Tuesday, April 10, 2018

horsemanship training

“In the world of mules there are no rules.” - Ogden Nash

Last spring we got to go to horsemanship training in the Methow Valley. We learned how to catch, brush and saddle horses and mules as well as how too wrap and tie up loads. We got to learn basic riding techniques and also how to load them into a vehicle.

practicing riding techniques

Once you catch a horse (catch makes it sound like you chase them, actually you are calmly following them with the bridle until you can put the bridle on) you take them and brush them down. This is important so any burs or clumps of dirt that could be abrasive under their saddle/paniers get brushed off. It also lets you see your animal closely so you can see if they have any wounds or other issues that need to be cared for or monitored. Then you put on a saddle blanket which is another way we prevent abrasion to the animal and then you put on their saddle. There are riding saddles which are designed for animals that someone will sit on and packing saddles for animals that will be carrying/ have loads attached to them.

When packing trail crews in, there are a lot of awkward things that need to be sent in...mostly strange shaped tools. It's generally easier to load up paniers onto an animal but some things just don't fit into pre-made panier bags and boxes and need to be wrapped up into what we call mantie loads. Manties are basically heavy duty canvas sheets wrapped around whatever you need to load onto your stock. They get wrapped up in a particular way with rope and basically a lot of variations on the half hitch knot.

Tommy practicing tying up a mantie load

a properly tied mantie load on

my mule Suzy with her riding saddle on

pack saddles on and ready to load up at the trailhead

quick release hitch for tying animals to fences/posts

The big takeaways from working with the pack string last season are that mules don't listen well, and it's important to have well-trained animal and packer leading...the rest of the string will be more likely stay on task if the leader and lead animal are operating smoothly.