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SADDLES have been of three principal types: (1) the English saddle—a flat tree with low pommel and cantle, introduced into America during the early colonial period; (2) the army saddle—first fully developed during the Civil War and, in its initial form (the McClellan), an English tree modified by heightening pommel and cantle, dishing the seat, and lengthening the stirrup leathers; and (3) the stock saddle—interchangeably termed "cowboy," "cow," "Mexican," "western," and "range" saddle.

Hernando Cortes brought the stock saddle to Mexico in 1519. The rider sat in it, rather than on it. On the pommel, Mexican vaqueros attached a vertical protuberance (the horn) to which the lariat could be fastened. White settlers in the American west adopted the Mexican saddle in the 1820s, and it soon became an important icon in America's western mythology.

During the colonial period, women sat facing side-ways on a pillion (a pad fastened behind the saddle occupied by a rider), but the pillion was soon supplanted by the sidesaddle, an English tree altered by omitting the right-hand stirrup and adding hooked-shaped pommels. Once eastern women began riding astride, about 1900, the sidesaddle gradually disappeared.


Ahlborn, Richard E., ed. Man Made Mobile: Early Saddles of Western North America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980.

Philip AshtonRollins/a. r.

See alsoHorse ; West, American .