HORSE PACKING LARGE FORMAT : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been photographing the West for so long, that, at 55 years of age, I have decided to learn horse-back riding. My question is: has anyone here carried large format equiptment on horseback? What do you use to carry your equiptment? What kind of riding do you do when you carry it? I am primarily interested in Trail Riding.

Thanks, Bill

-- Bill Lindley (, February 07, 2001


check out :)

tim a

-- tim atherton (, February 07, 2001.

Since that image was made in the early 1980s, the science of packing gear for protection and easy access has evolved. I would if I were you take a hard look at the modern cases from Lightware (my favorite) at or Tenba.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 07, 2001.

I haven't. But Ansel Adams used to use pack mules.

-- Charlie Strack (, February 07, 2001.

Bill-- you did not say if you plan on having a pack animal as well as your own steed. If you have a pack horse/mule, then you can take your "castle" with you. The horse packing industry has radically improved upon their packing equipment, ie, canvas, plastic--various sizes, covers, etc--a western horse/hunter outfitter store would be a good source to check out--if you're close to Denver for example, there is the IWEAEM show usually in Jan every year--elsewhere as well---(internat.western/english/equipment/equipment/market, however, one would need proper credentials to get in. Call Colorado Saddlery Co., a very old denver est. Perhaps western stock photographers like Dusard, Stocklein(sp) who do horsey stuff et all would be another source of info.

if your planning on carrying the "stuff" yourself on your own steed, it may not be wise to carry a backpack on your back--a waist pack yes, but I see "danger & harm" if your carrying a large pack on your back while in the saddle. Tally ho! and gettie up!

-- Raymond A. Bleesz (, February 07, 2001.

Ah, here is a subject that is up my alley. Having grown up in Montana, I have come to the realization that while horses are very noble animals, they can be as passive as a teddy bear and as dangerous as a loaded gun all in the same trip. While I would not call them dumb, they are very powerfull animals that deserve respect. Having said that, they can afford you the ability to get to places that you otherwise may not be physically able to get to. I would strongly recommend starting out at a lodge in the mountains that rents horses for trail rides and also has a wrangler willing to show you the ropes. Start out with modest distances and times to see how you do. Your knees, back and buttocks will surely get tested because it is not something you can prepare yourself with any other activity for. Since it sounds like you are not interested in owning any horses, I would not suggest renting an horse on your own because of the liability issues and the risks. If the horse gets hurt or lost, you are responsible for it. Going with a wrangler and renting stock that that person is familiar with reduces these risks to a managable level. Now as far as taking photo equipment with you on the horse you ride on, you have the opportunity to use two saddle bags and a bag that can be attached behind the saddle or you can ride with a backpack on. I will tell you that the saddle bags are not very spacious as they usually get a slicker for the possible rain and a lunch/beverage placed in them. I have taken non-framed backpacks with equipment when I am only going for the day, but you need to be carefull because sometimes having backpack straps on can be uncomfortable. If you are serious about taking large format equipment into the back country, you should consider an additional horse to use a packing saddle and pannier bags for your gear. I have several books that I can recommend on the subject of horses and packing if you are interested. Another option that I have found works great, particularly when I am going into the backcountry for an extended period is to lead a horse into where you are interested in going and let the horse pack your gear. That is how Ansel Adams used a pack animal. Any equipment that gets anywhere near the horse better be cased in hard plastic and foam just in case. If you are in Colorado or Montana, I can recommend several lodges that I have used in the past.

Happy Trails....

-- Michael Kadillak (, February 07, 2001.

If you are going to use an animal to carry your equipment sooner or later someone will suggest that a llama will be better than either a horse or a mule for this purpose.

If you are carrying much equipment you might be even better off to use two of these fine animals, but be careful of getting a mother/son or mother daughter combination as sooner or later one of them will prove recalcitrant and you'll find yourself scratching your head and asking yourself "Is the llama mama bad?"

-- Ellis Vener (, February 07, 2001.

I've been on a few fishing trips in the high country on horseback ...and a good mountain horse is amazing. It really is worth the experience just to ride atop one of these sure-footed creatures over a steep incline of mossy shale. It'll amaze you and probably scare the life out of the inexperienced. I was raised on quarterhorses but even so, I was thrilled at every step.

Pack mules fart alot and for that reason alone I'd rent a four wheeler. You can learn how to ride one in a few minutes and the fall isn't so drastic as that from a decent sized horse. I'd suggest you do this, especially if you aren't very familiar with the horses or the particular stables you'll be using. If you must take a horse then make sure and pick the oldest one to ride... chances are the horse will be gentle and know the trail so well that you can literally let go of the reigns. I've never really been on the tourist kind of trail riding but I'm sure those horses are so tame that you needn't worry... I doubt you'll get the opportunity to unload your view cam and shoot though...

good luck,


-- trib (, February 08, 2001.

oh and Michael refers to an old song up yonder when he forewarns you of the goes, "'cause my legs ain't bowed, and my cheeks ain't tanned"... the last line is doppleganger. Translated it means you won't feel much pain in your legs and lower back. It's called saddle-sore and buddy, you're in for a treat.

-- trib (, February 08, 2001.

"Whoaaa, Wilbur!" - Mr. Ed.

-- Roger Urban (, February 08, 2001.

Thanks, Everyone who has answered my question concerning horses/Large Format. For tose who expressed concern; I am currently taking lessons on horsmanship, so I expect to be a decent rider by the time I go out on the trail.

As I have expressed elsewhere in this forum,I have developed a real love of the west while out photographing, and have come more and more under it's spell. I have felt, even though born and raised in California, that through my photography I could form a connection to the west of the past as well as the west as it developes, for good or ill. My primary aim in photography is to capture the romance of the west. I have come to be aware that the cowboy, and his horse are an intragal part of that romance, even though my photography is exclusivly landscape work, I have found it personaly necessary to become as involved in this romance of the west as possible in order to arive at the perspective I put in my work. This has resulted in my desire, even at my age to learn to ride. And to ride as well as I can. I think that the sugesstions about pack mules sounds the best so far, as I could not imagine rideing with a backpack for very long.

Thanks again everyone, Bill

-- Bill Lindley (, February 08, 2001.

excellent deduction Bill... a loping horse and a backpack over 15lbs would be pure-dee murder on your sacroilliac. Just make sure you get to be the one leading the mules.

It's not very romantic.. but I'll always prefer two wheels.

-- trib (, February 09, 2001.

Good luck, Bill. As Michael Kadillak writes, horses are big and strong and it is sometimes hard to understand just what is going on inside their heads, but they are also fun and I wish I was going with you.

An advantage to using horses (shared with backpacking) is that one can thereby access wilderness areas, where one may not use ATVs or mountain bikes. Note that there will often be regulations requiring that the horses be fed only certified feeds (hay, alfalfa, & grains). These regulations are intended to slow the spread of noxious non-native weeds, which as most readers know is a serious problem in the West.

If anyone is interested, you can look up the text of the Wilderness Act of 1964 on the web. One location is < >. Section 4(a)(1)(c) describes prohibited uses, including motorized or mechanized equipment.

-- Erec Grim (, February 09, 2001.

aww, mountain bikes are for hippies... who said anything about that? I'm talkin' a real monoxide-spewin', rock-spittin' sierra-clubber-flattenin' 4 stroke motor'sicle....

they can't catch ya if they can't catch up!

please be nice to the bikers, no rocks and we'll slow down... please support multiple use trails...

-- trib (, February 09, 2001.

Thanks a lot, Trib. I used to think the only thing I had to worry about in the woods was the occasional rabid porcupine. Now if I hear a growl I'll hope it's only a hungry griz, and not a gang of large format photogs on their motorsickles, all flying colors.

Ignorance was bliss.

-- Erec Grim (, February 09, 2001.

Michael is right in his suggestions and views on horses. They can be spooked quite easily and a fall off a tall one can be quite the event. My own horse liked to stop dead short in a lope and try to throw me off. It's other neat trick (of many) was to pretend it had a rock in it's shoe whereby I would get off to check and then it wouldn't let me back on. Since the horse your training on won't be the one you ride, ask plenty of questions about habits. The one thing about any stable horse is that it will know it's way back to the stable, and probably want to go there any chance it gets. You have to be forceful with em. Also, the pack horse/mule is a good suggestion, but learn before you burn. Best use a guide and a pack animal, and overnights are better since you can be at locations at dawn and sunset without worrying about being back on time. Day trips by yourself into back country areas with lots of wildlife should be when you can handle a bolt. Bringing a horse down can be quite the experience with a soft bit in it's mouth. It all appears so romantic, riding horses and all, but if you've been thrown into a tree or bramble 10 or more miles away and are hurt and your horse is gone, you bettter have a backup plan, and the best one is a sidekick.

-- Wayne Crider (, February 10, 2001.

oh brother Grim... if you don't wreak of patchouilly you needn't worry... but, if I smell a foul hippy stank, then the sport must begin.

I'll lower my goggles and extend and hoist my old bogen to my armpit and rest it's legs on the handlebars ... and grrrrrr.(pssst, watch out for the spikes on that old tripod, they're modified. OH! and don't bring a Ries to a joust, they only work thrice, I know, I've tried.)


tribby: a full-contact photographer

p.s. The center column with a good-sized head can double nicely as a poleaxe but let me suggest an alternative. You'll be tempted to try a super clamp or sturdy monopod for a poleaxe but don't! They just aren't heavy and strong enough. The best poleaxe I've found is a testrite copy stand column. That's right, just find you a grubby, old and used testrite and break the column free from it's base! Now, find a radial saw blade and simply bolt it to the camera mount through the center hole using an old Argus C3 as a retaining nut. The argus will add plenty of heft and balance ... you'll see. Lastly, duct tape the entire contraption to your left hand, nope, only the left, you'll be speed-shifting in a joust so there's no need to clutch. Good luck and see you in the meadow.

-- Trib (, February 13, 2001.

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