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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Ranchero Ingenuity

This is an old Mexican ring bit

Antique 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

Bit loop replaced by a bent nail

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A Devon Stirrup

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.

Leather slipper stirrup

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

Slipper stirrup in catalogue

This illustration comes from a 1901 Bliss & Co Catalogue which gives various safety stirrup options

Catalogue listing

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 ( 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

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Miniature Stirrups

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 …

Silver slipper stirrups

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 :

Miniature stirrups

Miniature stirrups

The other examples are Japanese stirrups or abumi

Full size & Miniature Abumi

Abumi or Samurai stirrups

And wooden stirrups from Chile

Miniature wooden stirrups from Chile

Wooden Huaso stirrups from Chile

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The Tailor of Leigh on Sea

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….

Early 20th century cowboy gear

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

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How did this spur end up here ?

This old spur came as part of a collection of rather more glamorous 18th Century examples

18th century spur

Frankly I wondered why the previous collector had bothered to keep it. Yes, it was old, likely late 18th century, but not an unusual design, and not a pair.

The obsessive side of me decided to photograph it for my records anyway. Under the bright lights in the light tent I thought I could make out some engraving…. (it may help to click on this image for a larger version)

18th century spur

It was pretty difficult to read, but after a while fiddling with the lights and the camera focus I could make out
“S. Allen 2d Reg” on one side and “COnL *L*D* 1780″, the previous owner had also engraved “S. ALLEN inside the heelband.

Engraving on spur

Please click to see large image of engraving

engraving on 18th century spur

Please click to see large image of engraving

Apart from the name & rank this didn’t make much sense to me, I’d heard of 2nd Regiments, but not 2d…, but after lots of research a quick delve into Wikipedia, I think I have my answer. The spur seems to have belonged to a colonel in the second regiment of the Light Dragoons during the American Revolutionary War (or War of Independence ? please correct me if I’m wrong). The 2d was a common abbreviation of second at the time.

So, it isn’t as ordinary as it seemed. I still don’t know who Colonel S. Allen was. And I have even less of a clue how it ended up here in England – was it found by a British soldier at the time ? Or was it part of a collection in the USA & got moved over here much later ? More questions than answers, I’m afraid

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Cope Safety Stirrups

It is a frustrating fact that very few old sidesaddle safety stirrups will fit a modern boot.
So I was very pleased to find TWO large Cope safety stirrups in the bottom of a case of tack

Cope Safety stirrups

Just a minute – two – as in a pair….
Sure enough, on the underside of the tread one is marked “Nearside” and the other “Offside”

Stamp on stirrup tread

Offside stirrup

Stamp on stirrup

Nearside stirrup

Alice Hayes described the opening mechanism of these stirrups better than I can (see a previous blog here), and pointed out that they can only work in one direction – hence the curved part of the tread is stamped “TOE”

Stamp on safety stirrup

'Toe' and 'Heel' stamped on stirrup

If the rider falls and their foot remains caught in the stirrup the inner arch of the stirrup rotates backwards and releases the outer edge of the tread.

Safety stirrups

Stirrup mechanisms open

They are also stamped “B.Cope’s Patent No. 8940″, “Best Reliagine” (probably a tradename for a nickel alloy) and “45297″. Benjamin Cope of Bloxwich patented this stirrup design in 1895 , one can read the full patent description courtesy of Google here

On reflection it seems that these stirrups were intended for someone riding astride, and given their large size (their interior width is 4 inches or 10.2cm) probably a man.

However wouldn’t they be perfect for an ambidextrous sidesaddle rider ?

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Saddle Flask with Compass

Compass on a whip handle
Several years ago I wrote about a whip with a compass in the handle : Read more here

So, I was pleased to find this Champion & Wilton saddle flask with a space in its lid for a compass :

Champion & Wilton saddle flask

Champion & Wilton flask

Champion & Wilton were a prestigious company of saddlers, famous for sidesaddles, but I wonder if this flask was a military officer’s private purchase.
There are more details at
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Latchford, the Loriner (and Grave Despoiler?)

If you find yourself in Trafalgar Square I would recommend visiting the crypt of St.Martin-in-the-fields for several reasons :
It is a remarkable brick built vaulted structure
They have an excellent cafe
And high up on one of the pillars is this stone, in which is carved the name of Benjamin Latchford, Churchwarden

Inscription in the crypt of St Martins

Could this be the same Benjamin Latchford who published “The Loriner : Opinions and Observations on bridle-bits and the suitable bitting of horses, with illustrations” in 1871 ? The short answer is yes.

Latchford's book The Loriner

The Loriner gives Latchford’s address as 11, Upper St. Martins Lane. It was evidently a popular book and ran to several editions, mine dates from 1883. In fact one can still buy re-prints today. The illustrations are excellent & Latchford had some interesting ideas for his time including the now famous line “I frequently tell my friends that out of every twenty bits I make, nineteen are for men’s heads and not more than one really for the horse’s head”, although he also wrote “the horse’s mouth and temper may be compared to a lock, so made that only one key will fit it…” The Loriner also includes Don Juan Segundo’s treatise “A New Method of Bitting Horses”.

Thinking about Latchford’s links with St Martins Lane reminded me of one of my bits that has confused me for a while. It is a check snaffle stamped “Latchford” & “Picadilly”
A steel check bit or snaffle

A little internet research revealed several Latchfords who were bit and spurmakers :

1791 The Universal British Directory lists a John Latchford, Bridle Bit Maker at 8, Little St.Martins Lane

1819 The London Post Office Directory lists Edward Latchford at 12, Little St.Martins Lane and John Latchford at 36 Piccadilly

1829 John Latchford, a bit and spur maker of Piccadilly appears in the records of the Old Bailey (Read the proceedings here). He had been robbed, but the thief was found not guilty, perhaps my favourite line explains this : “Prisoner. He was quite tipsy – he was there before me. Witness. I was not tipsy – he was there when I went down stairs; I do not know whether he was tipsy – I was not; I had not drank more than six glasses of wine.”

1833 John Latchford’s luck wasn’t improving – he appears in the Bankrupt Directory on August 6

1840 Benjamin Latchford was a witness in a court case – he stated his occupation as working for his uncle (presumably Edward) at St Martins Lane

1843 The Post Office Directory records Edward Latchford at 12 Little St Martins Lane and John Latchford still at 36, Piccadilly

1871 Benjamin Latchford published “The Loriner” with Don Juan de Segundo

1891 The Saddlery & Harness Journal reported that the Queen’s bit maker Mr Chavasse of Walsall, the principal of Messrs Latchford & Co of Upper St, Martins Lane, WC London was made an honorary freeman of the Loriners Company

Spurs by Latchford

Spurs by Latchford

spur by Latchford

Buxton by Latchford

Buxton by Latchford

Page from the Loriner

Page from the Loriner

And Benjamin Latchford’s link with graves ? He and Mr Petter, his fellow churchwarden were named in a court case concerning burials in a piece of land that the church was selling. It was thought that only a few burials had taken place there & permission was given to move those. The vicar of St Pancras brought the case when he believed that four or five hundred bodies had been disinterred. The whole case is reported in “The Jurist”

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