Name of object: Saddle
Object Type: Saddle
Category: Distribution & Transportation Artifact
Sub- Category: Land Transportation- Accessory
Material: Leather, Metal
Accession Number: 1990.124.001
Length: 56
Width: 34
Institution: Veterans Memorial Military Museum
Institution City: Kensington
Institution Province: Prince Edward Island
Description: Saddle; brown leather, metal, wood, felt, seat 56 x 34cm; stirrups and straps attached.
Narrative: Canadian Calvary Universal Saddle; used during WW II by the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles; on side “D. Mason & Sons/WA (illegible).


Photo: Canadian Calvary Universal Saddle on display


The Canadian Calvary Universal saddle, also known as the British Universal Pattern military saddle, was used by a number of different militaries, including mounted forces from Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. This particular saddle was donated by Master Corporal K. R. Thompson and was used by the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles.[i]

The 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles, which is commonly, referred to as 8 Recce or VIII Recce, was the reconnaissance arm of the second Canadian Infantry Division. The 8th was created at Guillemont Barracks in southern England on March 11, 1941. In order to create this Recce, three existing squadrons from the division were merged together. The 14th Canadian Light Horse was also involved in forming the 8th Recce. The 8th regimental headquarters consisted of twenty six men of all ranks; one headquarters squadron, consisting of 222 men of all ranks; and three reconnaissance squadrons, which were identified by letters “A”, “B”, and “C”, and consisted of 191 men of all ranks.[ii]

The Canadian Cavalry universal saddle that was used during the First World War, has a long history dating back to 1890. The original pattern of the saddle, which is also known as the Universal Pattern Saddle, was created in 1890. The saddle was modified a number of times in 1902 and 1912. In 1902, the saddle was modified to incorporate a fixed tree, broad panel to spread the load and initially and a front arc that came in three different sizes. The main advantage of these newly modified saddles was its lightness and ease of repair and comfort for the horse and the rider. The saddle was once again modified in 1912 and was built on an adjustable tree that resulted in only needing one size. This was a huge advantage because it allowed for a better fit on the horses back as the horse gained or lost weight. The long side “Numnah” (felt underlay) and its steel arches were also a great improvement.[iii]

All CEF saddles are also found with a large stamp on the side flaps in the form of an arrow, surrounded by a “C”; this signifies the war department of Canada. Perhaps the most interesting of the modifications was the horse-shoe case secured on the side of the saddle. Along with holding a spare horse-shoe, the casing also held the Pattern 1908 Cavalry sword. The interesting and ironic part of this is that after the sword ceased to have any significance on the battlefield and after centuries of debate, this design was voted the best design for a cavalry sword. The Pattern 1908 Cavalry sword was once the best weapon used on the battlefields because of its slim tapered blade and pistol grip hilt designed for thrusting. However, with the creation of automatic weapons, the sword eventually became insignificant to battles.[iv]

In order to secure the saddle to the horse, leather strips were fastened snugly around the belly of the horse. If the saddle was incorrectly placed even by a fraction, it would cause a great deal of discomfort for the horse and the rider. Therefore, the saddle must be properly placed with two fingers behind the horse’s shoulder blade.[v] In some of the later models of the saddle, there were two leather wallets that were slung on either side of the saddle. These leather wallets were mostly used to hold the personal belongings of the soldiers, such as spare undergarments, rations, or a shaving kit. There was also a strap near the end of the saddle to hold the soldiers rolled up greatcoat, groundsheet, and two blankets, which he would have used for sleeping at night. Today, the military saddles are still produced and used for exhibitions, parades, and other events, particularly by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. [vi]




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