Another activity I enjoyed with Cocoa was historical trekking. http://coht.org/
This involves studying the people, events, and material culture of a specific place and time in history. That knowledge and equipment are then taken into the field. A small group of us had camped and hunted with our 18th century gear in the Powhatan Wildlife Management Area of Virginia on foot on several occasions. I wanted to add another element, the packhorse. Our group usually gathers for an 18th century squirrel hunt in January of each year. The Virginia weather in January can be almost anything. We've experienced warm, pleasant days with moderate evening temperatures, as well as snow, freezing rain, and single digit temperatures. Being prepared for any weather while on foot often means carrying heavy loads of bedding and shelter in on our own backs. With the horse along, we can bring in plenty of extra blankets and such. The canvas used to protect the load doubles as shelter in camp.
To prepare, I corresponded with some folks who had much more experience than me, W.D. Bennet and Lane Linenkohl. Both posses a wealth of hands on knowledge. Mr. Bennet suggested the book "Horses, Hitches, and Rocky Trails", by Joe Beck. With my confidence bolstered, I worked up a practice load of camp gear. I didn't yet have a pack saddle, so I made a pack bag to drape over my riding saddle. I hitched Cocoa to a fence post and experimented with it until I had a, more or less, balanced load. Then I practiced lashing it down and leading her around the field with it. She took it all in good humor, so I figured we were ready.
|Practice load of camp gear|
Cocoa's load, once it was assembled was an ungainly looking affair. The pack bag worked as before. The added bedrolls and such looked a bit lumpy, but were balanced. The big difference was the half bale of hay I had wrapped in canvas and lashed to the top of the riding saddle. The english style saddle had no "cradle" for the bundle to rest in. It was simply held in place with rope, gravity, and luck. We managed to get it in to the rendezvous point without much trouble.
|gathering at the rendezvous point|
|Our camp, just inside the treeline|
|Cocoa on the picket line|
Packing out was a simple matter. We no longer had the hay to worry about. But, we were already making plans for the next outing. I had an Appalachian style pack saddle being made. And Mark Jeffries, my companion on many of these excursions, and Cocoa's previous owner, had acquired another mount.....
Next time: More horses and better equipment!