Monday, December 15, 2014

War bridle - Robert Jennings

long time  I wrote about the Comanche war bridle, I recently found some description of its usage and application in a book titled ''Horse-training Made Easy: Being a New and Practical System'' Robert Jennings (published in 1866 by Potter and Company in Philadelphia, USA).

the whole book is available via


Friday, December 12, 2014

Horses the Polonians ''adorne with rich Furres and skinnes'

back in the saddle again, so to speak, and let me start with a little excerpt from Fynes Moryson, that is from his rather merry recounting of his travels across Europe and Turkey, in this framgnet he is telling us his observations about Polish Kingdom and the inhabitants, i.e., Polonians -
Shakespeare’s Europe. Unpublished chapters of Fynes Moryson’s Itinerary Being a Survey of the Condition of Europe at the end of the 16th Century. edited by Charles Hughes, London 1903. p 83.  

The Polonians are a warlike nation, valiant, and actiue, but 
all their strength consists in their horse, whereof they haue so 
great number, as some affirme they can bring a hundred thou- 
sand horse into the feild, and one Prouince of Lituania, can 
bring 70 thousand, and king Stephen in the last age had 40. 
thousandmin his Army. Of these horsmen, some are called 
Hussari,mwho are armed with long speares, a sheild, a Carbine 
or short gunn, and two short swords, one by the horsmans syde, 
the other fastned vnder the left syde of his sadle. The light 
horsmen called Cosachi are armed with short swords, Jauelin, 
bowes and arrowes, and a Coat of maile and the whole Country 
of Poland being playne, this great body of horsmen must needs 
be a powerfull strength to the kingdome. The horses are of 
small stature, but of no lesse agility, then those of the Turkes 
and singuler in boldnes for any seruice of warr. Yet are they 
all made Gueldens; And the gentlemen are not prouder of any 
thing, then of their horses and horsmanshipp professing to 
weare long garments, as Commodious for horsmen, that they 
may cast their vpper garment vppon their horses when they 
are heated with running. And for this Cause many haue their 
bridles (Which are alwayes snafles by Which the horses are 
easily turned) sett with studds of gold or siluer, sometymes 
having gold Chaynes, and like ornaments at the cares of their 
horses, and Commonly paynting the mayne and taile yea the 
whole body, excepting the back of their horses with light 
Coulors, as Carnation and the like, therein seeming ridiculous, 
that whereas art imitates nature, these Coulors are such as are 
most vnnaturall for horses. They haue guilded stirropps as 
also spurrs which are some handfull long at the heele. Not 
only soldiers but Ambassadors and their gentlemen, haue the 
hinder part of their horse couered with the wings of an Eagle, 
or skinn of a Tyger, or leopard or some like ornament, either 
for beauty, or to seeme more terrible, as in generall all haue 
them couered, some lesse, some more richly. The Polonian 
horsmen restraine the incursions of the feirce Tartars, and 
seeme so bold to the Turkes, as they haue no hart to invade 
Neither can the Moscouites indure their assault, how- 
soeuer for feare of their Tyrant, they must be prodigall of their 
bloud. The Polonians haue no care to fortify Cittyes professing 
nothing more to be disgracefull then to fly from their enemyes, 
and vaunting to defend their Country with their owne brests, 
not with walled Townes which they lesse desyre to fortify lest 
their kings should vsurpe power ouer them by giving the 
keepingnof such places to their deuoted seruants.
 Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary Containing His Ten Yeeres Travell
through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland,
Netherland, Denmarke, Poland, Italy, Turky, France, England, Scotland
& Ireland. edited by Charles Hugher. Glasgow 1908.  v.4, p. 68.

       Poland aboundeth with beasts, aswell wild as tame, and yeeldeth excellent horses, not great, but quicke and stirring. Neither doe the Gentlemen more delight in any thing, then in their horses, so as they hang gold chaines and Jewels at their eares, and paint them halfe over with exquisite colours, but in that uncomely, that they are not naturall for horses, as the Carnatian colour, and their hinder parts they adorne with rich Furres  and skinnes of Lions and Leopards and the like, aswell to terrifie their enemies, as to adorne and beautifie their horses.        

 original spelling as in the Moryson's writings

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kurz Journal - p. 4

last day of November 2014, so a little recollection by Mr. Kurz during his adventures in the United States (this time 1850 summer and 1851)
First, our author bought yet another horse, he named her Fashion:

'On August 7 I bought a dainty black mare with white feet —
all four white.
She is a genuine mustang. What a joy to wander
about the forest, where Fashion carries me to distances I could
not otherwise accomplish and so widens the sphere of my observa-
tions. With Fashion's aid I have been able to visit often the
Hundred-and-Two River (so named because it is said to be 102 miles
long), to bathe in its clear waters, to sketch groups of trees on its
shores that are hardly surpassed by those on the Cahokia.'

then Mr Kurz met the Potawatomis, who had been forced to migrate to Kansas from the Old Northwest:

''Potawatomi fromKansas and those on the land known as the
"PlattePurchase" visited one another frequently, I made sketches
of some of them and, in exchange, furnished the young fellows with
10-cent pieces of rods out of which they make arrows for the
hunting season.

'At 20 feet they hit small objects with great accuracy; at a greater
distance the least movement of the air may exert an adverse effect.
At 100 feet they fly the arrows with great skill but can not be sure
of piercing the heart of the animal.'

Later that autumn of 1850 Kurz decided to invest in horses and the following story developed:
''In the autumn newspapers began to publish articles about a plan
that was being considered by the United States Government, in con-
nection with the highway to California and Oregon, to enter into
negotiations with the Indian tribes concerned and for that purpose to
invite the most notable men among them to a conference next sum-
mer at Fort Laramie. At once it occurred to me that I might enjoy
an agreeable adventure and at the same time make it profitable
if I would occasionally buy good horses, ride about the country on
horseback, sell the animals at a profit next spring at Salt Lake, then,
on my return, attend, if possible, that most interesting assembly at
Fort Laramie and witness the signing of the treaty.
Then, of course, horses declined in value. I lost a great deal of
money. The cost of feeding the animals was out of proportion to
the amount their work brought me. I was too fond of them and
spent too much taking care of them.

One misfortune after another induced me to sell the horses and
give up the idea of going to Salt Lake.
First, I suffered the loss
of an excellent mare that I lent to an acquaintance who wished to
attend a Christmas ball at Rochester. After he had run a race on
a bet, after the manner of Americans, and over a rough, frozen road,
he left my fine animal standing in front of a public house all in a
sweat and without the protection of a blanket. In spite of all efforts
to save her, the mare died from pneumonia. I suffered another
mishap in a pasture where I allowed my four horses to exercise on
a beautiful March day. A boy took great delight in playing tricks
on the spirited animals and, to give himself further amusement, set
a dog on them just to see them run an extended course. Having
become once frightened, they did not stop running for several miles,
until they were far into the forest. After a long search I came up
with them at last but, as I drew nearer, calling gently to them, and
w'as sure of getting hold of at least one of them, Avhinnying, they
turned abruptly about, extended their legs, shook their manes and,
in a trice, had disappeared from view.
For the reason that Lily, one of my mares, appeared to be going
in the direction of the place where she had been bred, I thought I
should find all of them next morning at her old home. So early
in the day I hired a horse and rode over there, through a region
that was unfamiliar to me. My road, a most romantic one, led
through a magnificent forest, over two beautiful streams, and across
a waste. Not a trace of my horses anywhere ! Then I remained at
home two days, hoping that my runaways might be induced by
hunger to return or else that some news might come to me concern-
ing their whereabouts. But they did not return. No news came.
On the fifth day after their flight I hired another horse and rode
to the place where two other mares of mine had been bred, i. e., to
the "Round Prairie" on the high road to Fort Kearney near Newark.
There, fully 9 miles from the city, I heard specifically that they had
been seen. Fortunately, they had kept together and were so wild
and spirited that no one could catch them; otherwise I should cer-
tainly have lost one or the other. A young farmer who had seen
the two colts and knew the range of their earlier pasture mounted
his horse and helped me trace them. For several hours we followed
them from one farm to another. It was perfectly evident that they
wanted to play with their former companions and were searching
for them, and as the brutes went visiting around in their old neigh-
borhood and tarried here and there with their former playmates
we drew constantly nearer.

Still following the trace we came, late in the evening, into the
highroad again, where dust made it impossible any longer to dis-
tinguish their tracks.

Well, I spent the night in Newark. Next morning, the sixth day
of their "spree," I was up with the sun to follow any trace I might
find on the highway. Over a wide stretch I searched but could find
neither on the right nor on the left any tracks made by sixteen feet.
I did find a place beside the road where they had lain down together,
but on what night? That was a puzzle too difficult for my wits to
solve. My only possible clue was fresh dung. After breakfast I
mounted my hired pad with the intention of going home, hoping that
my straying animals would instinctively return, finally, to the place
where they had received good nurture and rich forage. Upon my
inquiry at a farm on the highway I was told that toward sunset the
previous evening four horses — according to the description, they
must be mine — were seen prancing along the way in the direction of

A little farther on, where the road from Marysville branches off
from the highroad to Fort Kearney, I heard from a countryman
living there that during the night four horses wanted to rest on the
straw lying in front of his fence, that the roan mare (my Bet) had
already lain down but, for fear that their presence might tempt his
own beasts to break out, he had driven them away. Which way they
went he did not know.

"Home, of course, to their own comfortable stalls," I said to myself.

I rode rapidly back to Savannah in happy expectation. There I
found no trace of my runaways' return. So, after I had eaten, I
had to mount a fresh horse and renew the search. Following my
latest clue, I rode until the evening in all directions, through forest
and over plain, without result. Vexed and tired, I returned to the
Savannah road. Suddenly I was aroused from my ill-humored
reverie by hearing some one call out as I was passing a farm,
"Hulloa, Dutchman!" Turning my head, I saw a man sitting on
his fence. He called out again, "Look here ! Are them your
horses?" Sure enough, there they were, evidently half -starved.
There was no grass. At best, they could only have fed on tender
buds just appearing on the shrubs. Besides, they had been racing
about the country without rest.
Several hours earlier, the man said, those hungry horses had
stopped at his fence, cast longing looks toward his stacks of corn,
and then made known their desires by an eager neighing. He took
them in, because he had heard that I was searching for them. The
birds were caught, to be sure, but I had trouble still to get them in
hand. So wildly they ran about, so persistently parried our efforts
on every hand, that I thought they must be possessed with the devil.

Finally we got them in a corner and held them in fear by cracking
a whip until I had bridled them. I saddled the filly, because she
remained uncontrollable longer than the others. Then I paid the
man for his assistance and set out home on a gallop. Never in my 
life have I ridden as fast; the horses seemed really running a race
with one another to see which could reach home first. I thought
I should he jerked off the saddle.

I had hardly got my team of four in good condition again when
they ran away with me and plunged with the vehicle down a hill.
To practice driving a four-in-hand and to accustom the horses to
that mode of traveling I took drives every day in the vicinity. I
got excellent practice on the usual American roads, for they abounded
in stumps, steep slopes, and many running streams, but to learn
how to manage with sloughs, ditches, narrow passes, curves, and
the turning of corners I chose the forest road to Nodaway Island,
to the Hundred-and-Two, and along the Little Platte River, all the
way out to the parade ground. The horses pulled so well together,
traveled with such uniform gait, were so instantly responsive to
the rein, always stood so quietly when halted, backed without plung-
ing, trotted so well without need of the whip, and the roan mare
proved such an excellent lead horse, I was planning with much
pleasure to take a journey with them to Deseret.

In April I drove alone to St. Joseph to talk over plans for the
journey with my future traveling companion. On my return, about
3 miles from Savannah, the offside horse cast a shoe on her left rear
foot. I stopped immediately, for she seemed to be limping. Since
no one was there to take the reins, I threw them lightly on the seat
cushion and went to examine the hoof. In spite of the care I took,
stroking her soothingly and speaking gently, the instant I attempted
to raise her foot she gave a leap and off and away all of them went
over stock and stone, up hill and down dale, as if in a mad pursuit.
I tried at once to seize the bridle rein of the lead horse but, in run-
ning, I stumbled over a stump and fell. When I got up I saw the
vehicle plunging on — here a cushion hurled away, there my cloak.
"Adieu, je t'ai vu!" I thought. "Confound it all!'

I ran after them, of course, as fast as I could. I had an idea
that they were stuck fast in the forest. Sure enough, below the
first hill, I found Bet wallowing in the dust, trying to get free
from the harness and the long lines that were wound about her.
Having set her free, I ordered her to get up. She could hardly
stand ! She was trembling in every limb and spread her feet wide
apart for fear of falling. She had lost her head entirely. I led
her away from the road and tied her tight and fast at a spot where
there was grass; then I went in search of the others. About a
hundred feet farther on I found Lily, Bet's companion, standing,
bewildered, in the road.

Aside from a wound in her left rear shank, inflicted, most likely,
by the jDole, she had suffered no injury. I swung myself lightly
upon her back and went on after the two shaft horses and the hack.
I found them at the top of the hist steep hill as one approaches
Savannah. Fortunately they could go no farther; they had hardly
come out alive from the creek below. The two horses were caught
in some bushes and the vehicle was jammed against a tree. The
horse on the right had thrown her hind leg over the pole and was
evidently forced to stop. The vehicle had most probably been car-
ried on until it was held fast by striking the tree trunk.

I disentangled the beasts from their harness to see what damage
had been done. Lily had suffered no injury — was only lamed. The
hack could stand on its wheels, to be sure, but many screws were
gone. I went back to bring Bet, the cushion, and my cloak. Then,
having harnessed Lily and the colt together, I led them slowly home.
The horses had to be cared for and doctored ; the vehicle and harness
had to be mended.   
Finally, at the end of April I was ready for my journey; my
wagon was provided with a canvas top and provisioned with zwie-
bach, smoked meat, butter, eggs, sugar, tea, cooking and drinking
utensils, oats and corn meal for the horses, a saddle, a double-bar-
reled shotgun, a hunting knife, and four 30-foot cords with iron pins.
The last-named were to be used for tying the horses.

My intended companion on the journey, a young American, was
to wait in St. Joseph and be ready to set out with me on the first
of May. Notwithstanding that he had detained me with his prom-
ises to go, Steiner refused, when I arrived in St. Joseph, to con-
sider taking the trip. He had not the means, he said, to provide his
own personal outfit. Now, I had asked nothing more of him than
that he bring his own provisions, and, in return for his seat in my
wagon, that he look after the vehicle on the journey, while I took
care of the horses.

A fine predicament! To travel with four horses and a wagon
alone was not to be considered, for both team and vehicle would
have to be constantly guarded. To find another trustworthy per-
son to go with me could not be done at once. Therefore, my grand
display with four-in-hand came to a sudden end. I determined
to sell both wagon and team. But now, when I wanted a purchaser,
nobody would buy. Earlier, when I did not wish to part with my
horses, I had many advantageous offers.

May 9. Lily and the colt sold in Weston. Bet placed on a farm
so that she may grow strong again. Such a fine mare one is justified
in giving the best attention ; she will certainly bring $60 more. The
wagon and harness as well as the large mare, Landy, left behind
to be sold, so that on my return I shall have some funds. Trip to
Salt Lake and Fort Laramie given up''
 ...thus ended this horse story

another tribal warriors of the Old Northwest - the Winnebago painted by Charles Deas during the 1840s


Friday, November 28, 2014

Napoleonic bridles and horse soldiers as seen by François Gérard

a day after the great feast of Thanksgiving calls for something special in the history of horse art and war horse, so perhaps the grand work by master François Gérard who witnessed the Age of Napoleon would give us this 'grandeur.' (notwithstanding the fact that the Emperor was one of the great destroyers of war horses in history).
The French victory at Austerlitz was painted by many an artist, but the rendering of this moment of cavalry glorious return from their victorious charge as depicted by monsieur Gerard allows us to do a little viewing of the period tack and horse, and horse soldiers of the Imperial Guard,  Their their famous charge that 'let the ladies of Saint Petersburg weep ' left for the other artists to paint.
Naturally the Emperor of the French first :)  
In the center of the canvass we see  the commander of the famous charge, Napoleon's  ADC general Jean Rapp reporting the victory to the Emperor and his staff (nota bene Marechal Jean-Baptiste Bessieres also charged in this cavalry action)
Napoleon on his splendid stallion:

 heroic Jean Rapp is a bit wounded, hatless and rides a splendid grey that could make many a stable proud

but there is this anecdote about the artist and the general's horse - 
La France Hippique relates the following anecdote :

“ Gerard, the celebrated painter, was charged by the Emperor Napoleon I.

to paint the battle of Austerlitz. In his composition of that great feat of arms,

General Rapp was to be represented coming up at full gallop to announce the

gain of the battle. Every thing was prepared on the canvass, and there only

remained to place Rapp on horseback, but Gerard could not find a charger

which suited his ideas.

The Emperor had placed at his disposal, not only all the horses of his own stables,

but ordered that those of all the cavalry regiments should be open to him.

The animals were made to gallop, rear, and perform all kinds of movements, but none of them pleased the painter, and Rapp still remained unmounted.

One day while walking along the Boulevard, the painter, in passing

before a toy-shop, uttered an exclamation of delight on observing a small

pasteboard horse, painted grey and with a black head, which, from its position looked as if it was about to leap out of the window.

“Ah!' cried Gerard, 'that is the horse for Rapp;' and entering , he asked the price for it – 'Twenty -five sous,' was the replay; and the artist, paying the money, carried off the horse under his arm.

It is this animal which, it is said, figures, in the famous picture of the Museum at

Versaillers, carrying Rapp to the emperor, the General, in his haste having lost his hat.
(printed 'Dwight's Journal of Music:' Boston 1861, p 175)
 General Rapp described this action in his memoirs - can be read at archive library, as usual :)

Chasseur a cheval -  including the chasseur who mortally wounded still brought the captured flag to his commander - (The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, vol I p. 199)

Mamelukes -  famous Mustapha (Mustafa) who wanted to catch Archduke Constantine, who escaped by shooting mameluke's horse. Baron de Marbot, p 198-99

  Grenadiers a cheval -  famous bearskins - perhaps a little about their horse tack - their horse tack consisted of a natural leather saddle  with a white leather seat (over a blue saddle cloth with  wide stripe of 'gold' lace).  Gold grenades were embroidered in the rear corners of the the saddle cloth. The bridle with reins, breastplate, and crupper  were of black leather with the metal buckles et al of brass where required. Cinch was of a grey cloth. Pistol holders were of brown leather, blackened iron stirrups hung on the Hungarian leather straps.  The horse head harness consisted of the cavalry bridle (curb-bit of steel with a brass boss stamped with a grenade and snaffle etc) and double reins and scarlet rosettes and ribbons. 

Patrice Courcelle painted several Osprey's titles where very detailed plates with uniforms, horse tack etc can be studied and enjoyed along with the text.  Two plates in the 'Mounted Chasseurs of the Guard' depict  the Rapp & Guard's charge at Austerlitz in monsier Courcelle' fine style.
2014 reenactment - at  Slavkov u Brna, in Czech Republic, of course.