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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

History Malfunction

Above is a not so lovely picture of Minx. Adam - you might want to shield your eyes. The history malfunctions in this picture are almost overwelming. Does anyone else see it?

This is technically a 1904 Mcclellen Saddle. I have not done any riding in it because I don't trust the leather and haven't ordered new parts yet (this saddle is not a repro, it's an original with original leather...). So shall we list the ways?

1. Toklat woolback dressage pad. Not exactly military issue.

2. Easy ride stirrups. Perfectly suited for the calvary rider...although the original wood, hooded stirrups are dang good.

3. Nylon offside latigo. You can the tail of it under Minx's belly. The fact that the near side latigo broke apart in my hand like cardboard really should have told me something :)

4. 1859 girth. A really short western would have worked. All my girths are a 26". I need a 24" or smaller, but I don't have one. It's really a shame that the rings don't come with 2 english billets instead of those latigo straps. The 1904 girth looks much different than the 1859 girth. And yes Adam, I know I could punch more holes in the quarter straps, I'm just lazy :)

5. 1859 surcingle (the big blue strap going around the saddle). A nice strong strap. All my 1859 gear is repro and I trust the leather. If my quarterstraps break, this bad boy would keep my saddle from flying. NEVER NEVER NEVER use a Mcclellen without a surcingle. Modern Western and English saddles have fail safes in case a billet/girth strap breaks. The surcingle is the Mcclellen's safety strap! The fact I had the surcingle is the ONLY reason I even attempted to ride this saddle in the first place!

How to test ride an old saddle:

1. Time to mount up. It says something when you don't trust the stirrup leathers enough to mount from the ground and you need to use the block. In my opinion, this is what arenas are for - testing out questionable tack (I'm sure everyone here is familiar with my fear of arenas/fences by now).

2. 2 laps around the arena at a walk. Everything is going well. I love the close contact feel. Let's try a little trot. Yes, these stirrups work well on this saddle. POP! Mmm....when a stirrup leather breaks and you stay perfectly centered in the saddle, is that a good reflection on my balance?

3. Take of old saddle and replace with synthetic Thorowgood. Continue ride.

So yes, I really really really hoped I wouldn't have to replace all the leather on this saddle (quarter straps, stirrup leathers) but it is not to be. So off to my saddle shop for replacement parts. Later. :) The 1904 was given to me, so I don't have any $$ invested in it right now. The 1859 Mcclellen is fine for now. Once the 1904 is up and running it will probably going to replace my 1859 as my endurance saddle for Minx. It's cooler, lighter, and has a leather covered tree instead of raw hide - handy if you're riding in rain. My 1859 now has a split near a seam because I rode it in a rainy ride. I'll save the 1859 for civil war reenactments and for long trail rides - I find it's easier to pack a lot of stuff on an 1859. Since I won't be reenacting in the 1904 I'm going to ask the saddle maker if he can give me new rings with english billet straps instead of latigos. This will put less bulk under my leg and allow me to use a dressage girth.

On a different note, here is a not so good picture of Minx's feet yesterday: (taken from the front - she slightly toes out on that LF but not to THAT degree!)

I called Renegade up today (decided not to have them cut down my boots after all - I can always cut down later, but can't add back!). They are shipping my boots TODAY! Wow! They have a lot of inventory right now, so if anyone is looking to order, now is the time. I might have them by the end of the week. BTW - Ashley - I let them know you were being a good ambassador for the boots.


  1. Thanks, Mel! I hope they work out well for you!

  2. Yep, I see the malfunctions. :-) If you want to bring it up to spec, it's easier now than ever. What Price Glory is even reproducing the proper issue OD saddleblankets.

    The only thing I'd say on using an original is that the trees tend to run narrow. Really narrow. So be sure to keep an eye on your horse's back. But you don't need me to tell you that! :-)

    I tend to be very careful about putting a McClellan (original or repro) on any horse's back- I've seen too many horses' backs get messed up with these (especially reenactors with too much gear and too little sense).

    Unfortunately, the Maclellan saddle tends to fit some horses perfectly and lot of horses not soo perfectly. I tend to use my 1904 only for short rides. For the heavy-duty stuff, I use the Thoroughgood.

    Good luck! :-)

  3. Just a note- WWII German Army saddles make pretty decent general riding saddles. I use mine for a variety or reenacting activities because they're pretty non-descript and generic.

  4. This standardbred is as narrowest horse I've ever ridden. It is IMPOSSIBLE to ride her barebare more than a very short time. A steeple shaped back and a prominant back bone is not the most comfortable...

    It's nice riding a narrow horse (if you're using a saddle!) because my legs aren't as far apart and I feel like my thigh/hips are in more natural position. I don't get sore like I do on the round barreled Arab.

    I agree with you that I see A LOT of bad fitting Mclellens at reenactmnets. And a lot of white spots when the saddles come off in the evenings. Either your horse is built for a Mcclellen or it's not is my opinion.

  5. Mmm...I'll keep an eye out for one. (re: the WWII German army saddle) I'm a sucker when it comes to historical millitary saddles.

  6. And the best part is that they're relatively cheap- usually in the $300-$400 range. :-) You'll probably have to replace the billets but that shouldn't be a problem.

  7. What do you think about having the latigos replaced with billets on the 1904? I know it isn't period, but I'm not not doing anything post 1863/indian wars right now and it would be easy enough to change back.

    WOW that is cheap!

  8. If I understand correctly, you're going to replace the one-piece cincha rig with English-style billets?

    There's certainly precedent for it- I believe later models of the 1928 McClellan were rigged with Englis-style billets. I'll have to take a look at my Steffen book when I get home from work.

  9. If you get around to it, I'd be curious to see what you find out.

    I do remember seeing a picture. My dad got a book (that i would have picked up had I seen first!) in WY while we were at the national competition that is incredible. I just tried to see if I could look it up on amazon but it's not coming up. It's a large book, hardcover with LOTS of pictures. I'm going to have him bring it with him this weekend (CHAS is having a drivers training at warhorse) and see what I can find too.

    It's a great book, maybe I should do a review of it here. It does a good job with Cavarly, not so good with artillery (in fact, they probably should have just left artillery alone :)

  10. Just in case anyone is dying to turns out that having billets on the side rings instead of latigos was a field modification to the Second Pattern 1904 and was the standard enlisted regulation saddle. :) Adam - did you find out any differently?

  11. ughs.. what sometimes seems like the "never ending" quest for focus, balance and discovery of what saddle and pad and combinations will work.

    but you've got some good history in there for good measure :)

    happy trails


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