yesterday I quoted the interesting observations the famous British traveller Richard F. Burton made about the California saddle (1860).
Well, today I will finish his depiction with his critique of the bridle used along with the saddle:
"The bridle is undoubtedly the worst part of the horse’s furniture. The bit is long, clumsy, and not less cruel than a Chifney*. I have seen the Arab ring, which, with sufficient leverage, will break a horse’s jaw, and another, not unlike an East Indian invention, with a sharp triangle to press upon the animal’s palate, apparently for the purpose of causing it to rear and fall backward. It is the offspring of the Mexican ''manége,'' which was derived, through Spain, from the Moors."
as we know Sir Richard was not a cavalry officer (he served with infantry regiments), but as an English gentry, he most likely trained in fox hunting, riding horses with snaffle bits and using a typical flat saddle (aka English hunt saddle). He did not like or most likely did not understand the California spade bit - a 'form of curb bit with an exaggerated extension of the port that ends in a curved enlargement in the shape of a spoon' (Gehrad A. Malm, DVM, 1996:4). Also he did not understand that California horse tack was just simply a Mexican horse tack, that in turn was Spanish horse tack. He did not mention 'mecate' (horse hair reins) nor arduous training (involving hackamore, snaffle and finally curb bit0that horse underwent in order to be ridden in spade bit or ring- or Chileno bit (what he calls Arab ring, used to be called also a Morisco bit - in this link you can find one of the most knowledgeable horsewomen, Dr Deb Bennett giving her view on the historical use of curb bits/horse training equipment/method in the context of Spanish/Mexican/California versus Anglo-Texan horse traditions)
The best description, from a position of a working cowman and practitioner, of the hackamore to spade bit training can be found in Ed Connell's books, eg Hackamore Reinsman
The best description of working California vaqueros can be found in the works of Arnold R. Rojas, collected in These were the Vaqueros.
Professor Robert W. Miller wrote, in "Western Horse Behavior and Training" (1975:139-41) that spade bit is 'one of the most misunderstood curb bits.' He says that "a good spade bit, properly fitted to the horse and properly handled, is just the opposite of being cruel. It is really designed to keep horse very light and soft mouthed." But "it takes considerably more time and patience to train a spade bit horse."
Sir Richard was not a spade bit rider nor Morisco bit rider, he was a snaffle rider, and thus his biased opinion above, shared then by many who had no clue about its proper use. The bad legend of these types of curb bits continue today.
as described by 'my' trusted XIX century expert in hippology Captain Matthew Horace Hayes (Riding on the Flat and Across Country, 1891):
(drawing above come from Cpt. hayes book)
as described by John Henry Walsh (1866)
my son has been working on his own blog - being almost 11 years old he is very interested in mythical creatures, dinosaurs and zoology while inventing his own creatures.