Saddle, Medieval Field (War), circa 1470

The challenge with reconstructing saddles from the third quarter of the 15th century is that almost no saddles survive and fewer are published. It is difficult to know exactly what most typical field saddles of the 1470's looked like, and harder still to understand its construction. One must rely almost solely on contemporary paintings and compare them to the more plentiful survivals from a slightly later period (1490-1515) which largely share the form and aspects of the 1470's styles. Only on examining as much of the available material can one deduce what the likely form and function of these saddles probably was, and then we are making merely an informed guess.

This saddle is based on three extant saddles, all of German manufacture. The primary source piece is dated to 1477, and is displayed at the Waffensamlung, Vienna Austria with the "Koenigsgarnitur" of Friederich III. The other two saddles circa 1490-1500, are in England, one displayed with the Waldemar IV of Anhalt-Zerbst armour in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, the other being the famous #A21 armour of the Wallace Collection, London. Mr. Hedgecock was lucky enough to be provided with conservation photos of the two saddles in England by Mr. Tobias Capwell. This information proved invaluable to understanding the construction of the originals, and how it differs from modern saddlery in fit and assembly. The conservation photos also provided valuable clues to the shape of the saddle tree bars and the arms projecting down the horse's sides which provide essential stability for the armoured rider's mounting and stability in action.

What Mr. Hedgecock arrived at is a saddle which combines the front bow of the Vienna saddle with a slightly earlier cantle structure shape seen in numerous German, Flemish, French and Italian paintings and drawings, circa 1450-1480. The cantle bracing armature is applied from the Wallace collection #A21 saddle, as the saddle in Vienna contains mounting bolts in similar key locations, which Mr. Hedgecock speculates may have originally been used to attach similar bracing, perhaps now lost. Without the bracing structure, it seems likely that the Vienna saddle's cantle would not be strong enough to withstand the lance impact force transmitted to the rider's seat. One of the Royal Armouries' saddles is of identical form as the Wallace Collection saddle, but with fewer embellishments, and shares the same cantle bracing mounting studs in exactly the same locations, though both have a different cantle form than the Vienna saddle. The Wallace Collection saddle retains its bracing arms, so Mr. Hedgecock chose them as a guide for this reconstruction.

This saddle was built for a horse particularly difficult to fit with most modern saddle styles, the difficulty being that modern saddles rolled when the additional weight of the rider armour was added to the equation. The significantly different configuration of this saddle style proved quite superior over all modern styles and offers a platform onto which the fully armoured man can mount unaided from the ground with no danger of saddle dislodgement, or shifting in extreme movements when mounted.

Fibreglass and resin reinforced wooden tree covered in heavy linen fabric and leather. Five saddle steels bolt on. Ground seat of formed and layered leather. Seat pad is elkskin over thick felt padding. Saddle pad wool fabric over felt core with decorative fringe. Double leather girthed with 3/4 to 7/8 rigging. Stirrups were custom fabricated of steel.

Wood, mild steel, leather, linen, fibreglass.

Jeffrey Hedgecock, 2001.

Available on custom order only. Please call for details.

Historical Accuracy Rating


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  • Model: HAA-custom
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This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 15 January, 2009.