PACK SADDLES

Packsaddles are purpose designed to carry cargo and baggage and are quite different to a riding saddle. Riding saddles may be adapted for use as packsaddles.

crossbuck type packsaddle
The Tree Of a Wooden "Sawbuck" Type Pack Saddle


Packsaddles may be designed to fit horses, bullocks, mules, lamas, camels, donkeys or goats.

Packsaddles consist of the following components:

  • Arches, these take the load off the animal’s spine.
  • Backboards, which spread the load along the muscles of the animal’s back.
  • Rigging, this is harness to position and secure the saddle on the animal.

Some packsaddles have quarter panels that provide padding to separate the saddle and load from the animal and prevent chafing.

The rigging may include a:

  • Breeching, a strap that fits around the animal’s rump to stop the saddle shifting forwards:
  • Breastplate, a strap fitting around the chest to stop the load moving backwards; and
  • Crupper, which is a special strap, that fits around the base of the tail (dock) to stop the saddle moving forward.

The saddle is held in place by a girths that fit across the sternum of the animal. A second girth is known as a “balance girth” may be used to reduce the saddle and load bouncing. This girth fits around the belly and is not fastened as tightly as the main girth. Donkeys and mules are often girthed using crossed girths of equal lengths. Crossed girths tend to prevent the saddle moving forward as donkeys and mules lack high shoulders or withers. The girths should cross over on the sternum.

donkeys packed timOur packsaddles are adapted for use with donkeys from traditional Australian packsaddle designs. Brian Beck, who has published a booklet on the subject, supplied a design. This was further adapted to make a very lightweight, yet robust saddle to suit our requirements.

The design incorporates “rolled” aluminium tube arches with welded load hooks. The arches are attached to the backboards by hinges that allow the backboards to fit a different back shapes and move with the animals’ gait. The plywood backboards are cold formed in a jig to a shape that conforms to the shape of a typical donkey’s back.

Thick saddle pads are used in lieu of quarter panels to reduce weight. Total weight of our saddles is 2.5kg including pack bags.

Loads are generally carried in pack bags that are slung from hooks welded to the saddle arches. Large items may be secured to the saddles using ropes and special “quick release” hitches either as “side loads” or as “top loads”.


A canvas sheet known as “pack cover” or “Wantie” protects loads from the weather. A long webbing strap known as a “pack surcingle” or “Wantie Strap” encircles the animal and load to consolidate the load and prevent it from falling from the load hooks.

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pack3Loaded donkeys showing Wantie and Wantie Strap

Loads may also be secured to the saddle by use of European/ American style diamond and double diamond hitches formed from lengths of rope.

Pack loads have an optimum size of 73x36x26 cm (283/4x141/4x101/2 inches). Side loads should be of equal size, shape, density and mass. Donkey loads should not exceed 22% of the animal’s body weight.