William H. (William Harding) Carter.

Horses, saddles and bridles online

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good jockey has been ruined by the mental impression left after
witnessing a bad fall, and any one who has personally suffered
from an accident seldom recovers his courage for difficult riding.

It has been the custom in the American army to teach recruits
to ride bareback, or with a blanket and surcingle, before allowing
the use of a saddle. Inasmuch as the most difficult thing to attain
is balance, and the stirrup was devised for the purpose of assist-


ing in acquiring and maintaining it, it would seem not unreason-
able to first teach the correct seat in the saddle and afterwards
perfect it by riding without a saddle. For teaching a firm, close
seat, and giving the recruit confidence in himself, nothing is as
good as the trot without stirrups.

After acquiring a good seat recruits will be ready to take their
changes in the ranks ; however, timid men should not be forced too
fast or made to mount vicious horses, but left for time and their
own ambition to overcome their fears.

If necessary to put men in the ranks for active service before
preliminary instruction is completed, special attention must be paid
to them, else they will become confirmed in their faults and resent
later instruction because of having participated in a campaign.

The herding of the troop horses in the field is of great assist-
ance in making bold cross-country riders of many otherwise timid
men. If a recruit can be given enough confidence in his seat and
horse to enable him to stay with a stampeded herd until the horses
have recovered their senses sufficiently to be rounded up, there
need be no fear of his not learning to ride.

A trooper whose seat is insecure almost invariably makes it
manifest in the horse, which then becomes nervous and uneasy in
ranks. The insecure seat causes the rider to constantly jerk or
pull on the reins. When this fault continues it is often necessary
to have the rider sit with folded arms, while another trooper,
mounted, leads the horse at a trot around the hall or riding-ring
for prolonged periods. This will compel the ofifender to learn to
ride without depending upon the horse's mouth for support.

There is a vast difiference between good riders and accomplished
horsemen. Many of the former possess such secure seats that
the meanest of brutes cannot dislodge them from the saddle, and


yet they may be unable to train or to appreciate a well-trained
saddle horse. It is not merely the ability to stick on which
should characterize the cavalryman. He should by all means be
an expert horseman, and the more accomplished he becomes in
that line the more valuable he will be as an example to others ;
increase of pride and self-respect will urge him on to perfection
when he discovers his ability is recognized.

The average trooper requires a great deal of individual instruc-
tion to prevent him from contracting habits which spoil horses.
It is a most noticeable fact that when a beginner gets tired and ir-
ritable he almost invariably jerks his horse to punish him for his
roughness. If the horse stumbles he is given a vicious jerk long
after any possibility of sustaining him has passed. If the squad
be at a trot the horse is jerked to make him change his gait while
the instructor's back is turned.

If the troop is ordered to trot, there will always be one or two
men who will purposely keep their horses so excited that they will
not trot. The only remedy is to put such men on steady old
horses, that are well established in all the gaits, and punish them
for any repetition of the offense.

There is a very common and unsightly fault which requires
constant attention. This is the habit of curving the back and
sitting on the lower part of the spine. This is usually accom-
panied by a drawing in of the chest and rounding of the shoulders.
This position is utterly incompatible with proper military riding,
and no effort should be spared to correct it. If it becomes ap-
parent that ordinary admonition has no effect, it may be corrected
by causing the trooper to hold a flat stick passed behind his
shoulders, the ends being held by the hands, opposite the shoulders,
backs to the rear. This of course necessitates the horse being


led by another trooper. Hump-backed riders, with insecure seats,
not only detract from the appearance of an organization, but are
an actual detriment on the drill ground and the battlefield.

The military seat is prescribed with minuteness of detail, and
while it may be impossible for all men to conform exactly thereto,
it should be insisted upon in the cavalry as closely as possible.
Many men after acquiring bad habits in riding, through ignor-
ance or stubbordness, are quite apt to imagine that they cannot
do what is desired of them.

It is not possible, under the conditions surrounding the re-
mount system of the American cavalry, to perfect the training of
all horses before assignment, as is done in some European armies,
and therefore the necessity for making good riders of the men
becomes paramount. In any event, after a single raid or
battle, many remounts must be obtained, and if a trooper has to
depend upon being supplied with a gentle, well-trained animal,
he may prove a detriment rather than a valuble factor in his squad
and troop. A good, firm seat should be demanded, and any
trooper who cannot acquire it should be transferred to a dis-
mounted arm of the service.

On the other hand, any horse which persistently refuses to
perform his work in a gentle and reasonable way under the guid-
ance of careful and selected troopers should be cast out. A horse
with many blemishes and defects which will do his work honestly
in ranks will render more efficient service under careful treatment
than a sound and well-bred horse which keeps a trooper always
engaged in trying to keep him quiet, and to preserve his own seat.
In addition to worrying his rider, a nervous horse will annoy all
the men and horses in his vicinity, and distract their attention
from the performance of their legitimate duties. A horse should


not be condemned, however, until it is assured that this nervous-
ness is not caused by the insecure seat of the rider. Men who
cannot ride, and horses which cannot be ridden and properly-
trained, are useless and expensive members of any cavalry or-

American. — British. — German. — French. — Russian. — Austrian. — Japanese.

The organization of cavalry has undergone but little change
within half a century, but modern battle experience has forced the
general introduction of the carbine or rifle as the main arm of the
trooper. While regiments maintain their distinctive historical
designations as dragoons, hussars or lancers, the cavalry of all
great powers has, for all practical purposes, assumed the role of

In the reorganization of the American cavalry during the Civil
War, the European model was abandoned and each regiment given
the same organization, designation, arms and strength. The
squadrons, which had previously comprised two troops, were or-
ganized with four troops and the number of squadrons in each
regiment reduced to three.

British and European cavalry continue the small squadrons of
two troops each, some regiments comprising four and others five
squadrons. The Japanese cavalry is also organized on these lines
following the German organization. With these differences of
organization each American squadron on a war basis is nearly
equal to a regiment of European cavalry with its depot squadron

In the American service the regiments of cavalry are all armed
with rifle, saber and pistol, and equipped identically the same.
There is no distinction as to heavy and light cavalry, and the


horses are purchased as nearly as possible of an average size.
The last year the weight of horses in service was taken, the aver-
age in ten regiments was 1052 pounds.

It is the heavy weight of trooper and equipment that causes
the demand for horses averaging about one thousand pounds. This
prevents the purchase of animals weighing from eight to nine
hundred pounds, a class in which is found the greatest proportion
of hardy saddle animals of fine conformation for cavalry service.

The troopers are enlisted only up to a weight of 165 pounds,
and none but particularly good men are accepted at that weight.
Men whose weight runs from 130 to 150 pounds are the best
adapted for the requirements of American cavalry, the traditions
of the service demanding a great degree of activity in dismounting
to fight on foot, in skirmishing, and in remounting.

The cavalry saddle now in use is, both as to form and material,
the result of long continued experiments and service trials in
campaigns extending over widely separated regions, involving ex-
tremes of cold and tropical heat.

The saddle-tree is made of wood, the pommel and cantle being
of beech, each made of two pieces framed together at the top and
glued. The two side bars of poplar are each made of two pieces,
and glued together ; they are then glued to the pommel and cantle,
and secured with screws.

Iron pommel and cantle arcs are fastened to the side bars with
rivets ; an iron pommel plate of semi-circular shape is fastened to
the front of the pommel, and an iron cantle plate is fastened to the
front of the cantle.

Two stirrup strap hooks made of wrought iron, with the lower
edges inclined from the horizontal upward and to the front, are
made to swing loosely in iron straps which are let in and fastened



to the side bars. The tree is smooth, and painted with white lead
before the rawhide cover is put on to strengthen it (figure 65).

The top covering is secured in place with rawhide thongs pass-
ing through holes in front and rear of the pommel and cantle, and
over the covering, and the top and bottom covers are sewed to-
gether with light thongs of the same material (figure 66).

Figure 65. Cavalry saddle tree before raw-hide cover is put on.

The tree is then covered with fair collar leather. There are no
leather skirts to the saddle.

Two brass rings are attached in the front ends of the side bars ;
a brass shield, with the size of the seat stamped on it, is fastened
on the pommel; brass guard plates or ovals are fastened on the
cantle, and pommel over the mortises, for the coat straps. Two
foot staples for coat straps, are placed on the front of the pommel
and two carrying brass rings on the rear of the cantle. Two foot
staples are fastened to the side bars through the rear girth straps
for attaching the saddle-bags. The saddle-bag stud is fastened to
the saddle through the cantle arc.

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The service saddles are issued in three sizes: Nos. i, 2 and 3,
the length of the seat being respectively eleven, eleven and one-
half and twelve inches. The lengths of the bars correspond with
the length of seat, but all the other dimensions are the same for all

To form a cincha attachment, two quarter straps, made of har-
ness leather, are passed over the pommel and cantle arcs, to which
they are riveted ; safes of leather are fastened under the rings to

Figure 66. Cavalry saddle covered with raw hide.

prevent sores from tight girthing ; two cincha straps are sewed in
these rings, one for each side.

The cincha is made of strands of hair rope knotted at the ends
into iron rings with leather safes underneath.

The stirrups are of hard wood, five and one-half inches wide
and four and one-half inches deep, with a hood of thick harness
leather riveted on. Stirrup straps, without sweat leathers, are
used with the stirrup.


Six coat straps are passed through the mortises and foot
staples. Leather stops are riveted on to limit the play of the

The long boot for carrying the carbine or rifle is hung under
the left leg. This method throws a great deal of weight on the
pommel, is not comfortable for the rider and interferes with the
proper use of the left leg and foot, but it has been adopted be-
cause the long rifle with bolt action cannot be conveniently car-
ried in the short carbine boot in rear of the right leg. (Figure 51.)

The saber is attached to the saddle on the right side by small
straps, one of which passes through the rings on the front end of
the bar and the other through the cincha ring.

The weight of the average kit and equipments complete is about
ninety pounds.

In much of the wild country where the cavalry has been on duty
the troopers were required to carry all they needed for a scout of
thirty or sixty days, except rations, on their horses.

The American cavalry saddle is of the same general form as
that used during the Civil War and compares most favorably
with those in use by the more prominent military nations as re-
gards strength, durability, and packing capacity.

It has been in use for forty years, and has stood the severest
tests of active field service that the varied climate and character
of the country demanded. It must be placed to the credit of this
saddle that when properly fitted and adjusted very few sore backs
occur, and when through accident or carelessness a back is in-
jured, it may be cured while continuing the horse in service by
removing or rearranging the pack and so folding the blanket as to
guard the bruised or wounded part.

The weight of the arms and equipments is practically the same

1 64


for all troopers, therefore the strong horses are selected for the
heavy men, in order that all the animals may have the same chance
of withstanding the fatigues incident to field service.

Figure 67. Trooper dismounted, showing near side of horse with packed


The summer work is done frequently with a much reduced load,
but in the severe weather of the northern plains in midwinter
both the weight and bulk of pack are very great.

The total weight carried by the horse may be, and frequently is,
increased by the addition of rations for the trooper and grain for
the horse. It may be easily seen that the manner in which this
load is secured is of the greatest importance.


The overcoat is tightly rolled and strapped on the pommel with
three straps. The bed blanket and a suit of underclothes, tightly
rolled inside of the shelter tent with the nose bag slipped over one
end, constitutes the cantle pack. When side lines are carried they
are laid on top of this pack, the whole being secured to the saddle
by three cantle straps.

The ends of the pommel and cantle packs are always bent
downward, the heavy articles put in the bottom of the saddle-
bags, and the rifle and saber hung well down on the sides of the
horse. The result of this combination is to keep the horse's center
of gravity nearly as low as in nature, so that the saddle seldom has
anv tendency to turn, as would be the case if everything was piled
upon the horse's back.

Figure (>"] shows a cavalry horse, near side, equipped for ordin-
ary field service. The rolled lariat is hung to the near cantle
ring by the snap, w^hich is used to attach it to the halter ring
when the horse is picketed, or by a small strap specially issued
for the purpose.

Figure 68 shows the off side of the horse with the trooper

When the troopers dismount the rifles are habitually removed
from the boots. In this way a well disciplined command is not
so apt to be disconcerted by a sudden attack as would be the case
if the guns should remain on the horses.

The saber remains attached to the saddle, but the rifle and pistol
are always carried by the trooper when dismounted to fight on

Cartridges and the pistol are carried on the belt around the
trooi>er's waist. Extra ammunition, horseshoes and nails, ra-
tions, currycomb and horse brush are distributed in the saddle-



The method of Hnking the horses together when fighting on
foot is shown in figure 69. The Hnk strap, attached on the left side
to the lower ring of the bit, is snapped to the halter ring of the
next horse on the left of numbers one and two; the bridle reins

Figure 68. Cavalry trooper, off side of horse, with packed saddle.

of number three are held by trooper number four who remains

No other nation has ever fought its cavalry on foot to such
an extent as was done in America during the Civil War and since.
This experience taught, that in order to follow up a line fighting
dismounted in rough country, through and over obstacles, it is



necessary to link the heads of the horses firmly and close together.
They lead much better and do not become tangled up in each
other's bridles. Even when properly and carefully linked to-
gether, horses require much drill before they can be conducted

Figure 69. Showing linked horses of set of fours, dismounted to tight

on foot.

rapidly from place to place. Horses in columns of fours should
be linked so that their heads will not be more than eighteen
inches apart.

While the cavalry equipment is used for all military purposes,
at the military academy instruction is given in the use of the
double reined bridle (bit and bridoon) and the ordinary hunting

1 68


and polo saddle in order to familiarize cadets with their proper
use (figure 70).


The British cavalry is composed of dragoon guards, dragoons,
hussars and lancers. All are armed with the rifle and saber, and

Figure 70. West Point cadet equipped for polo.

the lancers, in addition, carry the lance. The equipment and ac-
cessories composing the pack vary according to the service, which
for this body of troops includes a wide range, because of the ex-
tent of the colonial system.

The British cavalry saddle (figure 71 and figure 72) is made
with long wooden side bars of beech, and narrowed towards the
rear ends, where they are covered with leather to prevent chip-
ping. The front arch is of channeled steel, having slots for the



wallet straps ; the rear arch is of beveled steel, with curved spoon
cantle, both arches being riveted on to the side bars. The links or
plates for attaching the stirrup leathers are placed on the side
bars about three inches from the front arch.

Figure 71. British Cavalry saddle showing covered ends of bars.

The leather seat is laced to the arches, and supported under-
neath by broad webbing, crossed. Leather flaps, or saddle skirts,
are secured to the side bars with screws.

Fair leather is used for both bridle and saddle. The girth is
made of leather.

Figure 72. British cavalry saddle, side view.



Since the South African war the British have been continually
experimenting, under the direction of the Inspector of Cavalry,

Figure JZ- British Hussar with rifle on back, with butt of gun resting in


with a view to perfecting the armament and equipment of their
moiuited forces. For a time the old method of carrying the car-



bine or rifle on the horse was abandoned, and the arm carried on
the trooper's back, with the butt of the rifle resting in a boot
or bucket (figure 73). This new method was soon abandoned

Figure 74. British saddle showing long rifle boot or bucket.

and a long boot or bucket adopted, in which, the rifle is carried
on the right side and adjusted so that the butt projects to the
rear of the trooper's elbow (figure 74).



The manner of packing the kit and carrying the sabre are shown
in figure 75.

Wallets are attached to the pommel, over which is strapped
the cloak and a pair of ankle boots, one on each side. In the

Figure 75. British packed saddle, near side.

wallets are carried the horse brush, currycomb, underclothes, pipe
clay, brushes, blacking, etc. The sheepskin in rear contains the
stable jacket, trousers, gloves and picketing gear. The water
bottle hangs under the right end of the skeepskin.

The pack appears to be snugly and tightly adjusted, and in the
^' light service order " it is reduced to a moderate limit.


The double-reined bridle with bit and bridoon is used, and a
pipe-clayed halter rope takes the place of a leather strap.

On foreign service, where the field uniform is worn, " putties "
— leggins — are used instead of knee boots, and the shoes shown
in the illustration are removed from the pack. Efforts are being
made to still further lighten the burden on the horse, which varies
between 225 and 290 pounds, according to the weight of the in-
dividual trooper.

British officers have recently had opportunity to observe the
value of dismounted fire action of cavalry armed with magazine
carbines. Their South African experience has caused them to
recognize as clearly as Americans, that horsemen do not cease to
be cavalry because they can dismount and fight on foot. Target
and skirmish records show that cavalrymen shoot quite as well
as infantrymen, and in war they have never failed to charge
mounted when circumstances justified it.

The work of the British cavalry on duty in the colonies is much
like that of the American cavalry on the frontier, and their equip-
ment and kit are carried in a somewhat similar way.

The horses are usually attached to the picket line in front
and to the ground in rear by heel ropes. Whether this is better
than the American plan is not known, but in either case constant
watchfulness is necessary to prevent horses from injuring them-
selves by entangling their legs in the hitching ropes. It takes a
long time for most horses to learn how to stand quietly at a ground
picket rope, or when grazing attached to a lariat. By winding a rope
about the heel a fine horse may in a few minutes reduce himself
to an utterly unserviceable condition, requiring weeks for re-
cuperation. A heel gall or rope burn is almost invariably fol-
lowed by a rough, unsightly cicatrix. The difficulties arising from


such accidents in the field, in addition to the wider range for
grazing, induced American officers many years ago to teach all
cavalry horses to herd whenever the proximity of the enemy did
not prevent it.


The German cavalry still retains the distinctive titles of cuiras-
siers, uhlans, dragoons and hussars, but the only difference be-
tween them is in the weight of men and horses. The cuirass is
only worn on occasions of ceremony, and when the supply on hand
is exhausted it will not be renewed.

In heavy cavalry, cuirassiers and uhlans, the average
weight of the horses is 1083 pounds, and the troopers 187 pounds.
In the light cavalry the horses average 866 pounds, and the
troopers 143 pounds.

All German cavalry regiments are armed with lance, saber and
carbine. Officers, first and vice-first sergeants and trumpeters
do not carry the lance or carbine, but are armed with pistols.
There is some variation in the saber issued to different regiments,
but the lance is the same for all. It consists of a hollow steel
tube with a four-edged point of forged steel and a shaft of cast
steel. The length of the lance is ten feet six inches, and its
weight is 4.36 pounds. The carbine is the same in all regiments.

Four patterns of saddles were formerly in use, but at the
present time all the cavalry is equipped with the army saddle,
which is made in five sizes to suit horses of different conforma-
tion. The smallest size is issued only for service in South

This saddle consists of a wooden tree with w^ooden arches,
strengthened by iron plates and supported by angle irons.

Figure 76. Front view, mounted German trooper, Dragoons of the




Between the arches is laced a leather seat. To the bars are
attached panels stuffed with wool, and secure by pockets laced
over the fans or ends of the bars.

Figure "jy. Near side view, mounted German trooper, Dragoons of the


The leather saddle-skirts, with knee pads stuffed with hair,
are attached to the arches and also to the wallets, which are
strapped on the front or pommel arch.



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Online LibraryWilliam H. (William Harding) CarterHorses, saddles and bridles → online text (page 10 of 24)