Monday, September 26, 2011

La silla del vaquero -New Spain colonial saddle tree

for many years I have been studying the books and documents related to the Spanish Conquest in North America. Naturally it all has had to do with horses, Indians aka Native Americans, ethnohistory, horsemen and horsemanship. and library internet collections allow now for a rapid access to old documents that might have been not easy accessible without travel and expense, so glory to the US miltiary scientists for developing the Internet :)
Ad rem,
I have been curious what kind of saddle was in use by the Spaniards when they took Old Mexico and when they marched their horses to conquer  Nuevo Mexico and Tejas . Please note that  in due time I should be able to offer some drawings and  writings regarding the first 200 years of Nueva España, drawn from these older documents and iconographic material available through the net depositories and libraries etc.

But these drawings of today, merged in one plate, come from variously reconstructed images done by my most favorite Texas artist and writer,  Jack Jackson. He, unfortunately already with the ancestors, was one prolific illustrator of Texas history and lore, famous outside of Texas for his underground comics,  also working on editing old narratives and illustrating then for academic publication related to the history of Texas, especially the Spanish Texas or Tejas and then Mexican Tejas. He himself  produced a very academic book on the Spanish ranching in Texas that is crucial here - Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721-1821.
In his books, both comics and academic works, one can find artfully and historically correct reconstruction of horse tack, weapons, architecture, and nature. The books ''Secret of San Saba,'' ''Comanche Moon,'' ''The Alamo'' are such treasures of Spanish, early Texan and Native peoples artifacts related to horsemanship, vaquero and soldier garb, and also architecture.
Today I am offering you a glimpse into the Tejas-Nueva Espana saddle tack as described and reconstructed through the research of Mr. Jackson. It suppose to represent the everyday used saddle tree of the vaqueros or cowboys who worked on large ''estancias'' and ''haciendas'' lassoing large and dangerous longhorns and mustangs of Tejas, trying to survive tornadoes, Comanches, and Apaches, creating the equipment, vocabulary and generally paving the way for the so called American cowboy.
I drew this from various publications and compiled together. This saddle tree lack a cover and several other things but in the future I should return to these subjects, especially when I will attempt to show some drawings of the Nueva Espana famous horse soldiers - the presidiales - who from about 1560s until 1820 mounted and armed with lance, sword and escopeta patrolled vast territories of the New Spain.
One interesting observation about this saddle tree can its apparent similarity to the saddles of Central Asia, that were brought to Europe and the North Africa by the nomadic horsemen of Turkish extraction from the steppes (and perhaps China and Korea) some 1,500 years ago. The most telling difference might be the lack of birchbark to line the saddle tree in order to waterproof it. Actually the wooden stirrups were just nothing new, but a window into the past development of the stirrup as the first stirrups used by the Nomads, Chinese, Korean, Arabs etc had been made out of wood...

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