Not for me it isn’t… Just as Covid Lockdown restrictions lift in the UK… Swift imposes a lengthier break from long-distance riding. Poor girl looks like she has fractured a splint bone, so that’s this season of long-distance treks over before it even began for Team Swogi. There might be more to it than just the splint bone and vets are still investigating, so keeping all fingers, toes and hooves crossed that we get to the bottom of her discomfort and get her on the trails again next season.
Unfortunately for you lot… it means that my (more regular) sanity blogging will continue as I am gradually going insane with the lack of riding and adventure! Roll on 2021!
So… Pros and Cons of taking a Packhorse:
Horses are naturally herd animals and it’s rare to find one that is happy to travel alone on the trail. Whilst there might be a lucky few owners that achieve this – I’m not one of them. Swift and Yogi (Team Swogi) very much come as a package and go everywhere together. Even at home, they rarely settle out of sight of each other and get very stressed if separated. Recognising this inherent herd need, in some countries it is even illegal to keep an equine on their own. Its not just me being soft in the head where my two are concerned!
This means that even on shorter training/fitness-building rides, I always ride and tow. While this has drawbacks, such as: negotiating gates, 2 horses to prepare and tack up (if you want to ride one and then the other), and a ‘wider load’ on thin trails – it does have some advantages too.
- On long-distance rides they are more settled in their little herd overnight in strange places and are able to stand nose to tail to flick away those flies.
- Having a packhorse can allow additional equipment to give more comfort on the trail (in back-packing terms). You can also be more self-contained to reach and stay in beautiful remote places.
- On the trail itself, they give confidence to each other – particularly at strange obstacles you may meet.
Where one horse is reluctant to proceed over or through an obstacle, the other often obliges. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve continued with packhorse up ahead instead of behind. Each horse has different comfort zones, tolerance or confidence levels at the different obstacles you meet, and they help guide the other member of the team through any insecurities. They learn from each other and this often saves me training them individually.
Here’s an example… I was riding Yogi and leading Swift but Yogi refused this bridge. I didn’t really blame him, it was reasonably narrow, had funny shadows, it was made of metal that felt and sounded funny under hoof AND you could see through it to the rushing river below. Swift had no fear though and without me having to dismount, she went up front and lead Yogi over.
Another example here -I was riding Swift and leading Yogi and had to come down these steps. Not fancying that up top, I jumped off but Swift refused to entertain the idea even in-hand. Yogi said -absolutely no problem and Swift followed him down calmly.
They each have their individual strengths, so, while it can be more trouble to have two horses along for a ride, it sometimes gives you clear advantages.
It’s also a big relief for your legs and bum (and no doubt for your horses back) if you can swap onto a different horse for a day or two on the trail, as they all feel/ride a little differently too!
No particular obstacle here -Swift just fancied a spell upfront. lol!