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MODEL 1912 ENLISTED MAN’S TRIAL SADDLE – AN EXCELLENT SPECIMEN OF A RARE US ARMY SADDLE:  It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to offer an uncommon and especially historic piece of US Army Ordnance equipment, and that is certainly true in this instance.  This Model 1912 Enlisted Man’s Trial Service Saddle is a rare offering, one that is seldom available on the open market, and certainly will be a notable addition to even the most advanced collection.   

As one of the evolutions in the series of saddle trials and development undertaken by the Ordnance Department during the early 20th Century, the timely approval and issue of the Model 1912 Trial Saddles to a number of regular army cavalry units for testing in the field coincidently as the deteriorating political situation in Mexico threatened the security of the southern border of the United States, guaranteed the trial equipments’ place in US military history.  Designated in 1912 as the model name suggests, and developed, manufactured and made available for issue by 1916, the majority of the cavalry units that Gen. Black Jack Pershing led south across the border in March of that year on his “Punitive Expedition” were mounted on the Model 1912 Trial Saddles. 

The months spent in Mexico provided the opportunity for such personalities as Pershing, Patton, Eisenhower and a host of others to not only hone their military skills, but unknowingly begin their assent onto the world stage to fulfill the roles they would play during the following thirty to forty years. 

This happenstance of timing, and the association with such famous personalities, secured for the Model 1912 Horse Equipments what may have been an otherwise unattainable niche in Ordnance Department history.  It is with no small sense of pride that I tell you that my paternal grandfather, then a 1st Sergeant in the 7th Cavalry Regiment, very likely sat a Model 1912 Service Saddle as he rode with Pershing’s column south across the border in 1916.   

This Model 1912 Service Saddle has survived the years in remarkable condition.  The leather surfaces retain an overall smooth, polished finish, with a minimum of wear visible, and most importantly, all of the seams are intact.  The seat and skirts have an even finish and color with no discoloration or stains.  Both sets of skirts and jockeys are full form with no loss along the edges as is so often seen on saddles having been exposed to heavy use or the elements.  The seat size brass plate is present on the crest of the cantle, the three foot loops are present on the underside of the cantle shelf, and both box rings are present on the pommel.   

The four original girth straps are present and supple, and all are full length.  The rear girth strap on the left side is stamped “R.I.A.”, identifying this saddle as having been made at Rock Island Arsenal, and it is dated “1914” – a very desirable early date.    

The side bar hinges are all intact and function properly.  The sidebars both retain the original leather end caps and all four still have a bright, smooth finish to the leather.  The pads on the underside of the sidebars are present, but do show the expected signs of wear from use and storage.    

The special stirrup hangers, introduced with this model, are both intact and both safety catches function properly.  The original stirrup straps are present and are full length, retaining the numeral position stamps at each hole.  The original Model 1912 Stirrups retain their proper darkened finished as is correct for the Enlisted Man’s saddle and both are maker marked and stamped “US”.   

Courtesy of the Society of the Military Horse, I have been made aware of a document authored by a Colonel of Ordnance at the Rock Island Arsenal.  While undated, based on the content, the document is believed to have been written circa 1918 and the colonel reported the total manufacture of Model 1912 Service Saddles was limited to 8983.   

It is not an overstatement to regard this offering of an original Model 1912 Enlisted Man’s Saddle in this excellent condition as a rare offering.  Saddles of this rarity and condition quite often pass quietly from one collection into another, never reaching the open market.  SOLD



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