Object: Saddle

Cheyenne (Believed to have belonged to Henry Roman Nose)
North America: United States
ca. 1870s
Materials: Wood, leather, sheep skin, metal

Paleontologists have discovered fossils of early horses in North America as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago. However, sometime around 8,000-10,000 years ago horses became extinct in the Americas. Horses were only reintroduced to the American continents in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. The Spanish brought a number of types of horses with them over the years and many of these animals escaped into the wild. These horses are the source of the wild mustang herds that would eventually become so synonymous with the American West. Within roughly a century of being reintroduced to North America, horses were adopted by many Native American tribal groups.

While Native Americans borrowed some horse riding techniques and technology from the Spanish they were also quick to develop their own distinct types of tack. Two of the major types of Native American saddles were the pad saddle, and the wood (or woman’s) saddle. The pad saddle may have been adapted from the Spanish pack saddle and consisted of two leather cushions stuffed with grass or animal hair that were sewn together and  secured to the horse by a leather girth. Some pad saddles had a piece of rawhide between the two pads that would act as a seat for the rider and covered the girth attachments. Stirrups could also be hung from this rawhide strip. This type of saddle was preferred by men for hunting and warfare.  The wood (or woman’s) saddle was made of a wooden frame covered in rawhide and often decorated with beading and fringe. The frame was made of two roughly rectangular pieces of flat wood called sideboards that were connected by two forks of wood that formed the pommel and cantle. The top of each fork was bent outward, away from the rider. The entire frame would then be covered in rawhide, padding was added under the sideboards, and a girth would secure the saddle to the horse. Some wood saddles also had a strip of rawhide attached between the pommel and cantle for the seat, others placed a buffalo robe or blanket over the saddle frame for a more padded seat. This type of saddle was typically used by women. It could also be used to teach young children to ride and was helpful for attaching packs and materials to the horse for transport. One variation of the wood saddle is the so called “prairie chicken snare saddle.” This type may have been a modification of the wood saddle and appears to have been developed later. In this type of saddle the sideboards and girth were the same as that of the wood saddle. However, the pommel and cantle were formed out of elk or deer antlers and some had D-shaped flaps attached to facilitate attaching packs. This type of saddle was a multipurpose type that was used by older men, children and some women as a riding and pack saddle.

This saddle at the Sam Noble Museum is a variation of the wood saddle type and is reported to have belonged to Henry Roman Nose. Roman Nose (aka Woquini meaning “Hook Nose”) was born in 1856 and became a formidable Cheyenne warrior. In 1875 he was arrested along with other warring Cheyennes at the agency at Darlington. After his arrest he was sent to Ft. Marion in St. Augustine, Florida where he learned English. He was later moved to Virginia where he converted to Christianity and was baptized as Henry Caruthers Roman Nose. He learned tinsmith at a boarding school in Pennsylvania before returning to his homeland in 1881, eventually settling in Blaine County, OK. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

1 Response to “Object: Saddle”

  1. 1 Chantal Chuba (@chantalchuba) November 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

    does anybody have information on what the wooden piece in front of/underneath the horn is?

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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