Making a Packsaddle
Making a packsaddle: When thinking about pack saddles, you have basically three options: Buy new, buy a used one, or making a packsaddle. Your choice will depend on how much packing you might wish to do in the future.
Directions here are for making a classic Sawbuck Pack Saddle. Firstly, ask woodworkers around your area enquiring about a suitable local timber, and use only high quality timber for the tree, without knots or blemishes. Make a template (thin metal sheet or cardboard) and cut four pieces of wood with the grain running lengthwise and about 2 inches x 1 x 20, as shown in Figure1. Sand each piece smooth. Mortise each pair, gluing together with marine grade glue as in Figure 2, then countersink and fix with 4 screws per pair.
Screw four boards about 4 inches apart as in Figure 3 making sure they are flush, with no protrusions. Sand all edges and boards smooth, and coat with good a good quality exterior varnish, or an oil beeswax mix.
Make the side bars covers from wool or heavy canvas Figure 4, leaving enough overlap to fix to the side bar boards. Insert a high resilient/density foam (several layers of a backpackers sleeping mat is ideal) into the side bar covers. The covers can be stapled to the timber, and finished off by fixing a strip of leather over the line of staples.
This completes your task of making a packsaddle, but you should always use a pack pad under you saddle. A pack pad is bigger and thicker than an ordinary riding saddle pad. Your pack animal is carrying your equipment and you need a plenty of padding for the pack saddle to protect your pack animal. Large quilted or foam pack pads will ensure your pack horse is comfortable when lugging your stores and belongings around the countryside.
Breeching straps are utilised to prevent the saddle and load from riding too far forward on the animal’s withers. Breast collars are worn to help keep the weight of the pack and saddle from riding too far back on the horse’s kidneys, thereby preventing back soreness. The breast collar should not be so tight as to cut off the horse’s wind, nor the breeching so tight that the animal cannot walk properly. While not shown in the Figure, another useful addition is that of the Double Cinch, which helps keep the back cinch from sliding into more sensitive flank areas. You can purchase or make up webbed cinches as seen in the picture below.
You can also make your own panniers out of a variety of hardy materials: rawhide, wood, aluminium, fibreglass, or canvas. It is a good idea to have covers over the panniers to provide some waterproofing. Remember, weighing packs is also a good idea to balance the load/pannier on each side of the pack animal. If a load is only a few pounds heavier on one side it will eventually cause the pack saddle to slip to one side causing a wreck and distress to man and beast.