Book about antique hitching posts

However specialised your field of collecting, someone somewhere in the world probably shares your passion . I was delighted to find this book : “Horsing Around – 19th Century Cast Iron Hitching Posts”, it’s a catalogue of an exhibition of (surprise, surprise) hitching posts from the collection of Phil & Bunny Savino at the Albany Institute of History & Art in 2008. It focuses on American hitching posts, which were commonly freestanding cast iron posts; in Europe tethering rings or finials were more often attached to pre-existing walls, posts or pillars. The hitching posts were decorative as well as functional, common designs were horse heads, patriotic emblems such as the flag or an eagle, dogs, snakes, people and geometric or architectural shapes. Their makers are rarely identified and they fall into the category of “Folk Art”

Victorian horse head tethering posts
French Horse butchers sign
A French Horse Butcher’s Sign

I had bought the book in the hope of identifying the pair of horse heads shown above, I found one example in it that was similar but not identical . These are probably English and would have been placed on top of pillars or posts in a yard. The vendor described them as “19th Century cast iron horse heads possibly from a horse butcher’s shop”. I’m sure that’s wrong, I sold a French Boucherie Chevaline zinc horse head model a few years ago – it was much lighter in weight so that it could be hung on a wall & didn’t have bit rings (I suspect that thinking about one’s favourite riding horse before tucking into a steak doesn’t help the appetite )

Victorian horse head tethering posts

Christies sold a very similar white painted pair in 1999. They described them as “A pair of English white-painted cast-iron horse head tethering-post finials Circa 1870. Each with two rings in its mouth, on a circular base 10 in. (26 cm.) high”. They can be seen here

Victorian horse head tethering posts

The horse heads are made of cast iron, each was originally cast in two halves – a seam is just visible along the back of each mane. There are defects around their bases, presumably from when they were removed from their posts or pillars. The quality of the casting is very good and the details of the manes, eyes and even facial blood vessels are clear. The bit rings are in good order & still move freely. They have been painted gloss black, there are a few very small chips in the paint. They stand 10½ inches (26cm) high, and they are very heavy

Victorian horse head tethering posts

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Tie-up bobbins

These things sit in my office & intrigue all who see them. I have heard them described as “Tie Up Bobbins”, “Manger Balls”, “Tying up blocks” and “Manger blocks”.
They date back to a time when there were many working horses, particularly in towns and cities. Many of these horses would have been housed in stalls, there simply wasn’t enough space for individual loose boxes or stables, let alone anywhere to turn the horse out.

So, a horse is to rest, tied up, in a stall. The animal should be able to lie down and stand up comfortably. I don’t know about other people’s experiences but I have met an awful lot of horses & ponies for whom the term “accident prone” simply doesn’t go far enough. Faced with a looping rope that would allow them to lie or stand easily these individuals would inevitably put a leg over the rope & get into an awful mess. With a shorter rope they will merely throttle themselves while trying to lie down.

The solution to this problem? The Tie Up Bobbin. These heavy wooden balls have a central hole. The rope passes from the halter or headcollar, through a tying up ring or bar on the stall wall and then through the tie-up bobbin. A quick release knot is tied on the other side of the bobbin. The block now acts as a counterweight, eliminating any looping in the rope. Cunning eh?

The ones shown are made of a very heavy wood, sometimes called lignum vitae. They have a marvellous patina , they do have some of the scars you would expect from use. A chain joins the three together, with a loop for hanging.

Dimensions: the larger two measure 3½” (9cm) x 4″ (10cm) x 4″ (10cm), the smaller one measures 3¼” (8.5cm) x 3½” (9cm) x 3½” (9cm). They are understandably heavy (2.5kg) and will have to be shipped by courier.

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antique blacksmiths tool

How’s this for recycling?
This set of hoof pincers have been made from a pair of old files or rasps. You can see the ridges of one file in the detailed image below.
 
They are probably late nineteenth or early twentieth century. I think they show an ingenious use of materials & skill. New tools were probably expensive at the time, and old steel was softer than modern stainless steel. This meant that rasps could wear out – but they could also be worked into a new shape and find a new use.

antique blacksmiths tool

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Rutters horse twitch

Old stable and veterinary equipment can be quite fascinating.
This is a Rutter’s twitch – it is made of two wooden bars, there are ridges carved around the circumference of each bar. The two pieces of wood are held together at one end by iron loops.

Rutters horse twitch

This tool was used to quieten horses when they didn’t want to cooperate with a procedure. One of the wooden bars would be placed on each side of the animal’s upper lip / muzzle & the bars would be strapped together at their free ends, squeezing the lip. Theoretically the use of a twitch promotes the production of endorphins in the horse’s body, making it calmer . Personally I am rather doubtful about this theory and suspect that twitches worked more by providing the alternative distraction of pain.

Rutters horse twitch
Rutters horse twitch

Despite this rather dubious use the Rutter’s twitch is an interesting item. In common with many 19th Century tools it is beautifully made from an attractive wood (probably oak) , the metal parts are handforged.
However, I think I’ll be sticking to modern sedatives when I need them.

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