The same principles of equal weight, equal size and equal weight distribution for balancing a pack load apply to western saddlebags and horn bags as well. Your saddlebags are dead weight and, therefore, cannot adjust themselves like a rider can. The more weight you carry in your horse saddlebags, the more important it becomes to balance them. I suggest weighing each side of your bags to ensure that they are within ounces of each other. Continue reading to learn more about how to load your horse saddlebags.
Weight is Carried Better in the Front
Horses carry weight better over the shoulders than behind the saddle, so whenever possible, you should load heavier items such as water, cameras, binoculars, etc. in your horn bags. Lighter, bulkier items should be loaded in your saddlebags. I reserve my cantlebag for my rain coat and gloves. This is the best place for the bulky items that you may want access to while remaining in the saddle. Both your horn bags and your horse saddlebags will ideally have equally weighted sides, but we know this is not always possible. This is why we designed the TrailMax™ Saddlebag System with multiple attachment points.
Offset Additional Items
Remember to pack your horn bags and saddlebags accordingly if you are packing a scabbard or pack saw. You need to offset the added weight of this item. When I strap my rifle scabbard on the front of the saddle, butt up, I always counter balance it in part by hanging my camp axe on the other side or loading my horn bag heavier on the side opposite my rifle.
Lastly, conformation can be a factor in how well your load rides. For instance, a low withered animal will need to be packed more carefully and more evenly as even a minor difference from one side to the other can cause the saddle to shift to the heavier side. This is irritating to both you and your mount as it will require regular adjustments all day unless you can make adjustments to your load to balance it better.
As with packing, successfully loading your saddlebags simply requires common sense. If you think carefully about what you are doing and watch your western saddlebags and horn bags, you should quickly learn what works and what doesn't on your horse. And remember to check your horse's back for soreness after every long ride. Your first concern should always be for your horse's comfort and well-being.