The saddle is the foundation and most important component in the pack system. It should rest on the back muscles and upper rib cage without coming in contact with the spine or digging into the shoulders or pelvic area. The saddle’s structure should follow the contour of the llama’s back, maximizing contact area. A good fit assures load stability and the comfort of your llama.
Adequate padding, whether it is built into the saddle or attaches to the saddle, is a necessity. The pad acts as a shock absorber for the weight being carried. Pads also will reduce (but not eliminate) the effects of poor grooming or an ill-fitting saddle.
The cinches or girths hold the saddle tight to the llama’s back in order to minimize front-to-rear and side-to-side movement. The more contact area between the saddle and the llama’s back, the easier it is for the cinches to hold the saddle in place. Cinch hardware should be easy to use, and it is imperative that the hardware be strong.
The chest strap or breast plate works with the cinches to ensure that the saddle stays in place when the llama goes up steep inclines with heavy loads. It also prevents the saddle from being stripped off the rear of the lead animal in a pack string.
The breeching or butt strap works with the cinches to ensure that the saddle stays in place when the llama is going down steep descents with heavy loads.
The chest strap and breeching are recommended on all saddles when packing heavy loads in mountainous terrain. These straps may seem complicated at first but taking a few extra minutes to learn how to use them will save you time and frustration in the long run. Your animal will quickly learn to accept the chest strap and breeching, so don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
The panniers are the bags which hang from the saddle to carry the load. Panniers should be designed to accommodate stress, particularly at the points where they hang from the saddle. Buckles at these points should be sewn for lasting strength. The panniers should be designed horizontally so that they rest within the barrel of the animal. Panniers that hang too low will create a pendulum movement of the load, leading to shifting of the saddle.