A few years ago I was hugely amused by this advert :
So, when I saw one at auction I needed little encouragement to buy it :
Considering its age (it dates from the 1890′s ) it’s in pretty good condition.
It has lost its handlebars, and is absolutely filthy, but looks like a fun restoration project for the next few weeks (or more likely months)
It has settings for Trot , Canter & Gallop and on a tentative trial ride still seems to work – watch this space for a clip of it in action once it has new handlebars….
Vigor & Company had premises at 21, Baker Street in London. They also produced other contraptions such as rowing machines and exercise bicycles. The British Library has a copy of one of their advertisements which promotes their “well ventilated private rooms” where one could make use of eight exercises for one guinea – you can see it here
I think mine could come into its own after Christmas , for the stimulation of my liver and reduction of corpulence
One of the frustrations of buying things at auction is that they often come without any history or provenance and I am left wondering how some piece of cowboy equipment ended up here in the South West of England.
Well, for a change I don’t have to wonder about these spurs
They are a pair of Hercules Bronze spurs with horse head decoration. These spurs were made by North & Judd ( who had taken over Buermann ) and marked with the Buermann star by one button, “Hercules Bronze” by the other button and they have North & Judd’s anchor on the neck.
The plate on the board is engraved “Sir Robert Bellinger, GBE, D.Sc. from The Dallas Council on World Affairs, October 16 1967″
The World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth was formed in 1951 to promote international awareness, understanding and connections in North Texas.
Sir Robert Bellinger was quite a man.
He left school aged 14, and studied accountancy at night school while working as an office boy. With this qualification he started working for a wholesale grocery company, progressing to the post of chairman at the age of 36. He was active in the City of London and became Lord Mayor of London in 1966 – a real life Dick Whittington.
Yet another mystery …
I am trying to find the source of this engraving :
At first I thought it might come from Diderot & d’Alembert’s Encyclopaedia, but it doesn’t.
I have spent far too long looking for images of 17th & 18th Century saddles on the internet with no success.
I haven’t taken it out of its frame yet – I suppose that might be the next step – unless anyone has any ideas first ?
It probably demonstrates my ignorance, but when I think of African bridles I tend to picture rather severe-looking ring bits.
African ring bit
So the metal nosebands sometimes used by the Dogon people were a pleasant discovery.
They are used as a hackamore or bitless bridle.
I picked this one up at auction recently :
The images below come from Debbie Logan’s wonderfulMali Ride Blog. Sadly due to security concerns I don’t think any rides are running at the moment, however there is an online shop : African Desert Crafts
The T-shaped piece sits on the horse’s nose and the lobed loop under the chin
Dogon horse with traditional saddle & bridle
My example is made of hand forged steel with brass or bronze decorative elements.
It came from a collection and has a label which reads “Mali XIX”, presumably meaning Mali 19th century.
I have owned this bridle for a while now and it has me puzzled.
It is made of dark brown or black leather lined with soft red leather.
It is decorated with ridged plates of gilt brass and gilt brass medallions which remind me of Ottoman bridles.
It has a throat strap with a pendant in the shape of a crescent moon with a face. This is a little like the French military “sous gorges“, but not identical.
And would the Ottomans have used a face ?
The steel curb bit also reminds me of French and Belgian military bits.
So, maybe European with Ottoman influences ? Could it be eastern European ? Polish maybe ? Any thoughts or information would be most welcome
This is an old Mexican ring bit
It was obviously much used, it has lost its chains and a couple of silver studs.
I love the fact that a previous owner or their blacksmith has replaced the rein loops with long nails bent into figure-8′s
You learn something new every day – today I learned that leather slipper stirrups were also known as “Devon” stirrups and I learned rather too much about Basil leather.
This is a rather worn leather slipper stirrup – it was an early form of sidesaddle safety stirrup, the rider’s foot could not get caught in it in the event of a fall.
Slipper stirrup in catalogue
This illustration comes from a 1901 Bliss & Co Catalogue which gives various safety stirrup options
Various options are offered for the metal stirrups : “Malleable” (which sounds faintly alarming – who wants a bendy stirrup iron ? Maybe they mean something else), this could be polished or nickel plated, or else Steel, Nickel Plated Steel or Nickel.
The leather covered options could use Hogskin (today we’d probably say pigskin) or “Basil”.
I had no idea what Basil was, but found an excellent French website (www.basane.fr) that gave an excellent explanation & history. It is a leather made from small hides such as sheep, tanned using plant based agents. Its reputation deteriorated from the mid 19th Century when the wool was removed from the skins by using bacteria, which also affected the quality of the hides. For this reason Basil was a cheaper option than Hogskin
I recently bought a silver slipper stirrup from an online auction – I probably should have read the description more carefully, I was a little surprised when it arrived …
My new slipper stirrup next to a full size example
I don’t know if it was made as a toy or a tourist souvenir, but it isn’t alone, I am forming quite a collection :
The other examples are Japanese stirrups or abumi
Abumi or Samurai stirrups
And wooden stirrups from Chile
Wooden Huaso stirrups from Chile
OK, this isn’t exactly a John le Carré story – it is, however an interesting glimpse into someone’s life…
I recently bought a collection of cowboy / western gear – it’s always intriguing to wonder how it ended up here in the south west of England. This time I have at least part of an answer….
Buermann spurs, stirrups and Romal reins
Packed in with the Buermann spurs, stirrups and romal reins there was a note to the purchaser :
“To the purchaser of these cowboy reins, stirrups and spurs.
They belonged to my Great Uncle Percy Brown who lived in Southend-on-Sea.
In the early twentieth century my uncle went to the USA to gain some experience of a different life before settling down to be a master tailor like his father.
He was in San Fransisco during the 1906 earthquake and later became a cowboy.
He crossed Death Valley in a stagecoach and shot a rattlesnake. The skin was displayed in a frame on his wall when he returned home.
When he returned home he married Miss Constance Fenton. They lived in Leigh-on-Sea where he had a tailor’s shop. Connie and Percy never had children of their own but adored their nephews and nieces especially my mother. He made the suit that she wore for her 1944 wedding”
Gosh… I’m exhausted just reading about Percy’s life, he must have been quite a man. And one couldn’t possibly separate his spurs, stirrups and reins