Much lighter, and probably faster and cheaper to produce than in metal, armor made from shaped and hardened leather (cuir bouilli) was used throughout Europe for war, tournament, and parades. Surviving elements of leather armor are today extremely rare, but the use of hardened leather defenses, especially for horses, due to its advantages, was once much more widespread than is commonly assumed.
The Museum's three elements (this crupper plate, and a pair of peytral plates, acc. nos. 26.235.2–.3) originally formed part of a horse's complete front and rear defense. The front defense is represented by two side panels (the central section is missing). Of the rear defense, or crupper, only the upper plate is preserved (several further plates would have extended the crupper at the front toward the saddle, the sides and rear, down to the level of the abdomen).
The main edges of the Museum's surviving plates are bordered by several pairs of holes, indicating that the missing plates were once attached by laces, the common method of construction for leather bards. The modest color scheme suggests that the Museum's leather elements were presumably intended for a man-at-arms or retainer, rather than for a princely owner.