Before saddles, early horseman would ride bareback, whether it was for travel or even riding into battle. Horses were a crucial part of life, so although people rode bareback for centuries the invention of the saddle can be traced back as far as 365 AD.
The First Saddles for Horses
The invention of the saddle is credited to the Alans, who were closely related to the Massagetae, a nomadic people heavily reliant on horses. They were founded under North Caucasus and occupied many lands including what is today known as Iran, but they also spread as far as the Mediterranean, the Middle East and China. Their influence in the Gothic Wars can be seen in the role played by their excellent horsemen in the sack of Rome.
Western saddles (or as they were known then, Moorish), the most commonly used saddles today, come from an early version developed by the Spanish known as the Vaquero’s working saddle. This was eventually evolved again to include features which would fulfil the needs of life in the Old West like roping cattle. The horn was added by cattle handlers in Mexico who used it when herding their cattle. Even if it is not used for this function today it is still a feature of classic Western saddles for horses.
Western Saddles for Horses
The basis of Western saddles is a ‘tree’, usually wood based, which is then wrapped in leather or a similar material. A bearing surface was soon provided to reduce the riding strain on the horse and to evenly distribute the rider’s weight across the animal’s back. This change meant that horse riding was not only more agreeable but that the saddle made the experience more comfortable and enjoyable for both the horse and the rider.
Many different variations of the saddle now exist, depending on the purpose they are meant to fulfil; for example:
· Roping saddle – Allows for a quick dismount thanks to a sturdy saddle and a reinforced horn for secure roping.
· Endurance saddle – Lightweight in nature, these horse saddles often do not have a horn, but rather have a tree that spreads the weight across more of the horse’s back and its stirrups are farther forward to allow for a dismount at higher speeds.
· Trail saddle – These saddles for horses are built with long journeys and the rider’s comfort in mind. They are well fit for the horse, with deep padded seats made for covering long distances at slower speeds.