Stock Packing School, June 8 and 9 at Black Bear Horse Camp, Lopez Lake and June 15 and 16 pack into Khus Horse Camp.
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Stock Packing Manual
Backcountry Horsemen of California, Los Padres Unit.
Compiled by Richard Waller,
 May 20, 2013

Some basic good ideas to keep you and your stock safe:
1.Use a stampede string on your hat, helps prevent rodeos.
2. Wear gloves when leading, a running lead rope will burn your hands badly.
3.  Wear a sharp knife outside your pants where you can reach it, it may save your life or your animals.
4. Wear chaps, protect your legs from brush and running ropes.
Saddle Horse:
Use a halter, never tie your horse by its reins. Broken jaws and cut off tongues are not wanted.
Use a breast strap, prevent a balking pack animal from converting you and the saddle to an odd form of diaper.
Never secure the lead rope to the saddle, carry it loose, I like one half wrap around horn and tuck the free end between my leg and the saddle, being sure not to wrap it around my leg.
Basic Conditioning and Training and Leave No Trace Principles
Section 1:    Basic Training and Ground Manners
A. Respecting your space and Ground Manners
The more training that can be done before going to the Backcountry- The more fun you will have in the Backcountry.
Treat all stock with the respect they are due. If you have an animal that is likely to kick or shy or whatever, have the courtesy to let the others in your party know about it. Nothing ruins a trip as fast as someone getting hurt!
Along the same line- teach your stock to respect you and your space.  Ground manners are very important and this includes getting the stock accustomed to being caught, to being tied without pawing and or getting upset.  The more you work with your animals- the better they will get.
B. Getting your stock accustomed to ropes, saddles, loads, hobbles, etc.
Stock need to be used to ropes falling around them, under their feet etc.; they learn this best from constantly doing this with them at home. It takes time and experience for stock to be comfortable with surprises such as a rope under the tail.
Day rides can take a lot of the kinks out of getting stock accustomed to what they will be expected to do on Back Country Trips.  If you need help, ask someone with the experience to work with you and your animals. You will need to invest the time to train and condition your animals to get them ready for the back country.
Stock should be trained to stand quietly with figure 8 Hobbles so they can be tied without pawing and tearing up the ground and the trees.  Training a horse or mule to stand calmly in a set of hobbles on a picket or high line doesn’t need to be a big fight and should be done at home, not in the back country. If your animals will stand quietly without pawing; wonderful. If they won’t then they need to be hobbled.
When picking a place to tie your animals for a short break, be sure to pick a place off the trail and in an area that can handle the impact.  Also, please tie to trees that are no less than 8” in diameter.
    Be sure to bring along the bug repellant for stock, they will be a lot more comfortable when tied if they are not having to defend themselves from biting flies, mosquitoes etc. You may also want to consider bringing a blanket for your horse. Most of us bring our horses out of the warmer climates and into the mountains where the night time temperatures are cooler than they are accustomed to. They will stand more peacefully if they aren’t moving around trying to stay warm.
C, Getting stock conditioned for the mountains
Do this for their sake as well as for yours!
Stock that are properly conditioned and fed correctly will be a lot more fun than having them get sore or worse yet collapse on the trails from being overworked and or overheated because they are out of shape.
Physical conditioning takes time. Time that is a worthwhile investment. It will take several weeks of regular riding to have stock fully conditioned. This includes taking pack stock along with you when you go riding and having a load on them also. Remember too; when you take a break and get off of your riding animal, your pack stock will still have the load on their backs. Pack stock should be unloaded as soon as possible when you reach your destination.       
When riding, whether you are out for the day or for the week, keep a close eye on how all of your animals are doing. When conditioning, push them to the point that they break a sweat and back off. Give them a break if they really need it. Repeat this each time you ride and you will see their stamina build, it will take longer each time before they break a sweat and begin to breathe hard.   
Always remember that the least conditioned animals and or rider in your group should govern the speed of your group. Don’t be tempted to push your animals beyond their capability, this can be dangerous! Also, remember that hot weather and or hot humid days are very hard on stock. Especially stock that has not been conditioned.
                Leading a Pack String up the trail
A. Stock that are going to be in a string together will be a lot easier to handle if they have been worked in a string together before you get to the Trail Head. Start out in a relatively safe environment, such as the pasture that you keep them in. Then graduate with them to day rides etc. For safety sake, breakaways are Strongly suggested. Carry extra breakaways on your riding saddle or in the saddlebags. Pack and Riding Stock have the right of way on Backcountry Trails, but courtesy should prevail. If Hikers are open to listening to suggestions let them know that they are safer stepping off the downhill side of the trails. This is because the animals can see them better and are less likely to be spooked. Be sure to thank them! If there is a good place to get off of the trail and let the Hikers by, then do so. Also, if your groups are more than just a few riders and pack animals, consider breaking into smaller groups. By breaking up into smaller groups you will accomplish several things.
Hikers are less likely to perceive you as having taken over the trails. You will be able to let the dust settle between groups. If a wreck happens in your group, there will be fewer people and stock involved. There also will be less for a new or green horse to get excited about. We all need to do what we can to make for better relations between stock users and hikers!
A. Develop good habits to avoid a wreck. These habits should include, but are not limited to keeping a close watch on how the loads are sitting on your animals. You will spend a lot of time looking back at your pack animals. When crossing creeks or downed logs etc., always watch to make sure that the last animal in your string gets through without being jerked along. Leads between animals should be kept short enough that they do not step over them. You won’t be doing them any favors by giving them too much lead rope.  An animal that has stepped over a lead rope in a string will be rope burned in a short time, and could be dragged down by it. If there is a rider with you, they can be very helpful by riding behind your string and keeping an eye on things from their vantage point.
A. Everyone who is involved in your pack trips should carry a cutting tool of some sort and it needs to be handy! There may be a time when it is needed to free and animal or rider who is tangled in a rope and in trouble. Avoid it if you can and prepare for it anyway.
A.  Getting up and down the trail with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment. That is the goal here.
                Several things to keep in mind.
1. If you do as much conditioning and training as possible “before” you get to the Trailhead, you will have a lot more fun in the Backcountry!
2. Check your equipment regularly; look to be sure that cinches and saddle rigging are in good repair.
3. It is strongly suggested to use breakaways. Hay string works well as a breakaway. This is a safety issue; animals that are tied together with strong rope can be in a lot of trouble if things go wrong. This cannot be stressed enough!
Breakaways are a lot easier to replace a few times in a trip than you are or your animals would be!
1. Have fun, be flexible, don’t set up unrealistic goals such a leaving the trailhead at 4:00 in the afternoon and expecting everything to go as planned for your 16 mile ride to “THE LAKE”.  As you are riding up the trail enjoy the scenery. All the time keeping in mind that if the unexpected happens, there is a good campsite back down the trail a little ways that would be a good place to spend the night and regroup in the morning if necessary.

            Keeping stock in a Backcountry Camp   

A> Setting up a picket line or a high line.
Pick a place for your high line that will be the least impacted by your stock. In an already impacted campsite the impact should be concentrated in areas that have been used on a regular basis. The high line should be a least 100 feet from any water source or trail and camp, 200 feet is better.  Tree saver straps work and they are convenient.  Use trees that are no less that 8” in diameter to tie to. Keeping in mind that what we are trying to accomplish is to keep the animals from damaging the root system and the bark of the trees.

                The difference between a hitch line and a high line are;
The Hitch Line is set up at chest level with the stock and they are generally tied to both sides of it.  The High Line is set up well above their heads and they are tied under it (and in my opinion less likely to get themselves in trouble).
    Keep stock in the core area of your camp only long enough to unload and or unsaddle or to load up. Always be sure to scatter manure piles and repair any damage that has been done by stock before leaving.
A. Turning out stock for grazing.
     Several things that can work to your advantage are.
1. Horses and Mules are herd animals, if you keep the lead animals or their buddies in the area, they will stay with them.  This can be done by rotating which animals you keep on the high line, and turning the others out to graze and or water freely. (It’s always a good idea to keep at least 1 riding animal tied.)
2. The grain and bell method works. If stock are accustomed to getting a little grain in the morning and in the evening, they will “usually” be there looking for it. If you are going to bell any of your animals, they need to be accustomed to it. The backcountry is not the place to strap a bell around your horse’s neck and see what happens, do that at home. Let them wear it for a day or two, the neighbors will love you for it. Generally an hour or two in the morning and in the evening is plenty of grazing time if the feed is decent. “If their heads are up, it is time to tie them up.”
3. Drift fences are wonderful; if they are in good shape and the gates are kept closed.
Portable electric fences are another option; they need to be moved before the area of confinement is beaten down. Remember---Leave No Trace.
Grazing Hobbles, Sidelines, Picket lines and pins are other possibilities for keeping stock in the Backcountry.
    The least restraining method possible will be the best for your animals and the easiest on the land!
            Just a few suggestions, these are in no particular order.
1.Keep vaccinations and worming current on your animals.   
2. Pack a first aid kit for you and for your stock and know how to use it-available without having to dig through a pack load to get to it.
3. Shoeing tools and nails, a few extra shoes and or easyboots.
4. Axe-in a scabbard, for clearing trees out of the trail and knocking the stobs off of the bigger downfall before crossing them. Tie it on top of the load so that it is handy when needed.
5. Rake for scattering manure and for repairing holes dug by stock; it also works well for clearing the area around the campfire.
6. Phosphate free soaps—they are less harmful to the environment. Never use any kind of soap in a stream or lake, even the biodegradable soap is harmful to fish and wildlife.
7. Good quality bug repellant for you and for your stock.
8. Electrolytes for you and your stock, it is easy to become dehydrated and not realize it until we don’t feel good. We can prevent this from happening to us by drinking lots of fluids. We can also help prevent this from happening to our stock by feeding them electrolytes.
9. Pack a map with you and let someone know your trip plans, someone you can count on to notify the right people if you don’t show up at home when you should.
10. Always pack rain gear with you! Preferable on your saddle, hypothermia is nothing to joke about and when one person in a group is in trouble, it affects everyone.
11. When figuring out how much weight your riding animal is carrying, be sure to include the saddle weight, the saddlebags and anything else you strap on---it may surprise you.

                    Last but not least, let’s have fun!

1. allow grazing 2 hours AM, 2 hours PM.
2. Place camp between grazing area and home.
speed of a packstring is determined by the slowest animal, expect 2-3
4. Panniers should secured to each other under the animal to prevent flapping.
5. Loads should have manty canvas over the panniers and top load, this protects
the load from rain and dust, with a hitch lashed over it, the load will remain more
6. Tuck Manty canvas behind the sawbucks or decker arches so that they are exposed, keep an eye on the them to insure saddle is not leaning to either side.

Packing 100
Pack weight: Make sure your animal is conditioned to the weight, 120 Lbs is reasonable150 is maximum.Horses can carry about 12.% of body weight, Mules about 15% of body weight.
Preparation: It is best to weigh out your loads before you leave home. Set your loads by each animal before you start to load. Use scales to weigh each load before putting it on the animal, side loads should be within 2 lbs of each other. I like the scale that moves a slider that stays at the load weight, makes tracking the weights much easier. If you can hand the scale on a tree branch etc and lift the load to it, that is easier than trying to pick up the load with the scale.
Placement: Top loads should contain light weight items, tents, sleeping bags etc. Top loads should be no more than 1/3 of total weight.
Lash rope: Should be 40-50 with about a 34” lash cinch

There are numerous hitches available for our use, we are going to stick with two, the box hitch and the diamond hitch.

Diamond Hitch:

A One-Man Diamond Hitch
Ike Livermore, Sierra Club Bulletin, 1936

In placing the saddle, most "salt grassers" get it correctly front to back, but few give it the slight off-side tilt necessary to make it set evenly after the near-side cinches have been pulled taut.
1    After placing the saddle over the blankets and threading the latigos through cinches and rigging, shove the sawbuck over about two inches out of plumb to the off-side. Then, when friend mule is given the final cinch-up (it is a good idea to cinch only medium-tight at first, and complete the job a few minutes later), the saddle will be drawn back into line. Before loading, always check up to see if the saddle sits square, and see that your judgment is not influenced by a mule who is standing unevenly, due either to uneven terrain, or "just plain orneriness," as some people would opine.

2. Loading. Having saddled the animal, he should be loaded and started on his way as soon as possible. If loads are figured out scientifically in advance, this is an easy matter. If not, it causes much delay.

The only special thing to remember in loading a mule is always to load the off-side kyack first.    This is to facilitate unpacking at the end of the day, when the hitch is thrown off from the near side and the near-side kyack (Pannier)is removed without having to go around the mule to take off the off-side kyack first. (Which would be necessary if the off-side kyack were loaded last, because its ears would overlap and prevent the prior removal of the near-side kyack.)

Other than this, common sense is the only requirement. The less top heavy a pack, the better it rides; the more convenient the articles of the top pack, the better for the mule. Some people take anything to the mountains from a rubber bathtub to an eight-foot casting pole or a suitcase. In placing such unhandy articles on a mule's pack, care must be taken to see that they balance correctly and will ride well under the hitch. In specially difficult cases, different hitches are often used, but it would be superfluous to describe them here because they are the exception rather than the rule.

5. In general, the most important thing is to have evenly balanced kyacks, and not too heavy. Any time the total load goes over 175 pounds, the danger sign is up as far as the mule's back is concerned. The kyacks or slings should balance evenly at not over 70 pounds apiece and the top pack should be limited to an additional 35 pounds of bedding, chairs, furniture, etc. In practice, of course, animals are often loaded a great deal heavier. "Bogus," one of my favorite mules, packed a 360-pound stove up to Cahoon lookout in Sequoia National Park. In the early days, a mule packed a 600-pound piece of machinery in to Mineral King But these cases are exceptions. No packer likes to load his mules heavily. In Wyoming, where they pack horses instead of mules, and the country is not as rough, they rarely put over 150 pounds on an animal.

Throwing the hitch.

I. the first move is to face the mule on the near side, and lay the pack rope across the top of the pack from front to back (throwing the "front-to-back" rope). The cinch and most of the pack rope are simply left in a heap on the ground to one's left, while the end of the rope hangs down about to the ground near the mule's left hind leg

The cinch is picked up from the ground and thrown straight across the pack from the near to the off side (throwing the "side- to-side" rope). The cinch is then drawn up underneath with the left hand.

The next move, here the cinch is centered in the middle of both kyacks, the side-to-side rope is hooked into the cinch, and the latter is pulled up fairly snug. The side-to-side rope is then brought up and doubled to the left of itself till it reaches the "front-to-back" rope, where it is tucked under itself

4. The fourth move, consists of pulling the "front-to-back" rope up from under the loop formed by the double "side-to-side" rope. This is perhaps the hardest step to master. Remember to pull the underlying "front-to-back" rope up, through, and towards you as you face the mule's near side.

The off-side part of the loop formed in step 4 is passed around the off-side kyack.

Finally, the offside loop is held taut while going under the mule's neck in order to place and tighten the near side loop.
Having "snugged up" the hitch all around, a final hearty heave is given featuring the packer's leg and arms as lever, and the mule's posterior as fulcrum.

While it is very hard to describe a hitch clearly, I hope this attempt will prove helpful to those who are interested in doing their own packing. I have used the hitch to pack not only the regular tourist stuff, but eight- foot lumber, window frames, glass, dynamite, crates of cantaloupes, and what not. Seldom has it proved unsatisfactory, and I hope you like it.
As a so-called professional packer, I feel somewhat traitorous to my profession in broadcasting all this valuable ( ?) information. However, those who know will readily agree with me that throwing the hitch is by far the smallest part of the packer's work, so I think my fellow packers will forgive me.

1 The "near-side" is the mule's left, the "off-side" the mule's right side. All operations are performed as much as possible on the "near-side."
2 "Kyacks" are the stiff bags generally made of heavy leather-reinforced canvas which are hung on each side of the pack animal, and in which the main part of the load is carried.
3 The "ears" of a kyack are two leather loops riveted to the kyack, which are used to hang it onto the "sawbuck" tree of the pack saddle.
4 Not to be recommended for short people packing tall mules, or uninitiated people packing wild mules. Excerpt taken from the Sierra Club Bulletin of 1936
Page 4 of 4

Another Description

Start on the near side, place the free end of the rope centered on the top of the load, tail to head, with the tail of the rope on the near front shoulder. Throw the lash cinch over the load and catch the lash cinch hook with the rope, on the near side.  The lash cinch and lash rope will now encircle the entire load and pack animal. Center the lash cinch under the belly and pull out about an approximately 15 foot loop from the free end of the rope.

Take the 15 foot loop you have pulled out and flop it over so that the rope, running up from the lash cinch hook, is running parallel to the rope encircling the load and over the top of the free end of the rope running from tail to head on top of the load.

Then take the rope running up parallel to the rope encircling the load and pull a small loop underneath the rope encircling the load, towards the head of the pack animal.

The small loop pulled under the rope that encircles the load is then twisted, one time (1) time, over the top, back toward the tail of the pack animal. (Depending on the load, it is sometimes advisable to twist the rope two or three times.) Pull the rope going from tail to head through the center of this small loop forming another larger loop.

The loop left over from our original 15 foot loop is then placed around the pannier on the off side, going down around the front off side corner of the pannier and back around and up from the rear off side corner of the pannier. The last loop formed is now enlarged to be placed around the pannier on the near side corner of the pannier and coming up around the front near side corner of the pannier.

Our single diamond is now formed, we are now ready to take out the slack and pull it very snug. Start by pulling the lash cinch tight and put a double wrap around the lash cinch hook with the lash rope. Then proceed all around the hitch pulling out all the slack. Tie off with a slip knot, with a couple half hitches over it.

Box Hitch

The Box hitch is a great hitch when you want to pull the panyards away from the sides of your pack ainimal.  Good for heavy loads.  It does not secure the top load as well as a diamond but is a great hitch none the less.

 Throw your lash cinch over.

 Hook it.

 Take rope over the top of the mule to the off side and make a big half hitch.

 Make sure the tail of your rope is behind the loop.

 Tighten by pulling the tension side of your rope.  This hitch goes behind the panyards, not underneath.  When you get to the bottom, again make sure your tail stays behind and center.

 Notice the offside half hitch is slightly forward of center.  This spreads out your top 3 ropes to better hold your top load.

 Once you get your half hitch snug behind your panyards, pull the tail straight towards your chest.  This is what pulls the panyards away from the mules ribs. Once you get your half hitch snug behind your panyards, pull the tail straight towards your chest.  This is what pulls the panyards away from the mules ribs.

 As you can see, you can put daylight between pack animal and panyard.

 Take the rope over the top once again, and repeat the process on the onside.  Note:  my rope this time is slightly rearward of center to again spread out my top 3 ropes.

Tie off with a Packers knot.

Planning a Pack Trip  by Ben York    Essentials

California parks, forest deserts and?
Private or public lands.
Have you been there before?
Do you know some one that has?
Maps, brochures, books.     Kitchen
Griddle, frying pan, dutch oven, sauce pan, coffee pot, cooking utensils, dish pan, buckets, plates, tableware, cups, paper towels, dish towel, scrubbers, dish soap, Ax, hatchet, shovel, rake, propane stove and light, matches, shower, table, chairs, tarps.
Time of year
Time of week     Stock
Hoof nippers, rasp, shoeing hammer, heavy hammer, horseshoes and nails Nose bag for grain and salt
How long?
     B. Travel days to start
     C. Termination point     Personal
Pocket knife, sleeping bag and air mattress, small tent, flashlight, camera, film, binoculars, good boots (you can hike in), camp shoes, long sleeve shirt, underwear longjohns, sweaters, jacket, gloves, raincoat, wide brim hat with rain cover, aspirin, fly repellent, comb, tooth brush and paste, soap, chap stick(s), sunscreen, etc., light canvas, washcloth, towel, fishing pole, bait, reading material, playing cards.
The Party
Age, weight, experience     Food
Meat, chicken pack in large cooler
Cured ham, bacon, lunch meat, cheese, canned spam, corned beef, dried milk, fresh and powdered eggs, vegetables, fresh, dried and caned, fruit, juice, pasta, bread, crackers, cookies, chips, pancake mix, coffee, tea, cocoa, salt, pepper, spices, sugar, syrup, jam, candy

    A. Stock to ride, stock to pack
    B. Your own stock
    C. Borrowed stock
    D. Rented stock, packer-guide, etc.     First Aid Kit
Bandaids, aspirin, antiacids, bandages, cravats, ace wrap. tweezers, sting kill, Oragel. antiseptics
Preconditioning Stock
Shoe at least one week prior
Exercise at least 2-3 times a week
No shots or worming immediately before
Do not change feed
     E.     Put stock together, if possible, use bell    
Precondition People
Physical conditioning and good health.
Notify of any health issues   
What to take
Food, cooking equipment, personal
Feed for stock-hay, grain, water
First aid pack
Horse Gear- saddle bridle, blanket, chaps
Rain gear    
    A. Campers, motorhomes, trailers
    B. Trailheads     Compiled by Ben York
The content of this written material has been officially approved for distribution by Backcountry Horsemen of California. PO Box 40007 Bakersfield, CA 93384-0007 Toll free: (866) 748-2033 rev. 3/2011

Gear List       

Cook kit____________
Pot Gripper_________
Dutch Oven_________
Dutch Gripper_______
Large Spoon________
Cutting Board______________
Kitchen Knife______________
Backpaker Stove______________
Water container________
Coffee Pot_____________
Can Opener____________
Hand Towels________
Paper Towels________
Garbage Bags______________
Pot Scrubber________
Dish Soap______________
Stove Rack_________

    Utility Gear

First aid Kit_________
Insect Repellant_____
Pcord 50+ft._________
Safety pins_________
Extra Mantles_______
Duct Tape__________


Sleeping Bag________
Sleeping pad (Thermarest best)
Ground Cloth________
Tent Stakes_________
Day Pack___________


Long Pants_________
Short Pants_________
Long Sleeve Shirt____
Short Sleeve Shirt____
Jacket _____________
Rain Gear__________

    Toilet Gear

TP Kit
Toilet Paper___
Handi Wipes___
Teeth cleaning______

Other Gear

Spare Batteries_____
Swiss Army Knife____
Water Purification___
Journal &  Pencil____
Maps _____________

Saddle Horse Gear 
Lead Rope_________
Breast Strap________
Saddle Bags________
Personal water system ______

Camp Gear
Highline kit_________
Electric Fence Kit____
Collapsible Bucket___

Packing Gear
Pack Saddle________
Lead Rope_________
Bear Proofs_________
Top Bag___________
Lash Rope_________
Chain Halter________
Gloves ____________

Sign up via email at for this clinic

Please be on time!

Stock & equipment will be available for student use.

Beginners will learn simple techniques that are easy to remember and allow you to get packing

Advanced skill stations will add skills to handle almost any load.

Watch the following video's before the clinic
    Defensive Horsemenship - Part 1   (Washington Backcountry Horsemen)

       Defensive Horsemenship - Part 2   (Washington Backcountry Horsemen)

  Back Country Horsemen Trail Etiquette  - Gallatin Valley BCWV      

   BCHA Mountain Manners 
   /   2012 Clinic Video                 
   Horse Sense--A Guide To Minimum Impact Horse Camping  (BCHA)

Watch the following video's before the clinic
   Horse Sense--A Guide To Minimum Impact Horse Camping  (BCHA)  P1   P2   P3   P4   P5   P6   P7
        Iron Cloth Panniers    Utah Pannier     Decker Pack Saddle   
 OPS Saddle   Sawbuck Saddle   Pack Pads

       Camp axe review   Bear Boxes    Leading your String    Pigtailing    Decker packing (pdf)

       Fitting a pack saddle  P1   P2     Pigtail    Basket Hitch  P1    P2    Manty P1  P2  P3  P4  P5  P6        

        USFS Mules 
      Diamond Hitch        Box Hitch        Crow's Foot       

Good Links to read