Purchasing Pack Saddle Horses
Buying a pack horse. Generally speaking a good riding horse that is well trained will also be a good pack saddle horse. In addition to your normal evaluation when buying a horse, take a plastic garbage bag and wave it or move it around your prospective horse, open a pop can, drag a rope near the horse,and rattle rocks in a can . If the horse spooks you probably want to look at more horses.
Bring your pack saddle and put it on the prospective horse you are considering. There should be no problems. I always let my horses smell a new pack saddle before I put it on him.. Just letting a horse smell a new pack saddle can reduce the possibility of a problem.
Check to see if the horse has been trained to be ground tied. Occasionally, a horse wil get loose in the mountains with a lead rope. Trying to catch an untrained horse in the mountains is not something you want to do on a hunting trip.
Also, if possible check for night blindness. You don’t want to be on a trail at night and learn your horse is night blind. Night blindness is rare in most breeds. However to me,, Appaloosas are more prone to night blindness than other other breeds.
I also recommend taking a bloody elk or meat wrapper to determine how the horse or mule reacts to the smell blood. If a horse spooks hard at the smell of blood I would pass. Horses that spook at the smell of blood are very dangerous in the mountains.
It is unlikely you can test the prospective horse for crossing water. However, if you do buy the horse insure you cross water with it before your pack trip to identify and train for water crossings if necessary..
Trail Horses versus Brush Horses. If possible ride the horse in the brush. Some horses that are good trail horses become problem horses when going cross country in the brush to get to a camp site or when packing out an elk. Insure all your horses have been extensively used in brush and crossed big logs to avoid problems on your pack trip. Train your pack saddle horses to step over big logs instead of jumping over them which is quite dangerous to you if you are leading them on foot in rough terrain. If the horse you are leading unexpectedly jumps a log he will drag you through the air if you don't quickly let go of the lead rope.