Q:

“Hey Martin Black can I ask a ‘dumb question’? I see lots of people take horses out as pack horses (or mules) loose and they just follow or lead like in this case. How do you get this done? Is it really up to the horse’s emotional balance to NOT run off or want to stay with your horse you are on? I have two horses who are very bonded but my natural fear is if one is loose, they’ll leave and the one I’m riding will also (try to) leave. 😳 Are all horses capable of learning this or are others just truly going to stick like glue innately? 🤔 Thanks in advance!”

Holly, via email

 

A:

That is a great question about turning a pack horse/mule loose!

There’s a lot I don’t know about packing. What I do know is I learned the basics when I was very young and through experience learned a lot of things not to do. With a lot of my horsemanship, there is not a lot of preparation or groundwork but rather on the job training.

As to getting a pack horse to stay with you, I learned to make sure they get where you need to go first. Get that job done.  Then when they’re tired and wanting to go home anyway, turn them loose and they’re happy to follow your horse and go home with you.  I tie up the head so the only job focus is heading home and not to graze, just like my hobbling.

If you want to turn them loose to early lots of things can go wrong. They might be fresh and sensitive and get bothered by something, buck or runoff.  The pack could shift and cause a wreck with a loose horse.  They might just decide to go back to camp without you.  Most all of this wrong could be prevented by keeping control of the pack horse until later in the day.

Again, a lot of my training is on the job;  what I have learned is if they have a good experiences, you create good patterns and if they have bad experiences, you can create bad patterns.

Good luck,
Martin