Greetings, fellow equine enthusiasts and aspiring pack pony adventurers! Firstly, let me introduce myself. I am Rachel, and this is my 5-year-old home-bred Haflinger Avalon Aces.
Avalon was unfortunately born with an umbilical hernia (nabelbruch) and has been operated on four times. Each time, the connective tissue (bindegewebe) decided even after 4-5 months of box rest, it was not going to hold. So, although there is now only a 0,5cm gap instead of 10cm due to the number of times he was operated on, we started him late into work and tried to ensure that he was not trained hard or loaded to a total capacity as a horse in normal work. For the past 1,5 years, all has been well.
This was when I came across the idea of ‘Pack Pony Adventures,’ I have been working with him since he was young, preparing him for our adventures. I was also highly inspired by Emma Massingale, who goes on fabulous adventures with her ponies – check out her YouTube page here; some of her adventures will blow your mind!
Plus, I watched lots of videos from Pferdefrau-unterwegs. She does long-distance hacking but has some excellent tips about kit and route planning, etc
This year, I have decided it is my year to get adventurous with my Pack pony and get on some travels and use this as my ‘me time’ away from the hustle and bustle of our business and family life, just me and my two blondies Coco the working labrador retriever and Avalon the Haflinger.
In this blog post, I will explain the ground training we have been doing and my basic kit. So whether you are a seasoned handler or a budding pack pony adventurer, there will be something here for you.
So, let us start with the basics and beyond!
Why Pack Pony Training Matters
We need our Pack ponies to have a gentle disposition and sometimes be fearless in the different terrains and circumstances we may encounter.
From carrying essential gear on country trails to fostering a deeper connection with our equine friends, pack pony training lays the foundation for a harmonious partnership.
Getting Started: The Basics of Pack Pony Training
Building a strong bond with your pack pony begins with trust. You are spending quality time getting to know your pony through grooming and engaging in activities that foster a sense of security—working a lot from the ground with activities such as horse agility and general manners from the ground, plus getting out and about from an early age.
If your pony is older, this can still apply.
Introducing Basic Commands
Start with fundamental commands such as “halt,” “walk,” “back,” and “turn.” Consistency is critical during this phase, as ponies thrive on clear communication and repetition. Always use the exact words for the relevant commands and I also use clicker training to enforce a specific command or behaviour that I wish to have.
Expose your pack pony to various situations they might encounter on your adventures, such as flapping tarps, rustling leaves, going up and down banks, or crossing water. This helps them become more confident and adaptable in different environments.
Choose short hiking routes around you where you know you will come across these obstacles to train in a relaxed atmosphere.
Taking your time while training these obstacles is critical to ensuring you and your Horse can remain calm in different situations and trust one another.
Pack Pony Equipment
My goodness me, did I do a lot of investigating before I went and ordered items such as a pack saddle, etc
There are so many brands, some very expensive, others cheaper. In the end, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I went with a pack-saddle from Das Lila Pony. The reasons behind this were that the saddle looked comfortable for the Horse to wear, and the recommendations from other customers were all positive.
An additional benefit is that you do not need these huge saddle bags. You could also attach ordinary bicycle saddle bags, which I thought was fabulous, especially for my Horse, which I do not want to carry loads of weight.
Also, if cyclists can get all their stuff in these bags, that should be easy for me, as I will not be off for weeks, just a couple of days at a time.
What other basics do I have?
(Please note that some affiliate links are below, and I may earn commission on these items at no extra cost to you. I own these items and am currently using them for my adventures.
Gas stove and cooking set for those cups of tea along the way. I really love this extreme easy to set up and you do not need a lighter or matches. Everything is lightweight and very easy to use.
Gas This is a small but very stable gas bottle that is light weight and I hve used it now 10 times on my day trips.
Waterproof bags in various sizes, which are fabulous for clothers or food or evern dog and horse treats.
Saddle Bags These are basic bicycle saddle bags with a really good volume for day and short adventures.
Insulated seat pad I place this on wet benches and ground or just for general sitting comfort.
Track Etiquette for Pack Ponies
Navigating tracks/trails/paths with pack ponies requires a blend of courtesy and preparedness. Share the path generously, practice’ Leave No Trace’ principles, and be aware of the impact you may have on the environment. Respect for nature and fellow hikers ensures a positive experience for everyone.
Also, think about other users of your paths and take a foldable trowel with you to remove the horse manure from the paths and throw it into the woods or on the side if appropriate so that other hikers do not have to tread in it.
Every successful step in pack pony training deserves a celebration. Whether mastering a new command, conquering a challenging adventure, or simply enjoying a peaceful walk, take the time to acknowledge and cherish the milestones achieved together.
Talking about small celebrations take a look at our first Pack Pony over-night adventure here. If you are looking for more inspiration these are the books that I have read which I can highly recommend.
Land and Lotte – about Steffi and Lotte her horse who travled with her pack pony through Germany. This is wreitten like a diary with the various routes she took each day and the highs and lows she encountered.
Wandern, Glück unnd Lange Ohren – a fabulous read about Lotte and her Donkey Jonny and their adventures fromMunich to the Mediterranean sea. A fun read with lots of adventures.
I have also just done some loading – reel can be seen on my Instagram here that you can see here just to ensure my life is easier when I go on my adventure.
Have fun adventuring with your pack ponies!