Saddles, bridles, bits, saddle pads, wraps , bandages, boots, horse shoes….all of these have been subject to experiment over the years. For this weeks Word Press Challenge ‘Experimental’ I will focus on saddles and bits. Let’s start with bits. Here is a photo from the Museum of London; a display of bits from the Medieval era. The bit at the top is a snaffle bit and below is a type of curb bit.
With experimentation over the years the bits have been modified and improved. Now the materials used to make the bits are much more horse friendly and comfortable in the horse’s mouth. In dressage, which is my discipline, in the higher levels we ride with what is known as a ‘double bridle’. This consists of two bits, a snaffle and a curb, with reins attached to each bit. The curb is a single, non jointed bit, sometimes a rounded port in the middle, and sometimes just a straight bar. The snaffle , which is called a Bridoon when it is part of a double bit, is jointed in the middle and sometimes will have a small lozenge shaped piece to join the two parts of the bit. Here is a photo of Biasini in a double bridle. His curb does not have a port and just has a slight curve. The snaffle or Bridoon has a small lozenge in the middle. It took me quite a lot of experimenting to find the combination that worked best for him.
Saddles! There has been a lot of experimenting with saddles. Here is a saddle from the 15th Century. Doesn’t look too comfortable to me!
Saddles have benefited from experimentation and now the array of different styles and shapes is considerable. This is a photo of English hunter-jumper saddles. Western saddles would be a whole other range of styles.
The panels of English saddles have traditionally been stuffed with wool but there have been experiments with filling the panels with air (which is fine until a panel deflates in the middle of a competition!) and with various high tech foams. But I have noticed that there has recently been a return to traditional wool stuffing. There are also many different styles of saddles, especially in dressage; deeper seats, bigger thigh blocks, smaller thigh blocks, different positions of billets etc. etc. etc.
A great deal of experimenting has gone into the manufacture of these saddles and if you can read the price tag in this photo you can tell it has not come cheaply!
If you would like to see the other responses to this week’s challenge click here.