History of western riding
Sometimes it feels as if the Cowboy life and life style have always been around. It feels as if it did not have a start and cannot have an end- it is part of human culture and part of the past, present and future world we are living in. But there was a beginning to this rugged and heroic culture and maybe even one day there will be an end.
Where the style began
The first western-style saddles were based on the Spanish vaqueros in the 1800’s (the original cowboys one might call them). The Spanish vaqueros trained horses and herded cattle in Mexico and the American Southwest. These saddles were a combination of two styles of horseback riding: la jineta, which focused on the horse’s freedom of movement, and la estradiota, which focused on rider security and control. These saddles did not have a horn and when the horn came to action, it opened the world of saddles as it is known today, a saddle for a specific function like roping and barrel racing.
When the human race decided for the first time to ride on the horse could not be guessed.
Brahmans were possibly the first “riders,” and there is no uncertainty that the Chinese were the first real “horsemen.” The Chinese were involved in selective breeding and had several different kinds of horses for different jobs, as early as 1,000 years BC
The Hittites over in the Mediterranean were doing their thing with the horse, it seems it was the Hittites who left the first text on the care and rearing of horses (written about 1,600 BC and contains some advice about the training of a horse which is as applicable today as it was then).
Assyrians, some claim, were the first of the eastern Mediterranean cultures to make use of an item resembling a saddle(no stirrup).
The Egyptians also utilised horse as a mean of expanding their empire, about 1,650 BC. But they had no interest in riding the horse but preferred a chariot.
When a saddle is mentioned in the Bible, they are generally considered to have been saddlecloths. The Native Americans of the Great Plains of North America were famous horsemen, and usually rode without saddles. The saddle as we know it today where probably developed either in France during the early Christian era or in the steppe region of Asia. In Europe the saddle came into general use in the Middle
Ages and the exploits of medieval knights would have been difficult without the saddle.
Some claim a tribe called the Sarmatians who lived by the Black Sea first invented the saddle in 365 AD, as well as the metal stirrup and spurs. The Sarmatians were well known for their horsemanship and use of horses in battle. They were a nomadic tribe that worshiped fire and often sacrificed horses to their god.
When looking back it seems like people rode horses for over 1,500 years before they had devised a method for achieving greater stability in the saddle.
Invaders from Central Asia brought the stirrup to Europe, and interestingly the words for stirrup in Old High German, Old Saxon, and Old English are all derived from words for climbing.
Saddles of various types include the packsaddle (to which the load of a pack animal is secured); the camel saddle; the howdah (used by riders of elephants); and the horse saddle. There are two main types of horse saddles, the Hungarian and the Moorish.
The Moorish saddle, was used by cowboys in the United States. The saddle has a horn which is essential in using the lasso and two strong girths, each tightened by a cinch strap. In North America it was believed that a hard seat was better for both the horse and the rider.
The Hungarian saddle, of which the English saddle is an example which has padding, and the stirrup is hung farther forward than on the Moorish saddle.
Historians are aware that America’s story owes something of significance to the “western saddle” and what we term the “western saddle,” Americans of the first half of the nineteenth century generally referred to as the “Spanish saddle.” Mexico is where the western saddle originated and underwent a great deal of its development and the outset of the nineteenth century saddle used by the horsemen of New Mexico, was founded upon a saddletree incorporating nearly all the elements of design by which the western saddle tree is distinguished today.
Some Examples of historic saddles:
- Top to bottom: Charro, Santa Fe and Texas style saddles
- The first McClellan 1857
- The Model 1913 McClellan
- La Estradiota – Spanish War Saddle
- La Jineta – Muslem Cavalrymen Saddle