Japanese Whip or Muchi

This was advertised as a Japanese donkey whip :

Japanese whip or Muchi

Japanese whip or Muchi

It seems a bit grand for a donkey with its silver cap.
And why (and how) is it curled ?

Spiral bamboo

Spiral bamboo

Curled bamboo

Another view of the curled bamboo

A bit of internet research taught me that Japanese horse whips are called muchi.
They can be made of willow or bamboo ( and there is a metal version used as a weapon)
There are many pictures of samurai carrying bamboo whips, but they all seemed to be straight.
Until I saw this :

Statue of samurai

Lord Shigetada at Musashi shrine

It is a statue of the Kamakura period warlord Shigetada Hatakeyama on horseback at Musashi shrine on Mount Mitake.
And he is carrying a curled whip.

And then I read about “lucky” bamboo , the curled bamboo that was everywhere a few years ago.
You can still get it at Ikea even….

Dracaena - lucky bamboo

The spiral growth pattern is achieved by using light from one direction only and slowly turning the plant – phototropism, I seem to recall from biology.

And while I’m thinking about biology I seriously need to treat it for woodworm – did you see the size of the insect holes in it ? I don’t want anything alive escaping from those…

Whip lash

Whip lash

Whip cap

Silver whip cap

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Taloneras

Some South American spurs can be huge ( they are thought to have developed from the Spanish Colonial “Espuela Grande” after all ).
So how do they stay in position ?
Many gaucho spurs have large pierced heel plates or rodetes and arrangements of chains as well as straps which wrap around the rider’s foot.

A pair of spurs from Argentina

A pair of spurs from Argentina

The spurs of the Chilean huaso can have very large, heavy rowels but they do not have heel plates and only have small slots at the end of each heel band which would hold relatively narrow straps :

Chilean huaso spurs

Espuelas Chilenas or Chilean Huaso Spurs

So they are supported by extra heel straps or “Taloneras” – these are often made of rawhide with extra ridges or blocks of hide to take the weight of the spur. I recently found a pair with silver decoration :

Taloneras or heel straps

A pair of taloneras - heel straps to support spurs

Spur on boot with talonera

Spur supported by talonera (sorry, no straps on spur)

I also found a single strap with brightly coloured embroidery, it’s not in the greatest condition but still a fascinating thing :

Single embroidered heel strap

Embroidered talonera

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A Hanoverian Bit

These days the Hanoverian mouthpiece is usually found on a pelham bit or occasionally on a snaffle

Old Hanoverian Pelham horse bit

An old Hanoverian Pelham

It has a large central port with rollers on each side. The rollers are supposed to encourage the horse to relax its jaw, although some say that their function is to prevent the horse grabbing the bit or leaning. The sides of the port can be fixed or hinged – the latter producing a more severe “nutcracker” action.

The mouthpiece of the original Hanoverian bit shared all these features, but formed part of a lightweight curb bit.

Samuel Sidney's "Book ofthe Horse" published by Cassell around 1880

Page from Samuel Sidney's Book of the Horse published by Cassell around 1880

The curved cheeks of the bit certainly appear German. It could have originated in Hanover, but the name may just refer to the Hanoverian monarchs who ruled Britain for much of the 18th and all of the 19th centuries.
Unfortunately I do not speak German but I have found references in Franz von Miller’s 1788 work on infantry & cavalry equipment to a “walzenmundstück” which I believe is a mouthpiece with rollers.

The design had certainly found popularity by the mid 19th century : In J.S.Rarey’s 1859 “The Art of Taming Horses” he describes “A powerful variation of the Pelham, called the Hanoverian has within the last few years come very much into use. It requires the light hands of a practised horseman to use the curb-reins of a Hanoverian on a delicate-mouthed horse; but when properly used no bit makes a horse bend and display himself more handsomely, and in the hunting-field it will hold a horse when nothing else will…”

Of course I started looking into the history of this bit because I found an example :

19th Century Hanoverian horse bit

Hanoverian bit stamped Worsley

It is stamped on both cheeks “Worsley” . I had never heard of this maker or retailer but some more research found a P.Worsley, Saddler & Harness Maker at 57, South Audley Street, London in the 1814 Post Office Directory. His will, dated 1838 is in the National Archives. His son Peter Owen Worsley took over the business, the last reference I can find to him is the Post Office Directory of 1843. So no exact date but probably first half of the 19th century

And I find myself wondering what the Germans call it ?

Worsley stamp on old horse bit

Worsley stamp on Hanoverian bit

Hanoverian bit

19th Century Hanoverian Bit

Hanoverian Bit

Hanoverian Bit

Hanoverian Bit

Hanoverian Bit

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Georgian Riding Belts

If I were King George IV I’m not sure that I would have given my Royal Warrant to someone who made “riding belts” so that they could effectively advertise my need for a corset.

Georgian Trade card for riding belts

In Shaun Cole’s “The Story of Men’s Underwear” there is an excellent section on men’s corsets or stays, which were apparently not just worn for vanity but support during athletic activities such as horseback riding, hunting and “violent exercise”

And these abdomens certainly look athletic

Illustration of Georgian riding belt

Georgian riding belt

In ‘Adcock’s riding Belt’, by Peter Farrer in The Journal of the Northern Society of Costume and Textiles, no.3 (1999), the author describes Adcock’s patent of 1824 and the surviving man’s corset worn by Henry Wise in 1842, now at Castle Howard, and relates them to the pattern for George IV’s corset and the pattern in The Workwoman’s Guide.

To learn more about George IV’s physique one can visit the website (or even better visit Brighton Pavilion itself…) where I read that ” It supposedly took three hours to lace the King into his girdle and whale bone corset of a morning due to all the “bulging and excresiances”. Once girdled his waist measured 55 inches. “.

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Vigor’s Horse Action Saddle

A few years ago I was hugely amused by this advert :

Advertisement for horse riding exercise machine

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)

Vigor's mechanical horse

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….

Settings on exercise horse

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

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A Pair of Hercules Bronze Spurs with a History

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

Hercules Bronze spurs on a board

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.

Hercules Bronze spur

Star stamp on spur

Hercules Bronze stamp

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.

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Antique Saddle Engraving

Yet another mystery …
I am trying to find the source of this engraving :

Engraving of 18th century saddles

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 ?

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Dogon Noseband

It probably demonstrates my ignorance, but when I think of African bridles I tend to picture rather severe-looking ring bits.

African ring bit

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 :

Dogon noseband

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

Dogon noseband

The T-shaped piece sits on the horse’s nose and the lobed loop under the chin

Dogon horse with saddle & bridle

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.

Decoration on African noseband

Nosepiece of African bridle

Links of Dogon noseband

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Mystery Bridle

I have owned this bridle for a while now and it has me puzzled.

Ottoman bridle

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.

Ottoman bridle

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 ?

Bridle pendant

The steel curb bit also reminds me of French and Belgian military bits.

Military horse bit

So, maybe European with Ottoman influences ? Could it be eastern European ? Polish maybe ? Any thoughts or information would be most welcome

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Hunting Whip Thongs & How to Attach Them

Googling “How to attach a hunting whip thong” can yield some interesting results and is probably better not attempted in a public place.
There are instructions on various websites but my inability to think in 3D makes them difficult to follow.

So I thought to look in some old books:
In “The Horsewoman – A Practical Guide to Sidesaddle Riding” Alice Hayes gives us illustrations of thongs that are properly attached, incorrectly attached and “Not quite right”.

Correctly attached whip thongs

Correctly attached whip thongs


Incorrectly attached whip thongs

Incorrectly attached whip thongs

I find her instructions a little difficult to follow :
“The thong is about three feet ten inches long, is furnished with a lash,
which is about a foot long, and is attached to the keeper, which is a
leather loop at the end of the crop. Men generally like a thong of white
pipe-clayed leather, but as the colour is apt to come off and soil one’s
habit, a brown leather thong is best for ladies.

The keeper of the modern hunting whip has a slit, near its end, through
both thicknesses of leather. In attaching the thong, the loop at its
upper end is placed over the end of the keeper, and it is then passed
through the slit and drawn tightly (Fig. 86). The old-fashioned keeper,
which is still greatly in use, is a simple loop of leather, over which
the loop of the thong is put, and the remainder of the thong is threaded
through the opening at the end of the keeper (Fig. 87). A wrong way to
put on the thong is, in the first instance, to pass the loop of the
thong through (instead of over) the keeper (Fig. 88). Some authorities
might take exception to the way the thong is put on in Fig. 89.”

Next stop, “To Whom The Goddess” by Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Aspley, who give this marvellous advice :
“With regard to hunting-whips – do not call them “crops”; whip is the older word. They should never be ornamented, except with a plain silver band on which it is useful to have your name and address inscribed. The “thong” should be properly put on to the keeper – a good groom will show you how.” Not fabulously useful.

So this is my technique :

1)Turn the loop of plain leather at the top of the thong inside out
2)Post it through the slot in the keeper
3)Fold it back over the tip of the keeper (so that it’s no longer inside out)
4)Post the lash end of the thong through the loop and feed the whole thong through
5)Draw it tight

Well, it works for me.

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