Mountain packing with Morgan Horses

by Jo Johnson, Jaquima a Freno Morgan Stock Horses

Ah, the beauty, solitude, and freedom of the mountains. It is difficult to describe just how empowering it is to be far away from civilization and all its trappings. But how to get there? Some folks backpack. Some, like me, go a’horseback. On a horse and with a pack string, one can travel much farther than the average hiker, and thus gain absolute solitude and peace in the magnificent vistas of the High Country.

I cannot say enough about the Morgan horse and how well they fare in this environment. Morgans have an incredible work ethic and they are sure footed in even the most awful terrain. One of the United States Forest Service (USFS) packers I worked with for several years once said to me, ‘Your Morgans are so sure footed, they go anywhere you please, because they know they CAN!’ Add to these benefits the fact that they possess the stamina to travel amazing distances, day in and day out, and seem to truly thrive in mountain conditions, here you have a fantastic blueprint for great times.

I have packed with Morgans for fun and personal enjoyment, and also as both a volunteer and as a contract stock packer for the USFS. My horses have carried items that most packers [who are packing for recreation] would not have any reason to haul on horseback. Nothing seems to faze these Morgans. From huge grip hoists, rolls of heavy cable, and commercial camp stoves to large, brightly colored tubs used for sanitizing water – they have carried it all. Often we are hauling this equipment up through extremely difficult terrain, delivering it deep into the wilderness to the trail rehab crews, who will ultimately make the trails more passable for all who travel there.