The Model 1928 McClellan saddle
The aftermath of massive wars has usually been followed by a time of adaptation and
modification of previous equipment, in order to utilize the existing massive surplus
stocks. In the 1920s, as in the years following the Civil War, there were official
modifications to military saddlery that were performed by company and regimental saddlers.
The testing for the proposed improvements to the M1904 McClellan began in 1923-4 and
resulted in the adoption of the modification known as the Model 1928 McClellan. This
saddle reflects the changes in the theory of horsemanship that took the military world by
storm before the war. Based on the work done by Caprilli of Italy, the method was taught
to many officers attending the Saumur riding school in France before, during and after the
war. This theory, basically stated, emphasized a closer relationship between the movement
and action of the rider and horse. In terms of equipment changes to the McClellan, it
would require increased leg contact with the animal, which had never been very good to
begin with, and shorter, lighter stirrups.
The actual changes in the saddle are quite noticeable. The old rigging was cut away at
the edges of the saddle, with the quarter straps nailed down and sewn into the edge. The
old stirrup straps were discarded and replaced with lighter weight straps, usually
equipped with roller buckles.
The hooded wooden stirrups had their hoods removed, and a large section of the stirrup
was band sawed off, so that the tread would measure about 2", instead of 4.5".
Unaltered hooded stirrups were used as well.
The greatest change was the addition of a saddle skirt and "english" type
girth webbing and straps. To accomplish this, the seams on the outer edges of the saddle
were opened. The skirt was nailed to the surface of the tree, after which the girth
webbing was nailed down. The straps, three in number, were usually sewn and riveted to
this webbing. At this point the cover seam was resewn. This may have been done to retain
the strength in the seam and save time. Later modifications also replaced the sheepskin
linings with hard felt pads, sewn on as were the previous sheepskin linings. The girth was
also changed during the 1930's, with the olive webbing being supplemented by a mohair cord
girth. This latter girth was also issued with the M1936 Phillips officers saddle.
The first M1928 "kits" were furnished to organizational saddlers in 1931, so
the M1928 designation is somewhat of a misnomer.