- A seat of leather, with or without a horn and cantle, which was secured
to the horse's back. Indian saddles were of two general types - the
pad saddle and the frame saddle. While all mounted Indians had some
form of saddle, in hunting buffalo and for battle the Indian usually rode
bareback. The pad saddle was commonly used by indians of the northern
Plains and those living west of the Rockies. Made of two pieces of
soft tanned hide sewed together and stuffed with hair or grass it was really
little more than a stuffed pillow, held on with a rawhide cinch and having
short stirrups. On horse stealing expeditions Indians often carried
with them empty pads to be stuffed with grass and used after the horses
had been stolen. This type of saddle was popular with the Blackfoot,
Nez Percé, Atsina, Mandan, Assiniboin, and Hidatsa.
Some Indians, mainly the Ute, Crow, and
Shoshoni, were partial to what is termed the "frame saddle." The
frame usually was of cottonwood, shaped and covered with green rawhide
which held the parts tightly together after it had dried and shrunk.
This saddle had two horns or pommels, one before and one behind, both ten
or more inches high. The seat of hide was swung hammock like between
the bow and the cantle.
This type of saddle resembled the Moorish
saddle used by the Spanish conquistadores, but though it was used in the
Southwest by the Navajo and others, it is believed the Indians developed
it independently. Among the Blackfoot and other tribes this was strictly
a woman's saddle, although much the same type was used as a pack saddle.
Another type of frame saddle had a low arched
pommel and cantle made of elk or deer horn. It was used by the Comanche,
Cheyenne, Arapaho, Dakota, Cree, and also the Assiniboin, Mandan, and Blackfoot.
The elk or deer horn was cut and bent to resemble an inverted "Y" and attached
to the side bars before and behind, the prongs of the horn lashed to the
bars on either side and the whole covered with green rawhide. Some
such saddles had a pommel of deer or elk horn to which the lariat was attached.
All saddles were attached with a single
cinch, or girth, made of a strip of hide or woven hair. A special
ornamental saddle blanket was used by women among the Dakota, Ute, Crow,
and Shoshoni, but most saddle blankets used with frame saddles were composed
of two or three folds of soft dressed buffalo hide.
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