How to Pack Horse Saddle Bags

Saddle bags let you carry your lunch and other essentials with you when you ride, adding convenience and letting you enjoy yourself more. Did you know that it’s important to pack your saddle bags a certain way? Here are a few tips to make packing up quick, simple, and effective.

Consider Weight Distribution

Whether you’re an endurance rider or just the average Joe / Jane out for a weekend trail ride, even weight distribution is the first thing to consider when packing accessories onto a horse. That’s why it’s so important to use saddle bags instead of random bags designed for a completely different purpose. Saddle bags are equally sized, so they balance properly on your horse’s back. In addition, they come with extra straps that help prevent bouncing and jarring that could lead to an accident or cause smashed sandwiches.

Now that we’ve established the importance of using saddle bags instead of relying on your old gym bag, let’s talk about how to pack them. Since saddle bags are dead weight, meaning they can’t adjust themselves on your horse’s back the same way you can, equal weight distribution is vital. Without it, your horse is subject to muscle soreness. Additionally, saddles naturally want to slip toward the heavier side – even if the weight difference is minor – and that can lead to discomfort and less safety for you as well as for your equine partner.

Whether you go with ultra lightweight nylon saddle bags or choose a set of durable leather saddle bags that match your tooled trail saddle, you’ll want to make sure that your bags are of equal weight once they are packed. Weigh them to make sure! If you don’t have a small scale to set your saddlebags on once they are packed, take each one onto your bathroom scale with you. The weight displayed should be the same.

Next, make any necessary adjustments to ensure that your saddlebags weigh as close to the same amount as one another; the maximum difference should be just a few ounces. If it’s impossible to ensure nearly equal weight with only the items you must carry, then add something extra to the lighter saddle bag to even out the weight.

If you have heavier individual items to carry, such as a pair of binoculars, a canteen filled with water, or a heavy camera with a long lens, then you may find it easier to keep that item in a horn bag, where the weight is essentially added onto your own, and where the horse will have an easier time dealing with it, particularly on long rides or over rough terrain. Additionally, these items will be within easier reach, making for a more convenient experience on your part.

Use a cantle bag or cantle straps to carry light, bulky items such as a jacket or rain gear. You can also put gloves inside a cantle bag, along with any other ultra-lightweight items you thing you might want instant access to during your ride.

Once you’ve gained some experience, you’ll find that properly packing your horse saddle bags – especially when you tend to take the exact same items with you on rides – will become faster and easier over time.