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Nose to the Ground Issue 006: Books on Horsemanship and History of Saddles
February 01, 2005

Greetings from Nose to The Ground; the beagle-inspired newsletter bringing you the latest from

The New Year is well underway. Our prayers are with the families of the victims of the tsunami. The catastrophy has been one of life's lessons that is a reminder for us to count our own blessings. We got through a cold snap and with the thaw the roads became icy. For a couple of days we had to hike in and out to the highway. Not too far but up and down hill. Since that happends at least once every winter we learn to live with it.

On the Left: Lars peeking out to see if it's still snowing.

The horses didn't mind the cold, in fact seemed to enjoy it at times. we kept an eye on them though with horse blankets at the ready should there be a need. One of the Fjords, who never seems to get his timing right has already started shedding his winter coat. Fortunately not too much of it yet. He usually starts growing it in July. Think he's about a month early both ways.

Books on Horsemanship

Our satellite TV carries RFDTV, some cable companies carry it as well. There is something or other about horses most every day. If you have been thinking about purchasing a book on horsemanship and wondering which author might be a good choice, you might find viewing some of these shows on RFDTV helpful. I've added a section on Books on Horsemanship including references to RFDTV and author's web sites as useful resources.

Tutorials on Saddles

I suppose any horse web site would be lacking without some mention of saddles and tack as Your Guide to ... has been until recently. This was more by design than neglect although now I wish I'd have started addressing saddles and tack earlier. Fun to write about and to research.

Having a few saddles and a few horses doesn't make one an expert in either but I can take my experience and combine it with the experience, advice, and opinions of others and just maybe come up with ideas and information you'll find helpful should you have a new saddle in your sights.

Had lots of fun with last month's rope halter article. Haven't tied one in quite awhile. Reading my own stuff makes me want to take it up again.

In doing research to come up with authentic articles I come across interesting topics and characters (Eadweard Muybridge for example). I hope that some of the enjoyment I'm experiencing is finding its way to you.

This months article is a simplified history of the english and western saddles, which have a common root. Before getting to the article, let me share with you what I'm trying to accomplish with our new saddle section.

I'm really aiming these tutorials at the individual with limited experience in purchasing a saddle. I want to give them basic information so they can proceed with a degree of confidence knowing what they need to know to do the right thing. One important piece of advice offered is to find someone who is experienced with saddles and horses to help out.

I'm not trying to encourage someone to buy a saddle over the Internet. A local saddlery is likely the best bet, especially if you have one of those "hard-to-fit" horses but for some, Internet shopping may be a preference or a necessity.

These tutorials are a work in progress and I welcome any input on how to improve any one of them.

Please send your comments or suggestions to and I will of course acknowledge and give credit for any input I receive.

February Article: History of Saddles

The saddle in one form or another, ranging from simple saddle cloth to arrangements more like we would consider a saddle by today's standards have origins in the Middle east and Siberia going back many centuries before Christ. However, the first use of the saddle as we know it today is usually credited to the Romans.

The Romans made the transition from foot soldiers to mounted cavalry following their defeats at the hands of Carthaginians and by Hannibal's armies mounted on Iberian and North African horses.

As the saddles in use in Spain eventually found their way to America evolving into the Western Saddle, the other branch of the tree was formed as the Roman saddle evolved into the saddles of the war horses of Europe culminating in what we today call the English saddle.

The English Saddle

The saddles in use during the Middle Ages were generally of the back seat type with the mounts being the heavy cold bloods. Power was the name of the game and a secure seat on the war horse was a priority.

What we call the English saddle might more appropriately be referred to as the European saddle, having its roots in the lightweight saddles developed by the Germans and Hungarians as a saddle for war horses enabling them to jump over enemy foot soldiers and out maneuver armored knights.

It was the invention of firearms that the reestablished need to return to the swift warm blooded chargers and the Spanish and Barb breeds were once again in favor. The changes from power to speed in warfare tactics further influenced the design of the warrior's lightweight saddles.

The training of large numbers of cavalry recruits was generally speaking a long and tedious process. It was in addressing this issue that a major change in saddlery occurred, leading to what we today refer to as the English Forward Seat saddle. An Italian cavalry officer by the name of Frederico Caprilli introduced the school of forward seat riding in the late 19th century.

Caprilli's Forward Seat saddle concept initially was met with skepticism and downright hostility but the Forward Seat eventually replaced the fashionable English backward seat as the saddle of choice for the sport of fox hunting. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Western Saddle

The Western saddle originated in Spain, its evolution influenced by Celtic, Roman and Arabian/Moorish riding traditions. An offspring of the "saddle of the Conquistadores" the Western saddle came to the United States via Mexico as a working saddle.

The early Spanish colonists modified the Conquistador's saddles to better meet their needs for working cattle. These modifications eventually led to the Mexican Vaquaro saddle which has remained relatively unchanged since the early 1700's.

THe Mexicans perfected the art of carving the tree from wood and covering it with wet rawhide producing an exceptionally strong and durable wood and leather saddles as we are familiar with today. The Mexican saddle also featured a saddle horn invented as an alternative to tying the rope to the horses tail when roping cattle, an innovation no doubt appreciated greatly by the horse.

The Mexican Cowboy saddle evolved into the Texas saddle, characterized by the double rigging which greatly increased the stability of the saddle and rider under rough working conditions. It was about this time, the 1880's, that fenders to protect a riders legs came into use. The need for added comfort and durability for the long cattle drives in the late 19th century also influenced the evolution of the Western saddle into the saddle we are familiar with today.

Improvements in strength, comfort and functionality continued into the 20th century with innovations such as wider stirrup treads and rough-out seats and continue today with the use of synthetic materials such as Ralide and Cordura to produce a wide variety of choices and a wide range of styles to fit particular needs.

Thanks again for the visit. See you in a month.

Bill Savage Goose Bay Ranch Rollins, Montana

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