The earliest horsemen rode bareback, saddle blankets and pads were gradually adopted. The evolution of saddles themselves is closely linked with the history of mounted warfare. Saddles found at Pazyrak burials from the 5th Century BC take the form of two leather cushions which fitted on either side of the horse's spine and were joined at the front and rear by arches or bows. The Romans developed a saddle with a tree and a "wing" or horn at each corner which gave some security in the absence of stirrups and allowed more effective use of the lance and sword.
Over time cavalry started to use armour - both for the riders and the horses, initially this took the form of thick leather, which could be reinforced with small plates of metal or even horn from horses' hooves (the Sarmatians). Coats of mail and metal breastplates were worn by some Scythians. While cavalry from the East continued to rely on speed, and used little armour and light saddles, in Europe the Franks started to adopt heavier plate armour. Eventually this resulted in knights wearing full armour on heavy horses or destriers, the saddles used had very high cantles or backs, and the pommel or front was raised and flared out to provide both security of seat and protection for the legs. The stirrups were hung far forward, which encouraged the horseman to ride with the legs extended forwards. The trees of these saddles took the form of parallel pieces of wood on each side of the horses spine
In contrast in the middle East, the "jineta" seat was favoured. The horseman rode with relatively short stirrups, the legs being bent and positioned under the rider. This made standing in the stirrups easier and allowed for greater agility. This style of riding influenced saddle design in Spain , and ultimately this "Moorish" saddle was the forbear of South American and Western saddles
In Europe the "brida" or "estradiota" or straight- legged seat remained dominant both in the High School movements in mainland Europe (The Selle Royale - as used in the Spanish Riding School and the Cadre Noir bears quite a resemblence to old tournament saddles) and in early English hunting saddles. Only in the last fifty years following the teachings of Caprilli and Santini have true jumping and general purpose saddles with spring trees developed.
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