Pack Saddle Breakaway Strings

Breakaway String Insure you have a breakaway string on every lead rope in the pack string. If one horse goes off the trail you don’t want it to pull you and the pack string down with it. I once had Buddy, the big grulla, on a trip who was second from the rear. About a half mile out of camp I turned around and saw the rear horse take a bite out of Buddy. Buddy trying to get away broke his pack saddle breakaway string and proceeded to pass the pack string on the down hill side on a very steep slope. Buddy was also bringing the trail horse with him as the breakaway string didn't break because the trail horse was following Buddy's lead.

I was very fortunate that both horses didn't roll down the mountainside. Fortunately the packs and pack saddles were well secured. I rearranged the pack string order of march and all problems were solved.

Breakaway String Strength I use parachute cord because it breaks at about 500 pounds. If you use hay twine do not double it. Double hay twine is much too strong and does not break when required. I once pulled a stubborn packhorse across a wooden bridge using double looped twine as a breakaway string.

Attaching lead ropes Some people tie the lead rope to the hip pad of the horse in front of it. Tying to the pack saddle hip pad has a tendency to pull the pack saddle too much. I have a braided rope secured from one rigging ring to the other. The rope is long enough to go up and between the rear arch. I then tie a 2" ring to the rope where I attach my breakaway string. This configuration allows the pull of the lead rope on the rigging and prevents side pulling and is much easier on the horse in front.

Attaching Break Away String If you don’t have a rope and pigging ring secured to the pack rigging I recommend you attach it to the pack saddle rear decker arch. Never attach break away string to the hip pad as you will break the leather hip pad straps if you unknowingly put on a break away string that is too strong.

Break Away String Tied to a Horse’s Tail - - DON’T! You may have seen in book, moviess or magazines a breakaway string tied to the tail of the horse to its front. If you have a wreck that break away string can pull the hair off the horse's tail. If you have a too strong break away string a serious injury to horse’s tail could occur. One of my customers had a wreck and had a break away string on a horse’s tail because he had seen it in a book. After a serious injury to the horse’s tail the customer now attaches the break away string to the rear decker arch:. A hard lesson learned.

Horses that Intentionally Break Breakaway Strings Some horses learn that breakaway strings break easily. This type of horse is dangerous and will cause lots of problems during any pack trip. You have three options:

  1. Locate the horse at the end of the pack string so when it gets loose only the problem horse is loose. The horse will normally follow the pack string. Just make sure pack saddle and pack are well secured as this type of horse may stop to eat grass and thrn run to catch up to an out of sight pack string.
  2. Tie on a breakaway string that is much stronger but you take a risk that there might be an avoidable wreck that gets worse. The only time I recommend this procedure is on flat ground during your training rides so the problem horse learns that he can't break the breakaway string easily.
  3. Locate the problem horse first in the pack string so you can have the lead rope in your hand. Hopefully, you will be in terrain that does not have narrow and dangerous trails.
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