Thursday, October 20, 2016


Below you'll find an excerpt from The Handy Horse Book ©1867 This book is great for tidbits on how the animals were looked at during the 19th century. In most cases you'll find that horses were considered tools in much the same way we consider a car today. They had extreme value and were a very important part of people's lives during the 19th century. Here's a tidbit about saddling a horse.

A Saddle should be made to fit the horse for which it is intended, and requires as much variation in shape, especially in the stuffing, as there is variety in the shapes of horses' backs.* An animal may be fairly shaped in the back, and yet a saddle that fits another horse will always go out on this one's withers. The saddle having been made to fit your horse, let it be placed gently upon him, and shifted till its proper berth be found. When in its right place, the action of the upper part of the shoulder-'blade should be quite free from any confinement or pressure by what saddlers call the " gullet" of the saddle under the pommel when the animal is in motion. It stands to reason that any interference with the action of the shoulder-blade must, after a time, indirectly if not directly, cause a horse to falter in his movement.

N.B.—A horse left in the stable with his saddle on, with or without a bridle, ought always to have his head fastened up, to prevent his lying down on the saddle .and injuring it.

Girths.—When girthing a horse, which is always done upon the near or left-hand side, the girth should be first drawn tightly towards you under the belly of the horse, so as to bring the saddle rather to the off side on the back of the beast. This is seldom done by grooms ; and though a gentleman is not supposed to girth his horse, information on this as well as on other points may happen to be of essential service to him; for the consequence of the attendant's usual method is, that when the girths are tightened up, the saddle, instead of being in the centre of the horse's back, is inclined to the near or left-hand side, to which it is still farther drawn by the act of mounting, so that when a man has mounted he fancies that one stirrup is longer than the other—the near-side stirrup invariably the longest. To remedy this he forces down his foot in the right stirrup, which brings the saddle to the centre of the animal's back.

All this would be obviated by care being taken, in the process of girthing, to place the left hand on the middle of the saddle, drawing the first or under girth with the right hand till the girth-holder reaches the buckle, the left hand being then disengaged to assist in bracing up the girth. The outer girth must go through the same process, being drawn under the belly of the horse from the off side tightly before it is attached to the girth-holder.

With ladies' saddles most particular attention should be paid to the girthing.

(It must be observed that, with some horses having the knack of swelling themselves out during the process of girthing, the girths may be tightened before leaving the stable so as to appear almost too tight, but which, when the horse has been walked about for ten minutes, will seem comparatively loose, and quite so when the rider's weight is placed in the saddle.)

Stirrup-Irons should invariably be of wrought steel. A man should never be induced knowingly to ride in a cast-metal stirrup, any more than he ought to attempt to do so with a cast-metal bit.

Stirrup-irons should be selected to suit the size of the rider's foot; those with two or three narrow bars at the bottom are decidedly preferable, for the simple reason, that in cold weather it is a tax on a man's endurance to have a single broad bar like an icicle in the ball of his foot, and in wet weather a similar argument may apply as regards damp ; besides, with the double bar, the foot has a better hold in the stirrup, the rings being, of course, indented (rasp-like), as they usually are, to prevent the foot from slipping in them.

This description of stirrup, with an instep-pad, is preferable for ladies to the slipper, which is decidedly obsolete.
Latchford's* ladies' patent safety stirrup seems to combine every precaution for the security of fair equestrians.
A balance-strap to a side-saddle is very desirable, and in general use.

Where expense is no object, stirrups that open at the side with a spring are, no doubt, the safest for gentlemen in case of any accident.

With regard to Stirrup-Leathers, saddlers generally turn the right or dressed side out for appearance ; but as the dressing causes a tightness on that side of the leather, the undressed side, which admits of more expansion, should be outside—because, after a little wear, the leather is susceptible of cracks, and the already extended side will crack the soonest. The leather will break in the most insidious place, either in the D under the stirrup-iron, where no one but the servant who cleans it can see it; or else, perhaps, where the buckle wears it under the flap of the saddle. Stirrupleathers broken in this manner have caused many accidents.

Invariably adjust your stirrup-leathers before mounting.
To measure the length of the stirrup-leathers of a new saddle, place the fingers of the right hand against the bar to which the leathers are attached, and, measuring from the bottom bar of the stirrup up to the armpit, make the length of the leathers and stirrups equal to the length of your arm, from the tips of the fingers to the armpit. Before entering the field, in hunting or crossing country, draw up the leathers two or three holes shorter on each side; and when starting on a long journey it is as well to do the same, to ease both yourself and your bearer.

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