History of the Saddle
Of course, most of you know about saddles, what they are used for, how to secure them, and may even be experts are choosing the proper saddle for horse and rider alike, along with recommendations as to who delivers the best quality of workmanship. Horses aren’t the only ones wearing them, but they are definitely the saddle-makers’ best customers. But, how many of you could describe the history of these useful articles? Where does this important piece of equipment come from?
Some believe that a mere blanket, attached with some form of girth-length material, was the first type of saddle used. This is definitely logical, as horse riders may have been quite fed up of the damage to their clothes and the light pain to their skin they had to endure while riding, and searched for a solution. A blanket is an obvious choice, and some people still use this when they wish to ride bare but won’t accept the pain of skin-to-fur contact.
Humans rode horses bareback for thousands of years before saddles were invented – surely immediately after this gorgeous wild beast was domesticated, so around 4000 BC. The furthest documented saddles were probable fringed pieces of cloth, and started showing up around 700 BC. As with anything else, though, this newfound but now necessary piece of equipment became a way to show off status by adding gold, jewels, elaborate details and showmanship.
Surprisingly, nomads were the first to design a saddle with a frame and make it more solid by adding details, such as the girth, a pommel and cantle, leather thongs, a crupper, a breastplate and a shabrack. They are believed to be form around 500 BC as per dating specialists.
Several others followed suit, each and everyone developing their own type, but all having very similar designs due to the shape of the horse and the type of security and comfort needed. However, the Han dynasty of China, around 200 BC, were the first to design a model that were made of material covering a wood frame. In the West, the Romans were the first to create the four horn saddle, which was solidified with wood as well. This sort of saddle greatly improved comfort for both horse and rider because it properly distributes the rider’s weight instead of having the person’s seat bones digging into the horse’s back. This also allowed the creation of the stirrups which would have otherwise been useless, since the pressure would’ve been entirely concentrated on the horse’s sides. Of course, this was a major milestone for the saddle as it promoted a very large level of security for riders.
However, most other major developments came about during the Middle Ages, since the need for comfort during war with an excess of weight due to armor and weapons made the regular saddle known to them useless. A higher cantle and pommel allowed the rider to be more secure in the seat and a stronger wood frame permitted to carry a heavier weight.
Eventually, during modern times, a three-point saddle was created for dressage riders and cowboys needed their own design as well. Other cultures continued developing the saddle to what it is known nowadays. Those that needed to jump had to change the level of the cantle and pommel; lowering them allowed for more movement. The flap was also created to allow the rider to lean closer to the horse for jumping.