Saturday, August 28, 2010

Comanche war bridle

How kola (Lakota greeting),
 my little sketch of what various horse trainers of the XIX century perceived as  the 'Comanche war bridle'   ( the Lords of Southern Plains   ), just a rope  and nothing else...

1830s, Texas still in Mexico, Comanche warriors Comanches de Texas Occidental
 Catlin's (  ) Comanche Osage duel -  Comanche_Osage
Greeting the Anglo-Americans ( George Catlin did this scene in 1834, when he went with the United States Dragoons to Indian Territory ) catlin's comanche chief horsemanship
and in  Catlin's words: of their party galloped out in advance of the war-party, on a milk white horse (look at the rope trailing behind him, this was a typical arrangement, in case of falling off), carrying a piece of white buffalo skin on the point of his long lance in reply to our flag  (and a large buffalo hide shield on his back, and a rifle in a beaded holster hanging from the horn of his saddle, horned saddle with stirrups ). This moment was the commencement of one of the most thrilling and beautiful scenes I ever witnessed. All eyes, both from his own party and ours, were fixed upon the manoeuvres of this gallant little fellow, and he well knew it .  The distance between the two parties was perhaps half a mile, and that a beautiful and gently sloping prairie; over which he was for the space of a quarter of an hour, reining and spurring his maddened horse and gradually approaching us by tacking to the right and the left, like a vessel beating against the windHe at length came prancing and leaping along till he met the flag of the regiment, when he leaned his spear (my note, look at the length of it, Catlin gives more details below)  for a moment against it, looking the bearer full in the face, when he wheeled his horse, and dashed up to Col. Dodge with his extended hand, which was instantly grasped and eyes were fixed upon the gallant and wonderful appearance of the little fellow who bore us the white flag on the point of his lance. He rode a fine and spirited wild horse, which was as white as the drifted snow, with an exuberant mane, and its long and bushy tail sweeping the ground. In his hand he tightly drew the reins upon a heavy Spanish bit, and at every jump, plunged into the animal's sides, till they were in a gore of blood, a huge pair of spurs, plundered, no doubt, from the Spaniards in their border wars, which are continually waged on the Mexican frontiers. The eyes of this noble little steed seemed to be squeezed out of its head ; and its fright, and its agitation had brought out upon its skin a perspiration that was fretted into a white foam and lather. The warrior's quiver was slung on the warrior's back, and his bow grasped in his left hand, ready for instant use, if called for. His shield was on his arm, and across his thigh, in a beautiful cover of buckskin, his gun was slung—and in his right hand his lance of fourteen feet in length. Thus armed and equipped was this dashing cavalier; and nearly in the same manner, all the rest of the party ; and very many of them leading an extra horse, which we soon learned was the favourite war-horse (the practice of leading the war horse along, saving it for  the battle or chase only  ); and from which circumstances altogether, we soon understood that they were a war-party in search of their enemy..

Catlin -  Comanches'  horsemanship

  1. and little original description by the  artist :   ...amongst their feats of riding, there is one that has astonished me more than anything of the kind I have ever seen, or expect to see, in my life: a stratagem of war, learned and practiced by every young man in the tribe; by which he is able to drop his body upon the side of his horse at the instant he is passing, effectually screened from his enemies’ weapons as he lays in a horizontal position behind the body of his horse, with his heel hanging over the horses' back; by which he has the power of throwing himself up again, and changing to the other side of the horse if necessary. In this wonderful condition, he will hang whilst his horse is at fullest speed, carrying with him his bow and his shield, and also his long lance of fourteen feet in length, all or either of which he will wield upon his enemy as he passes; rising and throwing his arrows over the horse's back, or with equal ease and equal success under the horse's neck. ....  I was continually frustrated, until one day I coaxed a young fellow up within a little distance of me, by offering him a few plugs of tobacco, and he in a moment solved the difficulty, so far as to render it apparently more feasible than before ; yet leaving it one of the most extraordinary results of practice and persevering endeavours. I found on examination, that a shorthair halter was passed around under the neck of the horse, and both ends tightly braided into the mane, on the withers, leaving a loop to hang under the neck, and against the breast, which, being caught up in the hand, makes a sling into which the elbow falls, taking the weight of the body on the middle of the upper arm. Into this loop the rider drops suddenly and fearlessly, leaving his heel to hang over the back of the horse, to steady him, and also to restore him whau he wishes to regain his upright position on the horse's back. fragments form Catlin Letters and Notes vol. 2)
    Comanche war party
    Some good books I have read and own on the pre-Anglo invasion Comanches and their society
    G. Betty, Comanche Society:  Before Reservation
    D. Weber, Barbaros, Spaniards and their 'Savages'
    J. Barr et al, Peace came in the form of a woman
     P. Hämäläinen, Comanche empire
    B. De Lay, War of the thousand deserts
    more on the Comanche warriors and horses in the near future

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