There are a few necessities that each horn bag or saddle bag must have: a first aid kit, water, food of some sort, duct tape and baling twine. A map of the trails, if you are unfamiliar with them, is also a very good idea.
The first aid kit doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something with gloves, gauze, ointment, bandaids, an insta-cold snap pack, and a space blanket. Pretty much, anything that can be used on a human can also be used on a horse. You can “fancy” up your first aid kit with all sorts of expensive things, but, really, you just need a way to stop bleeding, splint, and treat for shock in either horse or human.
Water and food are fairly self-explanatory, but a word to the wise…be careful which type of water bottle you choose to pack. The wide-mouth Nalgene-type bottles are awfully tricky to drink from when on the back of a horse. I’ve yet to master the skill – all I get is a bath. I even tried using the insert to try to keep from getting a face full of water every time the horse took a step. That resulted in my shirt staying dry, but water shot up my nose instead. As far as food goes, I always keep something like pre-packaged trail mix or a granola bar in my bag. It may not be my food of choice, but it will keep me alive if the need arises (and the horses think that they are always a good treat!).
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads about the duct tape. Have you not seen McGyver? No, seriously, duct tape can be used to hold dressings on if your horse gets injured. It can also be used in place of an EZ-Boot, if your horse happens to throw a shoe (if your horses are shod). Just cover the bottom of the hoof with duct tape, take a wrap around the hoof to keep the ends from flapping and away you go. It’s not an ideal fix, but it works.
Baling twine is a wrangler’s best friend. Sounds like kind of a crazy thing to keep in your horn bag, but it is the most versatile item you can carry. Just a few of the things you can do with baling twine:
• Repair tack: when the leather laces fail or rot and fall away, just thread some baling twine through the lace holes and away you go! I’ve repaired broken reins and bridles and used twine re-attach stirrups and cinches – who needs those fancy leather laces when you’ve got bright orange and blue baling twine?
• Build a “custom water bottle carrier”: my guests used to love this little trick, tie the baling twine around the neck of the water bottle, make a loop just big enough to fit over the saddle horn and viola! a custom water bottle carrier.
• Tie goodies to the back of the saddle: my last on-trail use of baling twine was to tie a section of elk vertebrae to the cantle.
• Tie a string of horses together when ponying a pack trip: by using a length of twine to tie the horses together, you’re all but guaranteed an effective break-away if something bad happens. Using lead ropes or leather reins is just asking for trouble, as they don’t break as easily. Baling twine is tough enough that it will keep a string of horses together, but will still break in an emergency.
• Make a rope halter: A couple of lengths of baling twine can be use in a pinch as a halter to lead an errant horse home or, in the case of my step-dad, just take a loop around the nose and use the ends as reins for bareback riding. I’m not that brave.
• Keep bored kids from whining: I know what y’all are thinking – I’m not talking about using the twine to hold a gag in place. If you tie the ends together to form a loop, the bored kids stuck riding double with a parent can play string games with it. Mostly they just twist around their little wrists, but as long as they quit their whining and belly-achin’, I’m a happy camper.
• I’ve even used baling twine to keep my britches up on occasion when I’ve forgotten my belt. Heck, maybe if I’d had a baling twine belt on the day I got hung up by my belt buckle, I wouldn’t have been dangling above the ground.
And, oh, the endless things you can do with BOTH duct tape and baling twine. Just the thought sets my heart all aflutter! The sky’s the limit when you’ve got both. Heck, I think you could completely tack up your horse with just duct tape and baling twine, but that’s a post for another time.
Does anyone else have ideas for baling twine use while on the trail? How 'bout duct tape?