Bridle, Breast Collar, and Crupper Strap for a Horse


Not on view

This full set is a rare surviving example of a luxurious French 18th-century riding horse tack. It consists of a bridle with its bit and reins (04.3.471a), a saddle with a pair of pistol holsters (04.3.474) and stirrups (04.3.472-473), a breast collar and a crupper strap (04.3.471b-c). The saddle and the straps, (partly restored) are mostly made of thick cow leather covered with a thin red morocco leather. The saddle seems more recent than the tack and the stirrups, and was probably made around the years 1770-1780. It could have been manufactured in Denmark, in the French taste, to match the rest of the set. It may have featured embroidered textile ornaments for the gun holsters and a chabraque (ornamental saddle cloth), now lost.

All the hardware, including the bit, the buckles, the stirrups and the straps’ ornaments, are made of high quality gilded bronze, chased with rococo motifs. Among the traditional ornamental shells and scrolls, the breast collar plaque features a human-faced dragon breathing fire, the crupper strap central ornament a small rabbit, and the stirrups’ suspension loops green men’s faces.

This beautiful set is said to have been a gift from the king of France Louis XV to the king of Denmark (possibly Christian VI according to the dating of this set).

Fine horses covered with rich tack was a common diplomatic gift among European princes. These animals were symbols of power as well as being one of the major elements of the noble way of life. We do not know the context of this gift, but this tack would have been probably presented to the king worn by a horse coming from the royal stables of Versailles, trained in high-level classical dressage.

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