Pack Saddles "Sawbuck Not-A-Knot System".
Pack Saddles: Because some people are intimidated by knots and others lack access to a packing class or a professional packer, we developed the Not-A-Knot System, professional packing equipment that anyone can use. Incorporating a TrailMax top pack and Ralide-West panniers, this system is entirely knot free. It is so simple, anyone could pack and load their horse in four easy steps. And once loaded, it is like having a diamond hitch securing your load. The Sawbuck Not-A-Knot System includes our Classic Sawbuck Pack Saddle, one pair of Ralide-West Horsepac Panniers, a TrailMax Wool Pack Pad and aTrailMax Top Pack. Price includes shipping costs for all items.
The horse and mule pack trains usually had about 100 pack animals, however, some trains were smaller and some were as long as 150 animals. Each pack animal had to be trained and usually carried 200 pounds. Depending on the size and type of animal, they could carry as much as 600 and 700 pounds.
Both the mule and the horse were used in packing because they each had different packing abilities. Mules can carry more weight, work longer hours, need less feed and can manouvre more easily around narrow rocky areas on the trails. Horses, on the other hand, can travel through mud and swamps a lot easier than mules since their feet are broader. A packer had to take special care when packing the animals and make sure that goods that could get spoiled if immersed in water were packed on the mules and not on the horses. In hot weather, a horse will lie down in a creek to cool itself off and could damage the goods it was carrying.
On a routine day, the packers were usually awake by 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to get their animals packed before the flies and bugs came out and made them hard to pack. The men worked in pairs placing the packs on the pack saddles. It was very important to load the pack animals properly because a shifty pack could injure the animal's back or, even worse, send them tumbling off a cliff to their death. Once the packs were in place, the famous "diamond hitch" was thrown over the packs.
When everything was ready, a bell was rung and the train was off, with an experienced horse or mule in the lead. This lead animal wore a bell and all the others knew to follow. Usually, for every ten pack animals, there was one packer riding horseback. The foreman rode up and down the train, making sure all was well. When the lead horse came to a difficult place in the trail or a stream crossing, the boss would ride up to supervise.
As a rule, the cook rode on ahead of the train. He would have camp set up and a hot meal ready when the train arrived. These stops were usually at grassy feeding places along the trail. The animals became so familiar with the trails and the stopping places that they would become impatient as they approached the camp.
When the pack train arrived at the campsite, the horses and mules would file up in a great half-circle around the lead horse. The packs were taken off and placed beside the harness of each animal. The animals were then turned free to graze around the camp. By this time, the cook and his helper had made a roaring fire and supper was on. The packers were finally able to retire for a well-earned rest.
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