Pack Stringing is required in the greater Yellowstone-Teton Basin, which includes the Wind River area where we will be holding the rendy in 2010. Here are the directions for successfully teaching your goats to string.
Successful string starts with a goat that leads and ties well. Goats should be trained to tie on a 12 inch lead and to be able to stay in one place for up to a half hour. Then they should be trained to lead by working them on patterns such as a figure 8 with lots of direction changes to ensure that they learn to follow that lead rope no matter where it takes them. Introducing obstacles such as cones, trees or barrels teaches them to pay attention to their position in relation to the rope.
Learn to tie a quick release knot. This is the universal knot for hitching horses and mules and gives you a way to detach them quickly if necessary. Practice this knot till it is second nature. If youâ€™re good you can do it one handed.
Here is one way to tie a quick release. http://www.cowboyway.com/HowTo/QuickReleaseKnot1.htm
Here is a Youtube video on how to tie another. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2wC_HM ... re=related
Never try to pack string with a hard and fast knot or a clip unless you have a breakaway loop inserted. In fact, a breakaway loop is necessary to prevent injury should a goat pull too hard on the rope because heâ€™s quit moving, or is stuck up against something. A breakaway is a loop inserted as a â€œweak linkâ€ in the line of rope. Itâ€™s generally made of string tied in a loop and attached where the lead attaches to the end of the lead rope so that when it breaks the goat is left dragging his own lead rope. Youâ€™ll want to experiment with the strength of the string so that a sharp jerk will break it, but so that itâ€™s not prone to breaking constantly. With goats, you should be able to break it with your hands but not too easily. Anything stronger will create too much pull and potential injury to your goat.
Occasionally during training youâ€™ll find a goat that gets clever about his breakaway and you may want to make it a little more difficult for him to do that by increasing the strength of the loop. Or, put him in the front of the line where you can lead him. Assuming he will work in that position.
Once you have a set of goats that lead well, the next priority to figuring out what your herd order is. You will find if you observe them on hikes that the same goats tend to go in the same positions every time. You mess with this order at your peril. There is nothing more miserable than trying to work a string when the goats are jockeying for position. Figure out your order before you start tying them and donâ€™t be afraid to experiment with which goats work well together and which donâ€™t.
When you have these things worked out, you are ready to start training. Start with just two goats, in the order they want to be in anyway. I like to tie from the collar of the lead goat to the halter of the back goat. That gives the pulling goat the leverage and keeps the follower a little more honest. Leads should be short enough that there is nothing for them to get hung up in. From the collar of the front goat to the halter should only be about 12 inches longer than it takes to reach from one point to the other. If the goats are giving you trouble you can shorten this even shorter. You want it short enough that when the load is on that it doesnâ€™t get stuck up under the edge of a pannier and flip your load. After you get them working well, you can tie from the back of the sawbuck to the halter of the back goat. Just put a permanent loop on the crossbars and use that to attach to the breakaway loop. Then tie your 12 inch lead to the breakaway and off you go. You donâ€™t want to try this first as it may result in shifting of your load or saddle sores from the saddle being pulled around. You can also run a short piece of brained rope or parachute cord from the point on each side of the saddle where the rump strap attaches. Thereâ€™s usually a metal loop there. A short rope there makes the pull of the rope lower and more stable. The rope should be just about 4-6 inches longer than the distance across the back of the saddle and should have a loop tied into it so the attached rope does slide side to side. .
Once you have one pair working itâ€™s time to do the next pair and then go back and work with the goats who were lead goats and teach them how to follow.
Once you hit the trail you have an entirely new set of challenges to work out. The most difficulty in leading a pack string is the start before you get to the narrow trail, which normally forces the goats to stay in line. To train the pack string, have 1 â€" 2 helperâ€™s walk along the side of the pack string at home to make them stay in line. Once a new pack string gains experience on the trail it learns to stay in line and there are fewer problems. Practice a lot leading your pack string at home to avoid problems and possibly injury to you and your goats.
Forest Service regulations clearly state that animals may be off string if it is dangerous for them to be tied. Water crossings, bouldering, logs, sharp turns, very narrow trails or trails with brush that could injure a goat should be evaluated to see if it is better to untie them temporarily. At any place where there is a likelihood of one goat jumping and pulling the rest along, the goats should be untied. The lead person in one of these areas should slow down so that the group doesnâ€™t feel like they have to hurry to keep up. Otherwise you will have an accordian effect, with the rear animals having to hustle to keep up and causing a wreck.
Turn around often and check your pack string to insure there are no problems. A good time to check your pack string is when you go around corners, curves, as you can see the side of the pack saddles, pack and pad. On a hot day, when the goat is losing weight, a pad can slip back when going up hill and you will not be able to readily observe it.
I position an inexperienced goat in one of two places. Either right behind me or at the end of the line. Behind me, I can observe him better, correct any problems quicker and talk to him to help calm him down if necessary. If the other goats wonâ€™t tolerate the newbie being near you, then put him at the end where if he gets loose he will not take the rest of the line with him.
All this takes some training but most goats are quick to get it. The key is for them to lead well before you start. Then practice makes perfect. See you at the rendy!
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