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1870 - 1880’s HALF SEAT TEXAS SADDLE – AS USED ON THE EARLY WESTERN FRONTIER BY CATTLEMEN, HUNTERS AND IMMIGRANTS – A SCARCE EXAMPLE IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  This is a scarce example of a ca. 1870 - 1880’s “Texas Saddle” which has survived in very nice condition, and it is a striking example of one of the true stock saddle patterns ridden by the cattlemen, buffalo hunters and immigrants in Texas and throughout the Western Frontier.  Under appreciated by modern militaria collectors is the historical fact that saddles of this style were also popular with army officers in the West.  Being free to purchase their own horse equipment, more than a few frontier serving officers were influenced by their exposure to cattlemen and the hunters pursuing the buffalo herds, and opted to ride one of the many styles of saddles popular on the frontier, including the Texas Saddle.  

The famous “Hope” Saddle, created by the Hope Brothers of Washington County, Texas in the 1830’s, quickly became a popular and enduring standard which continued to have considerable influence the on the characteristics of the saddles which were developed in the post-Civil War West.  This saddle retains features from that earlier design while incorporating some of the gradual changes which began to appear in the 1870’s and would lead to the prominent features of the saddles which would emerge from the saddle makers benches in the late 1880’s.   

This Texas Saddle retained the half seat built on a rawhide covered tree.  The front half of the seat, including the horn and the upper pommel fork, is not covered with finished leather. The horn still retains a flat, low profile, which had not yet developed into the higher slender horns designed for roping which would appear in the 1890’s.  The saddle is fitted with the Samstag rigging with the straps looped around the horn – a rigging style which became popular in the mid-1860’s.  This saddle features a second set of girth rings – “double rigged” – a development which began to be more common on Texas Saddles after the Civil War.  The “double rigging” provided the additional flank cinch which served to stabilize the saddle and prevent it from tipping forward when roping cattle. 

The seat retains the flat unpadded seat, characteristic of the Hope Saddle, rather than the later seat designs which had a distinct rising slope up the forks of the pommel.  Departing from the lower cantle on the Hope Saddle, this saddle has a higher profile “Cheyenne” cantle, which provided a deeper seat.

The stirrup straps attach to the tree through slots in the two side bars, and each strap features free sliding sweat leathers (or fenders).  The stirrup straps are full length, very strong and appear to be original to the saddle.  The two matching iron stirrups are fitted with leather hoods, the leather matching that used to dress out the seat of the saddle.  The iron stirrup frames appear to be from the same period as the balance of the saddle, and would have been far more durable than wood frame stirrups – an important consideration when traveling through rough country long distances from where replacements for a broken stirrup could be obtained.  This pair of stirrups is very interesting in that they incorporate a feature which appeared during the Civil War – that is the leather hoods which have had the center of the front cut out to allow the rider’s boot to seat deeper in the stirrup for a more secure purchase on the stirrup tread.  This modification was quite common during the war and was the result of a narrow tread stirrup being shrouded in a close fitting hood prevented the rider from setting his boot deep in the stirrup. 

Full square cornered skirts are attached to the underside of the tree, protecting the horse from the two large girth rings on each side.  There are smaller jockeys – rounded profile on the front of the saddle and square cornered behind the cantle – set over the larger underskirts.  There is a third jockey on each side which spans the space along side the seat between the front and rear jockeys to protect the rider’s legs from rubbing against the stirrup straps.  The edges of the jockeys, skirts, and sweat leathers are stamped with a very simple matching geometric design.   

The rawhide covered tree is strong with no movement or loosening and the seams of the covering are intact.  The rawhide covering has a beautiful aged color, and is strong and intact throughout, with the exception of the rawhide that once covered the horn.  The rawhide is still present around the neck of the horn and under the rigging straps, but has been worn away above the rigging – likely the result of the cowboy resting his hands on the pommel and the friction caused by the dallies he took with his rope around the neck of the horn.  Nothing more than honest wear and evidence of years tending his cattle on the open range.    

The Sam Stag rigging is fully intact, with strong, pliable straps and they depend down to the large iron girthing rings on both sides.  The straps are decorated with silver colored conchos and leather discs.  Full length girthing straps are present on all four girthing rings. 

The leather half seat is in excellent condition - fully intact with no splits, tears or weak points, and it retains a bright shiny smooth surface.   

The square cornered skirts are original to the saddle and have survived in remarkable condition.  While showing the expected evidence of use that comes with having been ridden over countless miles, the skirts are full form.  The surfaces of the skirts and jockeys still hold a nice shine, the border edge stamping is still legible, and the leather is pliable.  Accompanying the saddle is an original period girth which was attached to the girthing straps when I acquired the saddle - a nice added value which is seldom found with these early saddles.   

Overall, this Texas Saddle is a very attractive specimen, and as noted above, this is a historically accurate representative specimen of the saddles in use on the frontier in the years following the Civil War.  If subjected to extended use and poor storage, saddles of this vintage simply did not survive in significant numbers, and that this one exists in such high condition is not only remarkable, but it is a rare opportunity to add a true early Western Frontier saddle to your collection.  (0826)  $1500 



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