loaded in the horse trailer. All you need to do is put fuel in the tank, load the stock in the trailer, and throw some adult beverages on ice and your off to see new country. Did you tell anyone where your going? Whenever I teach a packing class I always say the number one thing to remember is take care of number one! YOU are number one. When the pack string is blowing up don’t cowboy up and try to ride out the storm this seldom works …trust me!!! Just let go of the rope, take care of number one. Live to fight another day. When out trail riding you normally aren’t close to help if things don’t go quite as planned. We all think we are invincible. But we aren’t… So, before you pull out of the driveway let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be home, and if you are married to someone like my wife...don’t call the national guard in until this date. Make a copy of your map and draw your plans on it and leave it with all the trip info. This applies to a quick after work ride as much as it does to a 14 day across the Bob Marshall Wilderness trip. I’m listed as the emergency contact for a pile of my customers…they file their trip plan with me and normally the wife has my cell number in case no one shows when they said they would. I made a sheet up years ago and I fill out all the info from where I’m going, to those cell numbers of those with me. I hang it on the same kitchen cabinet door every trip. I started passing out these sheets in the hunter ed classes I teach and now packing classes and clinics too. There was one elk trip I failed to contact my wife on and she called my partner in crime, my daughter, Sydney at 2am. Sydney checked google earth and saw I was sending messages off my personal locator. My wife said “it’s dark” Sydney told her mom “Well Dad might not be with them but his pack string is doing 3.2 mph and on the trail about 3 miles from the trail head go to sleep all is good…” Feel free to use my info/contact sheet or make one of your own…Just tell someone!!!
See you on the trail!
We all look back at when we started packing, and just laugh…We tell stories around the fire of where we packed in our first time. Who we went with, and how we built our loads and tied them on, not to mention the trouble we had along the way. If we are lucky, none of our friends that were with us had a camera to post pictures of our problems on Facebook. I’ve seen a guy at the trail head with a how to pack book propped up against his horse’s neck trying to follow the diagram on how to tie that knot that holds the load on. I’ve passed 3 gals on a hot summer day that were wearing string bikinis and cowboy boots pulling a welch pony loaded to the max with black hefty trash sacks full of their gear. I was told just this week about a friend of mine when she started packing she would fill her sleeping bag and then tie it across the horse and hang the Coleman lantern around the saddle horn and headed down the trail. Now, as the years pass, my string looks like something off a magazine cover. Every load wrapped in a tightly bound mantie, even my saddle bags are canvas so the saddle horse matches the canvas on the pack string. I get phone calls daily at our store, Trailhead Supply, and get asked questions on various topics, but mostly building and securing loads. As I travel around the Northwest doing pack clinics and seminars I get a lot of those questions “Don’t you think it would be better if ???” And on those packing forums on Facebook where everyone has to chime in on every question asked… I’ve gotten to the point in my life when asked is he or she doing that right? Is there a better way?? I reply, “If they got from point A to B and they along with their animals didn’t get hurt. If they had a great time and would love to go on another pack trip, then they did it right!!!” There is plenty of time to learn a new knot or some of the tricks other folks have learned along the way, but the real thing you need to learn is to make time and get out on the trail. If you need a hand getting started feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email we are here to help….
See you on the trail!
Many of you know, since a lot of you follow us on Facebook, Trailhead Supply was at the Salmon Select Sale last weekend in Salmon Idaho for the horse and mule auction. We had a great time talking and visiting over a hot cup of coffee. With any auction the topic that was discussed over and over was the selling price of the flesh running through the sale ring. To me buying at an auction is just like Vegas. I love the sale ring, I do my homework, the breeding, the trainer, age, color, confirmation of the animal, etc., etc., etc. …But who really knows till he or she is saddled and running down the trail? Sometimes we find out how we did way before that. Sunday morning, most had already headed home, we were waiting to load out of the vendor building and I see some poor guy trying to load a horse into his trailer by himself. It wasn’t happening!! So, coffee cup in one hand I offered my assistance. We all assume they will load, well they got there…right?? The other big question is what do you do with the horse or mule you are replacing? I was asked several times if I knew anyone looking for a lame horse? (that’s my words of course) You’ve heard this I’m sure. He’s really a good horse just can’t go on long rides anymore. Would be great for a young kid. There is no way I’d put my kid on a crippled old horse. Or they have one that should be running the rodeo circuit and they are afraid they will get hurt on it…Why do I want to get bucked off? Is the ground softer for me?? The best part is, they want to sell it to me!! The conversation always ends with… he just needs a job… It’s auction season, so be safe, be careful and have fun. I love this time of year; a new horse or mule gets everyone excited to get out and ride. If you have any questions on how to fit your pack saddle to that new mule drop us a line…firstname.lastname@example.org
See you on the trail
The door of the store (Trailhead Supply) swings open, and in walks one of our favorite customers. He is carrying a used decker pack saddle. He then tosses it in a pile on the store floor and announces that he just picked this up off a Craig’s list ad, and got a screaming deal. All it needs is a little oil and she will be as good as new. So, I grab a tub of my favorite leather conditioner and started to ring it up.
He said “Aren’t you even going to look at it?”
“You’re the one that said it only needed some oil…”
From across the store, one could see it had holes wore through the halfbreed, repair or replace? I flip the saddle over and the tree was cracked, a big long split. The question is, replace or run it? Can’t repair it. Trees which are the backbone of your whole pack outfit start at $150 and go up from there. Remember, you get what you pay for. Then there are the sling ropes, well worn, strands breaking…replace that’s only another $25 each. Rivets are pulling out of the leather rigging, but in the case of this saddle why replace the rivets when the straps are so old and cracked its just time to replace that strap. The cinch is so old and stiff from dried sweat and caked on mud, and its probably not the right size anyway…replace. The breast collar isn’t a pack saddle breast collar its off a riding saddle. (yes! there is a difference)
More times than not a well-used pack saddle is not worth the cost, plus the needed repairs. I know very well that packers are cheap, remember I’m a packer, but I’ve learned that being in the back country, 20 plus miles from the trailhead is not the spot for equipment failures. There are some good deals out there, but our advice to you is be super picky when buying used pack gear. If a packer is selling a saddle and is still packing there is a reason why they are selling “that” saddle. If you need help or advice when looking at pack gear feel free to give is a call or shoot us an email email@example.com Remember we’ve been there.
See you on the trail.
Today I was placed into an elite group…I was referred to as crotchety, (an old packer) Well if their Webster dictionary defines crotchety as “Been bucked off, stepped on, rolled a saddle, lost a horse in the middle of the night, but found him, built or repaired tack out of bailing twine, pulled a pack string all night in the driving rain to be on time to start in the morning, figured stuff out all by yourself, would rather ride by myself than a head to tail ride with lots of people, loves sitting by a campfire alone, has a more meaningful conversation with a mule than most folks you know.”…Well I guess I’m crotchety!!! It’s the little things that drives me nuts, like putting manty ropes away. I teach pack classes, from small groups at our store Trailhead Supply and to large groups with standing room only at sportsman expos. At some point during my demonstration I always show everyone how “I” put away my ropes. Then after I’m done and trying to pick up, to clear the stage for the next presenter people always offer to help…I say thanks but I got it. They insist, So I show them one more time how to put the ropes away. I even explain to them again the reason I want the ropes put away like this. And they still mess it up!!! Oh my God… I am crotchety!!! Take my son in law… Well before he was my son in law he tagged along on a trip. At the end of the trip he asked how I would like the pack saddles put away. That’s a great start, he asked!! So, I showed him, he went off and pulled saddles. Wow that was great, the kid may have found a keeper I thought, till I saddled the next time. He untied the latigos on the offside, opposite from me, so as I saddled the next time I had to walk around each and every horse to saddle it. He now does it right!!! My way… All old packers have been called more adjectives than just crotchety, but there is a reason they do what they do. Every time they pull a rope, fold a manty, or cuss a good mule there was a real-life lesson learned in the past that has brought them to the trail they are on today. If you want to learn, ask them. They will be happy to teach you, just remember all real packers are always right…
See you on the trail. Andy