I meet a lot of folks at my shows and I hear even more stories. I always pay attention because there is much to be learned, especially when the story involves broken bones.
A couple of years ago when I was at an expo in Salt Lake City, UT there was a gentleman at my booth admiring my saddle bags. He liked my design but wanted to make sure there was a way to tie them down. He proceeded to tell me a story of how his horse did not do well with floppy saddlebags.
He said he was on a hunting trip in the backcountry. Things were going along fine but all of a sudden his horse began to buck. His hypothesis was that the horse didn't like the flapping of the saddlebags. He was bucked off, broke his wrist and the horse ran back down the trail. A hunting trip that was supposed to last a week was over in just a few hours.
I asked him what he was carrying in his saddlebags. In a boasting manner, he began describing the gear he had packed. Based on all the stuff he was carrying, his saddlebags must have been the size of 10 gallon buckets!
Horse Packing Tips to Keep Your Animals Healthy and Happy
In professional boxing, a punch to the kidneys is illegal. That's because a blow to the kidneys can be very dangerous. It can cause internal bleeding and in some cases death. Not to mention it is extremely painful. The pain can be intense enough to incapacitate a person and the soreness can last for weeks.
Carrying overloaded saddlebags that are sitting right on top of an equine's kidneys can cause all sorts of problems. The animal can only take so much. Let's face it, if someone repeatedly poked you in the kidneys, after a while you would probably let them know in a forceful manner that they needed to STOP! The same goes for equines. When a donkey is experiencing pain, they'll stop and it's up to the wrangler to figure out what's wrong. Some mules will do the same but some, like horses, will take it to a different level. If you carry heavy, overloaded saddlebags chances are you are headed for a bad day like my friend from Salt Lake.
Don't get me wrong, saddlebags are a great piece of gear; I use them all the time. They've been around for ages. They were carried by the Calvary and Cowboys over 100 years ago. But it's also no secret that equines perform better when they are comfortable. I tend to carry light stuff like my rain gear, maps, my lunch or a small medical kit in my saddlebags. Things I might need to easily get to in a hurry. I make sure that whatever I carry in the saddle bags are not loaded in such a way that will be uncomfortable for my mammoth riding donkey.
The saddlebags I build come with a removable cantle bag. The cantle bag is great for carrying a large slicker or a spotting scope and small tripod. But take care not to stuff it so full that it is higher than the cantle. Otherwise, you will need to be a gymnast to get into the saddle. I made that mistake once and threw my back out 6 miles from the trailhead.
It had to have been a cowboy who said, "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."
Take care of your animal and your animal will take care of you.