Pack Saddles And Maintenance
Oil your pack saddles at least annually. You can buy the highest quality pack saddle but the leather will deteriorate quickly and crack causing weak areas if the leather is not oiled annually.
I oil my pack saddles on a hot summer day in the sun. The leather is more pliable in warm weather and the oil is absorbed into the leather easier and quicker. I use new leather oil. I like it better than needs foot but it is considerably much more expensive. I put as much oil on the leather as it can absorb. Especially on areas where the leather curves around hardware and where the leather is bent.
Double check pack saddles. Many people only use their pack gear 1-2 times a year. Check it thoroughly prior to horse packing to insure there are no leather cracks that could cause the leather to break under stress.
When I first started packing I had an old pack saddle. As I was leading my horse packing out an elk in 1985 up a steep cliff trail when a strap broke and my pack saddle slipped to the side. It was too dangerous on the cliff trail to make any adjustments. I took the elk quarters and pack saddle off and then proceeded to a safer location and tied my horse to a tree. Then I had to go back down the cliff trail and carry the two hind quarters of my brother's big 6 point bull and my pack saddle to where my horse was. I had to fix the pack saddle the best I could and then reloaded heavy elk quarters.
This wreck caused me to waste 2 hours. A hard lesson learned that could have been a disaster if my pack horse would have spooked on the cliff trail when the pack slipped to the side.
Check your tree for cracks and how the decker rings or sawbuck crosses are attached. There should be no cracks or loose rings or crosses. A replacement tree normally costs around a $100. It is not difficult to replace the tree. Use the old tree as an example and you will have no problems.
Usually, the weakest leather and the place where leather is prone to come apart in pack saddles is where leather is bent or curved through the pack saddle hardware. Look closely for cracks at these locations. If the cracked leather is very noticeable I would strongly recommend replacing the leather. Replacing leather on pack saddles is very easy and only requires a punch , a sharp knife and a screwdriver.
After inspecting your pack saddles and there are major problems, it might be cost effective to buy a new pack saddle and sell your old one for whatever you can get out of it.