Going well, RSS.
After we had to postpone the trip because two horses were pregnant - neither caried to term - we´ve been back in Chile since October and should be leaving on the trip-proper on December 27th, touch wood.
We´ve been doing increasingly long training trips, culminating in a four-day, 85-mile round last week (following on from two three-day ones back to back with one day off in between each).
Canelo and Minina are excellent, now carrying around 40 kgs each (which is everything we have plus either 6 days total autonomy for the horses (hay and grain) or a longer period of just grain. They pony well in their rope halters with nothing extra although Canelo does have a draw halter with fleece lining for his weird delicate roany skin. I switch them so that he doesn´t rub too much and depending on where we´re walking (the draw halter was pretty useful when we crossed three miles of green oats
). Minna drifts out to the left a little if she´s asked to walk immediately behind rather than to the right, so we´re still watching that, but Canelo follows like a dream - apart from when he nibbles Luna´s tail for fun.
No problems with sore backs or sore points for the two packers, although we´re still working on fixing all the padding layers so that the bottom one doesn´t work its way out. However, we always unsaddle and re-do things if we see something is going awry. Both saddles are working well with no probs about stability: we pack low, though, and don´t exceed more than 20% of the total weight on top, if that, which probably helps. The double girth system that Minina uses has not had any ill-effects.
We haven´t been so happy with our soft packs which have taken a beating and needed repairs / reinforcement already, but our home-made slings which pack using drysacks slung inside are brilliant. We have also had to make some alterations to Canelo´s harness to avoid friction points.
The riding horses are super entertaining because they have learned the position the packhorses are supposed to be in and get very shirty with the packers if they drift out. Quillay can get Minina back in line with just an ear-flick, but Luna as the natural bottom of the four has to work harder to get Canelo to pay attention, going as far as baring her teeth or getting a little kick in.
Some pics :
Canelo and his slings. He can carry up to 50kg grain, 25kg on each side in a drysack.
Minina packs our equipment and clothes, etc. As Canelo´s charge decreases (cos the horses are eating it), we swap out bits of equipment with Minina so that she´s not always carrying loads.
This is the first of four river crossings and the shallowest (we are glad we have drysacks!)
There are more photos on the facebook page in my sig. Hope to have some of your news and see how the rest of you are going!