Trailhead Supply Blog

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!

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…

See you on the trail


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Is Used Really Worth It?

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  Remember we’ve been there.

See you on the trail.


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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

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It’s Here…

Well it finally got here, you know…SPRING!!!  It stopped snowing for the most part, in fact all 3 feet of snow that we have in the driveway has started to melt.  But here is the deal at our ranch, spring is officially the 21st.  Spring is not the 20th for two reasons. First, you can’t have observed something on a given date for 50 something years of life on a certain date and then because someone says “whoops” the earth is revolving at a different speed around the moon or whatever, then up and change the date, that’s just dumb.   The second and most important reason is, the 21st is my wife’s birthday and she was born on the first day of spring and her birthday will always be on the first day of spring!!!  Doesn’t really matter to me which date you celebrate the first day of spring on as long as it makes you happy. Spring gives us a fresh start. This year was a long cold snowy winter and I will be glad to have two first days of spring.  Now, get ready to hit the trail.  Drag out all those saddles and get to oiling them up, replace all those old and cracked straps. I had a Forest Service packer stop by today; she needed some pack saddle parts to ready her deckers for the upcoming season. Then she ordered a new half breed while she was here and said “mine just won’t make another season…” We got to chatting about upcoming trips, if and when the snow ever melts off the mountain passes. It’s funny that just a date on the calendar can bring so much hope and optimism.  I still have the same amount of snow in the yard, but its spring… Really it’s my wife’s birthday.

See you on the trail (sooner than you think)


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The 4 Most Overlooked Parts of Your Saddle

Well tis the season, it may still be snowing outside but folks can feel spring coming. Every year about this time everyone starts dragging out their saddles, to start the process of cleaning and oiling, getting already for the first possible day to hit the trail. I start getting pictures emailed to me or folks stopping by Trailhead Supply asking me to give my thoughts if a given strap has yet another year of life.  Lets stop right there…If you have any doubts on if a strap or a piece of tack will make it or not, buy a new one.  There is no need to be running in and out of the back country or up and down some trail on hopes and a prayer. Remember, you want an uneventful trip. Uneventful trips are my favorite type, spend your time making memories not patching tack back together to get home.  Lets get back to oiling up all that leather. 

The four most overlooked places while oiling and inspecting a saddle have to be: the bend on an off billet, the latigo, saddle strings, and your cinch. The off billet…is that U-shaped piece of leather that your cinch attaches to.  Also known as “That Thing”  I have more people tell me they need "that thing!" It has a name…Off Billet.  The off billet will dry out and crack where it is folded over. Last year I know of two people who broke their off billet while riding and their saddle rolled off their horse. One of these folks ended up in the hospital with a broken leg. I was walking through our local emergency room (long story) and here sits a friend of mine her leg is all splinted up.

"What happened," I asked.

"I was out riding and that thing broke."

What's next? Your latigo. This is the leather strap that you secure your saddle with.  Its on the opposite side of your saddle from your off billet.  These straps get old and tired the holes get tore out. Another problem that can develop with a latigo is some people won’t oil their latigos, they feel it will make the leather stretch and therefor won’t hold the saddle on tight. 

Your strings, these small long strips of leather hold all your belongings onto the saddle during your adventures, check them out, over time they will break and get cut shorter trying to cut that world famous not slipping knot out when you get to your destination. It doesn’t hurt to replace those old brittle and probably shorter than they should be saddle strings with some new, long, soft pliable ones, you won’t believe the difference!!! 

Finally your cinch, this piece of tack is so greatly over looked. They get packed full of mud, burs, hair and sweat. They get hard and crusty. If you are running neoprene  the rolled edges can crack and pinch your animal going down the trail. Look your cinch over as to how its constructed, I had one attached to a used saddle I bought, every time I tighten the cinch my horse got all pissy. Turns out that cinch had a piece of metal woven inside of it and that metal would bite into the chest of that mare as I pulled it tight…That cinch is gone!!! Cinch materials are a personal choice, I’m a mohair fan, but if it holds your saddle in place while not soaring your mount then you have the right one. If you have any questions feel free to contact us at Trailhead Supply even if its just to show me an old cracked strap.

See you on the trail!


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