History, Horse Equipment

The French Hussar Influence

French Hussar Saddle.

This is a rather simple descriptive post – many years ago, I was given an image of a plate showing the basic French hussar saddle, of similar vintage to the formation of the American dragoon regiments, and the Ringgold saddle

This first plate is the illustration used in the 1826 cavalry tactics manual that was a direct translation of a similar French manual. The somewhat infamous 1834 tactics manual is a near direct reprint. The point of including this image here is to give an idea of the common perception of what the hussar saddle was supposed to look like – it’s a mighty sexy thing, no?

The rest of the images on this page are from the French hussar saddle plate previously referenced – if anyone knows more information about this variant, please feel free to contact me via the website.

This first image is the entire plate, showing a convenient collection of views of all the pieces and parts. This shows the deceptive simplicity of the design. The concepts and parts are simple, but the volume of separate parts increases the complexity in ‘assembling’ this saddle on the horse for actual use.

The seat itself is formed of the hardwood tree, a rawhide seat nailed to pommel and cantle, and laced to the sidebars with heavy rawhide thongs.  The saddle was held on by a single leather girth, with the padded seat placed on top of the rawhide ‘sling’ seat. A leather overgirth, or surcingle, was then placed over this.  As shown in the 1826 plate illustration, additional layers were often found, with shabraques and sheepskin pads.

Common accessories shown in the plate include horseshoe case, stirrups and leathers, carbine boot, crupper, breaststrap, and pistol holsters.


Here is a view of the removeable seat pad, with it’s stitched quilting. This would have been a black leather cover, and shows the ‘look’ that would have been distinctive for the French hussar saddle.

Hussar quilted leather seat pad

The next image show very familiar detail, when considering the Ringgold saddle. The iron support arches, and the embedded crupper staples in the rear face of the cantle where clearly the inspiration for Ringgold’s saddle. The French cantle is also sporting a brass edge binding. The cantle was exposed, and therefore was a distinctive attribute of the hussar rig.


Views of saddle tree

Now, you have a bit of information that should help you to understand the design aesthetic that came to dominate the dragoon saddles designed by Ringgold, and later Grimsley.

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