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 that became 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 converted with provided roller buckles (or sometimes modified versions of the existing centerbar buckle). Straps, Stirrup M1904 M1928 (pdf)

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 occasionally retained, with M1912 steel stirrups sometimes being used. The technically proper ‘modification’ was for the wooden stirrup with narrow tread, however.

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” made at Jeffersonville QM Depot were furnished to organizational saddlers in 1931; the M1928 designation referring to the year of the design acceptance.

JQMD Specification drawing for M-1928, June 29, 1933 (pdf)

Modification of McClellan Saddles: M-1904 to M-1928 QUARTERMASTER CORPS J.Q.D. No. 488, TENTATIVE SPECIFICATIONS 4 December 1943 (pdf)