Sopris Pack System Components Defined

The saddle is the foundation and most important component in the pack system. It should rest on the back muscles and upper rib cage without coming in contact with the spine or digging into the shoulders or pelvic area. The saddle’s structure should follow the contour of the animals’ back maximizing contact area. Good fit means animal comfort and load stability.

Adequate padding whether it is built into the saddle or attaches to the saddle is a necessity. The pad acts as a shock-absorber for the weight being carried. It will reduce but not eliminate the effects of a poorly groomed animal or an ill fitting saddle.  

The cinches or girths hold the saddle tight to the animal’s back to minimize front to rear and side to side movement. The more contact the saddle makes with the animal’s back the easier it is for the cinches to hold the saddle in place. Cinch hardware should be user friendly and but must be strong.

The chest strap or breast plate works with the cinches to ensure that the saddle stays in place when going up steep inclines with heavy loads. It also keeps the saddle from being stripped off the rear of the leading animal in a pack string.

The breeching or butt strap works with the cinches to ensure that the saddle stays in place when going down steep descents with heavy loads.

The chest strap and breeching are recommended on all saddles when packing heavy loads in mountainous terrain. These straps may seem complicated at first but taking a few extra minutes to learn how to use them will save you time and frustration in the long run. Your animal will quickly learn to accept the chest strap and breeching, so don’t take no for an answer.

The panniers are the bags which hang from the saddle to carry the load. Panniers should be designed to accommodate stress, particularly at the points where they hang from the saddle. Buckles at these points should be sewn for lasting strength. The panniers should be designed horizontally so that they rest within the barrel of the animal. Panniers that hang too low will create a pendulum effect on the load.