PACK & TRAIL SPECIFIC TRAINING
As a rule, goats don't need lengthy training sessions. They are generally accepting of the whole training process and not likely to object to the saddle and other equipment. Goats are already agile, if raised in a pasture environment and have things like rocks or spools to jump and climb on.
One area that takes time is Leading and Tying---The best way to teach a goat to lead is to teach him to tie well. This can be started when the goat is 3 weeks old by tying him while you working in the barn. Tie him at about 12" with a wide flat nylon or leather collar. This can be done daily for about 3 weeks. A goat who is tied this way and learns to give to the pressure will lead well forever. Don't leave the goat unattended when tied, ever. They need to be rescued occasionally. Also, don't tie him where he can jump onto something and off the other side. This will hang your goat!
If you start training with an older goat, you can use a goat halter to teach him to lead. Leading by the head is recommended for goats who don't give well to pressure, and makes them much easier to handle.
The basics for leading are just like dog obedience, except I teach mine to follow me, rather than lead in the heeling position. Most packers (including us) let the goats go on the trail with no lead, but it's necessary sometimes to be able to lead them; around lots of people, on dangerous roads, and some areas do require leads on pack stock. Once your animal leads well, you can pack string them more easily.
In their 4th year they are ready to pack. And if taught manners this is easy. Let them smell and see the saddle first. While talking normally to them, set it on their shoulder and slide to place on back. They may small it again. Some may move a little. Some may ignore it. Fit the saddle to the goat and label for that goat. (repeat sizing as needed as goat ages. Each goat should have their own saddle) Strap down and walk them a bit with just the saddle. Do this several times during the day.
Next day, let them wear it all day. (watched by you as accidents can happen. A goat should never wear a saddle unattended).
The third day introduce the panniers. This may be "exciting". This is usually where you may spook the goat. The noise of rubbing or the shifting of load is usually the issue, not he pannier itself. Remember to allow smelling of the panniers before adding them to the saddle. They might ignore them in the pasture and freak on their first walk in the brush. Their first walk with panniers should always by on a leash. Always remain calm yourself and when the "excitement" is over lavish approval on the goat. Remember to lavish approval on the ones that do not freak out too. Continue the walk even after the goat has settled down. Gradually add weight -5 to 10 pounds each outing- to the pack on each successive walk up to the maximum of 1/3 their total weight on flat easy ground. 1/4 ratio is better for actual unlevel hiking conditions. Once trained your goat is ready to be your hiking companion for years to come.
You should never just saddle up a goat. Like humans they should be in good physical shape before attempting strenuous exercise. Packing is an exercise for goats.
Odds and Ends
We have two goat watering systems. We have a large uninsulated trough that holds extra water for the hot summer months, with an automatic fill system. We have smaller insulated trough with an electric water heater in the water for winter months, filled manually each day so piping doesn't break. (water temp about 35-40 degrees) We also have goldfish in the tank to keep down the algae.
We use individual feeders on the outside of the fence. Only one or two goats can eat at each feeder; we have one for each goat in our herd. This system also cuts down on the “waste” since goats (as a rule with exceptions) will not eat hay that has fallen to the ground. We have also covered the feeder tops to minimize the amount of snow that gets into them in our winters. Note the salt block and loose mineral salt in tubing.
A Question of Trail Etiquette Who has the right-of-way?
(Note: We do not dislike horses per say, any derogatory sounding comments are based solely on personal observations of them and their reactions to us with our goats.)
It is our experience that very few back country users know the answer to this question. Thankfully our boys are familiar with both backpacks on people and horses, so are total unconcerned beyond there natural wilderness alertness. Most hikers hate the idea, but as the most mobile they should get off the trail on the low side. In a goats vs horses the same rule applies. We move to the low side as the goats are much more agile than the horses. (Horses are much easier for the rider to control on the high side of the trail. Move approximately 30 feet off the trail for horses). We have decided that horses think people with packs are bears, and llamas/goats with backs are devils from their darkest nightmares. With horses it is a excellent idea to keep talking to the riders as they pass, as this helps the horse with their tiny little brains identify you as a person rather then a scary unknown.
There are times when passing is not an option. (The east fork of the Duchesne comes to mind. A 1/4 mile, six inch ribbon of trail across a 70 degree slope of loose dirt.) In these situations the most mobile should back up to a safe place to pass.
Pack strings of any sort should be given consideration over any kind of person with a lone creature. But we seldom argue with a spooky horse and just give way. And our boys watch the horse dance fitfully past with silly grins on their faces.