Sunday, August 11, 2013

Antoine Fortuné de Brack - cavalry saddle and its importance


Antoine Fortuné de Brack, Napoleonic   cavalryman, officer - hussar (  7e régiment de hussards ) and later  uhlan/lancer of  Le 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers de la Garde impériale   , chasseur a cheval and hussar again, finally the commander of l'ecole de cavalerie at Saumur, France, wrote the famous book on the light cavalry tactics based on his military experiences -  Avant-postes de cavalerie légère (Cavalry Outpost Duties),  and luckily to us he begins his book by writing about the cavalry saddle and its importance for the cavalry service:

Q. Why does it often happen that a non-commissioned officer or soldier does 
not receive the promotion, the cross, which he might have obtained? 
  A. Because, instead of continuing with the war squadrons to which 
he belonged,he remained in rear, at one of the small depots. 
Q. Why?
A. Because his horse was injured and unfit for service. 
Q. What injured him ? 
A. The saddle. 
Q. Why did the saddle injure him?
A. Because the chief of squadron in assigning it, and the soldier in 
receiving it,failed to study carefully the proper bearing of the saddle
on the horse's back. 
 The first thing to be done when a saddle is received is to place the naked 
tree on the horse's back to see that the bars fit properly; that they are 
parallel to the surface on which they are placed; to judge beforehand the 
changes of position which will be effected in these surfaces by the movements 
of the horse, so that the weightof the saddle may be, as nearly as possible,
distributed over the whole, and not bear upon a portion of the bars only.
The slightly convex form of the bars is given to them for the sole purpose 
of preserving a perfect equilibrium in all possible positions of
the horse and his rider. 
To see that the arch of the pommel does not constrain the withers, either by 
pinching them laterally or compressing them in their upper portion; that the 
arch of the cantle is high enough and the fork sufficiently elevated to 
prevent the valise resting on the loins when it is attached; that the bars
are smooth, so that there may be no rough spots to produce abrasions of the 
skin; that the pegs, made of green wood, and afterward dried,
do not project from their holes in a way to produce injury; 
that the saddle seat is not so low as to throw the rider on the backbone of
the horse, instead of keeping him away from it, thus producing pressure and 
dangerous chafing; that the saddle seat is not raised too high before or behind,
which, by throwing the rider too much to the front or rear, will make
the saddle tilt up, derange the equilibrium, establish a constant, uneven
pressure upon the same place, constrain the horse and rider in their movements, 
and will surely injure both; that the holsters do not close too tightly on 
the shoulders, which will constrain their movements and surely wound them. 
The only way of judging perfectly of the fit of a saddle is, as I have already 
said, to place the bare tree upon the horse's back, then to mount the man upon 
the tree and see how the pressure acts. 
 If, in every movement, the bars are not parallel to the horse's sides, the 
pressure will be irregular; for either the tree is too wide, and the bars, 
pressing only from the inside, will injure the backbone of the horse; or the 
tree will be too narrow, and the bars, pressing only diagonally,will soon 
produce sores upon those parts of the sides which they must bear upon 
with all the weight of the rider and his load. 
That having been done, the leather parts belonging to the saddle will be 
attached to it, and it will then be placed carefully upon the folded blanket.
The crupper, breast-strap, and girth will be so arranged that by their united 
action they will hold the saddle securely in the place it should occupy and 
thus prevent, instead of causing, injuries to the horse. 
When a saddle fits a horse properly there is no need of fastening it, in peace,
with either a crupper or breaststrap; which shows plainly that these two pieces
of harness should not be tightly drawn — as this would simply result in 
constraining the movements of the horse,and chafing his skin unnecessarily. 
On the contrary, the girth should be tightened rather more, because by holding 
the blanket in position it prevents its becoming displaced, to the injury of 
the horse, and also keeps the saddle in place. 
 The captain who adjusts a saddle to the back of a horse of his squadron ought 
to see not only the immediate effect it will produce on the back, rounded by rest
in the garrison, but also that which it must produce upon the same back, thinned
and wasted by the fatigues of war, or of a long march. He should be guided then,
not by the fleshy form but by the bony frame of the horse, in forming his opinion. 

When the saddle has been tried as I have just directed, it should then be packed 
and mounted; and, in the alterations which will be suggested by these operations, 
a large margin must be allowed for the changes which will be rendered necessary 
by the thinness of the horse, as mentioned above. 
                                             * * *
In this  series on general de Brack next will be the information on the bridling, curb-bit and cinch...
By the way great reconstructions of 1st lancer regiment uniforms, weapons, and horse tack.

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