Artifact Guide

Teacher's Guide to the Artifacts

Check out the details of each artifact in the Artifiction Trunk.

  • Remind students to be careful with the items as they are on loan from the museum
  • Some of the artifacts have been used with horses, so they may have an allergic effect on the students.  If you have a student who is allergic to animals, do not give them the saddle blanket!


The information below tells you the answers to the questions about each artifact and then a little bit of history or details about each item.

1. Saddle:             

It is an English practice saddle.

It is made of leather, wood, and stitching.

It is made by molding and fitting the leather around the seat areas and further working in the saddle flaps and other parts of the saddle.

This saddle comes from the WTAMU Equine Center in Canyon, TX. 

The students at WTAMU use the saddle to work their horses there at the center.  The saddle has been used a lot.  You can tell by close examination of it.

English riders will typically use a smaller more compact saddler to exercise his or her horse before an even tor just for everyday active use.  The practice saddle is smaller and cheaper than an English competitive saddle.

In order to train and work a horse to jump, trail, or just run a pattern, riders need to have a way to stay on the horse during practice.  The practice saddle enables a rider to do that.


English saddle:  The English saddle lacks the horn and pommel of the western saddle.


It is a smaller, more compact saddle.  In England, foxhunting grew in popularity. This required a new type of riding, as horse and rider now had to tackle fences, hedges, ditches, and banks straight on if they wished to keep up with the hounds.  The old saddle was cumbersome while hunting. Its cantle would get in the way of the riders as they tried to lean back, and the high pommel created pain as the rider went over jumps. The resulting saddle, developed for foxhunting, had a very low pommel and cantle with a flat seat, and no padding under the leg, therefore providing the rider with little, if any, support.  This saddle is used in Quarter Horse events such as jumping, dressage, and hunter under saddle or equitation over fences.  In our collection, we have some English saddles that date as far back as the early 1900’s.


2. Jockey silks and helmet:             

It is the shirt and helmet that a jockey wears when he or she races.

It is made of synthetic materials-lightweight and wind resistant.

It is sewn together and had embroidery on it.

It was made in the 1980’s. The jockey uses it to wear during the race, the owner uses it to locate his jockey and horse in the track.

It comes from the USA.

Jockey’s have to wear lightweight gear.  Everything on a race horse is about weight.  The jockeys even weigh very little (113 lbs).  These bright colors allow the owners and spectators to easily spot their horse and rider.  Silks also incorporate symbolism.  The silk of the Allred brothers, which is in the Hall of Fame is bright red with three black A’s on it. 

What could those three A’s stand for?  Right there were three brothers. 

Jockey’s live a dangerous life; they ride upon the backs of Quarter Horses that can reach 40 miles an hour in 4 to 5 strides.  A jockey can only weigh 113 pounds and are usually shorter in height but there is no height requirement.


3. Saddle Blanket

It is a blanket that is placed between the horse’s back and the saddle.

It is made of yarns woven together, but blankets can be made of lots of different fibers and materials.

It is made by dying the yarns and weaving them together to make a distinct pattern.  Sometimes, it is bordered with leathers for decoration.

This blanket comes from Texas.

There is no date on this blanket but it could be as old as the 1950’s.

Cowboys would have used this blanket.  It is placed between the saddle and the horse’s back. 

It helps soak up sweat and it provides padding for the horse’s back area.


Saddle blankets come in a varied array of colors, styles, and materials.  This one is made of cotton fibers woven together.  This Western style saddle blanket would be used by a cowboy most likely or maybe someone in a rodeo event.  This saddle blanket is one from our education collection and has no date on it.  Saddle blankets have been used for a very long time.


4. Assorted Girths           

Saddle girth-western style

It is made by twisting different yarns together.

These are made of cotton fiber yarns which provide stretch for the horse’s belly.

These were probably made in the 80’s.

IT comes from the USA. 

Cowboys, recreational riders, and rodeo competitors all use girths like this.

It is used by attaching it to both sides of the saddle.

It holds the saddle onto the horse’s back.  The girth is a little stretchy, so that the horse can breathe with it on.

Girths can get very artistic with the use of colorful yarns and braiding.  Girths such as this are easy on the horse and allow for better breathing.  This girth would be used on the western saddle.  English girths are different in design and materials. Also called a cinch, they are found on both Western and English saddles. English girths have two buckles on each end and are narrower. Western girths have one buckle on each end and are much wider. They fit right behind the horse’s front legs and should be snug on the horse’s stomach to prevent the saddle from slipping. Girths can be made from leather, nylon, or fleece. It is very important to measure a horse so the girth can fit properly. They range in sizes from pony length to draft horse length.


5. Spurs                     

These are men’s western style spurs.

They are made of metals.  There is a little bit of decoration on them and they have parts.  See the diagram below.

The metal is heated and formed and manipulated until the round heel band piece is made.  The rowel is attached and must be able to spin.  The buttons on the side are attached to leather straps which enable one to wear them on their boots.

These are made in the USA.

They are new from 2007.

Cowboys use spurs.  They wear them on their boots and use them to gently nudge a horse in the direction they want them to go.  They never dig the spur into the horse, they use it as an extension of their own heels.  This is a form of communication between the rider and the horse.

Spurs are used in Western and English events.  The spur is used to gently nudge the horse into action by its rider. Spurs have been noted as being used as early as ancient Rome.  Although these spurs are pretty plain in design, many can be quite elaborate and spurs are a collectible item.  Spurs are used by cowboys, but English disciplines use them as well although they lack a rowel that spins. 


6. Bell boot                 

It is a bell boot.

It is made of rubber and Velcro.

It is made by forming the rubber into a molded pattern.  This is then attached to the Velcro and leather pieces.

It comes from Texas.

It is from 1990.

Lots of people use bell boots on their horses.  You will see bell boots used on horses that run rodeo events, chase cattle on the ranch, or do English jumping events.

It is used to keep the horse from clacking its hooves together when it is working.

Some horses will clack their hooves together kind of like someone who is pigeon toed often hits his or her feet together when he or she walks.  This covering goes over the hoof and prevents the hard smack of the hooves clacking.  This protects the horses hoof.  Often it is used in combination with a shin guard, as horses that knock their hooves together often will rub their legs together also.  There are many protective pieces available for horses, and this is just one of them. 


7. Braided reins and western bit    

It is a set of braided reins and a western bit

The reins are made of leather and are braided together into a long strand.  The bit is made by being cast in metal.

This bit and these reins were made in the USA.  They have been used in many displays at the museum.

The bit is used in combination with the reins to control the horse.

These items are normally used in western events such as barrel racing and calf roping. 

This type of bit and reins can be found all over the world used at events and on working ranches.

The rider must be able to control his or her horse. The western bit provides indirect pressure which pushes on the horse’s mouth and tells the horse to move to the right or the left.

Horse owners like to take pride in their “stuff,” so many times, they create tack that is decorated and shows off their personality.  This bit has a small design on the side of the shank, but other bits can get pretty fancy.  Sometimes they are engraved on the sides like this one, or they can be very elaborate and even have diamonds in them.   The first decorative bits were made to show ownership, much like branding cows, but now-a-days owners can get pretty elaborate in decorating their pieces.  They often use symbols on their tack.  Bits fit into the part of the horse’s mouth where there are no teeth.  They fit comfortably there and do not hurt the horse.  Also bits can be made of rubber instead of metal.  Lots of English competitors use the rubber snaffle bit instead of a metal one.  Reins can get very elaborate.  There is much artistry involved in fashioning a set of reins.  There are reins that are made of leathers such as this one or horsehair, rope, and even combinations of leather and metal.  A leather worker will take great pleasure in a good set of reins and can take many hours to complete a set. 


8. Mouth guard and wrappings        

It is a mouth guard and some leg wrappings.

The plastic is molded to fit the horse’s bottom jaw and the wrappings are woven out of cotton materials.

These are new, probably from 2007 or so.  They are from the WTAMU Equine Center.

The wrappings are used for horses that are experiencing some sort of problem with their legs.  A sprain or a strain could cause a horse to need wrappings.  The mouth guard is used to keep the horse from bending over and chewing the wrappings off of the legs.

Grooms would use this kind of contraption to keep their horses healthy.  A groom is a person who cleans and feeds a horse and its stall everyday.

There are lots of medical equipment associated with horses.  There are also many different medical careers other than veterinarian.  Veterinarian techs help veterinarian doctors, equine therapists help horses who need to retrain muscles or need special workouts, and farriers take care of the horse’s hooves and re-shoe them every 6 weeks.



9. Twitch                 

It is a twitch used to tattoo race horses.

It is made from metal which is cast into the right shape.

We don’t know where this particular one comes from.  There is no date or place listed on it.

At the racetrack, it is necessary to know that a horse is indeed that horse.  So horses are tattooed inside their bottom lip.  The veterinarian can do this or the owner.

The twitch is attached to the bottom lip and the lip is pulled back.  The tattoo blocks are dipped in ink and the owner will push the tattoo block into the lip area leaving a permanent mark on the horse.

In the early days, it was easy to say that one sorrel horse was another and sometimes that made the races unfair, so owners developed this method of identifying horses.  If a horse has a brand and a tattoo unique to itself, it is probably the right horse at the track.


10. Orthopedic Horse Shoe         

It is an orthopedic horse shoe (like a tennis shoe for a horse).

It is made of three parts.  There is a metal horseshoe in the shape of the actual hoof, above it is placed a rubber horseshoe which gives added padding, and above that is a flat metal plate which is used under the hoof. 

It is made by casting and cutting the materials into the desired shape for the hoof which is damaged.

This one had no listed date or origin.

A farrier or owner would want this shoe on a horse with a damaged hoof.

Horse’s hooves get damaged often and can take long times to heal, so an orthopedic horse shoe allows them to “baby” the hurt foot until it is healed.

Horses can run into all sorts of trouble with their hooves.  This is a shoe made to treat a cracked hoof.  This shoe would rehabilitate the horses hoof and allow him or her to be able to function correctly again.  Although this one is older, these kinds of applications are used today. The whole contraption is usually screwed into place until it is no longer needed. Technology has come a long way in the care and rehabilitation of horses’ hooves. Today many different materials are used including foam and rubber.


11. Bit sizer                 

It is a bit sizer.

It is made of metal.

It is cast and molded into shape.

It is from the USA and is fairly new.

It is used by someone who makes bits for horses.

It is placed in the horse’s mouth and used to measure how wide from side to side the horse’s mouth is.

Just like people horses come in lots of different shapes and sizes so while one bit might work well for one horse, another may be needed for a different horse.

Bits are commonly used to train, ride, and handle a horse.  How do you figure out what size bit your horse needs?  You use a bit sizer.  This contraption goes in the horse’s mouth and the marks are used to determine what size bit the horse needs. 

Early bits were made of bone and wood. Today, there are many styles of bits made from rubber, copper, and nickel, but many horsemen like to ride with an iron bit.  There are two types of bits, a snaffle and a curb.  The Curb bit has shanks.  The snaffle bit is a milder bit.  It is thick and joined in the middle.  The snaffle bit puts pressure on the horse’s lips, tongue and bars of the mouth.  The curb bit is more severe.  It has a curb chain, which fits under the horse’s chin and helps to lower the horse’s head when the reins are pulled.  This bit puts pressure on the horse’s tongue, bars of the mouth, and the poll.


12. Tail Comb              

It is a tail comb for a horse.

It is made of aluminum.

It was cast in metal.

It came from Amarillo, TX.  It was donated by a local horsewoman and her daughters.

It was used by the daughters to comb out the tails of their three Quarter Horses.

Tails get matted and knotted up like human hair only worse because they are long and behind the back legs.  The comb must be used everyday to comb out the mats and knots and to keep the tail healthy and shiny.

Horses must be taken care of everyday.  This consists of keeping their coat clean and their teeth and keeping them fed and healthy.  Their stalls must be cleaned out daily and they must be fed several times a day.  The tail comb is just one item used to groom a horse day to day.  Lots of horse owners talk to their horses when they groom.  It strengthens the bond they have with their animals and the horses like to hear a soothing tone while they are being cleaned.


13. Foal Halter

It is a halter made for a baby horse, called a foal.

It is made of nylon.

It was made a few years ago.

It came from the WTAMU Equine Center.

It was used by WT students to lead the foals around.

Halters are an important tool to have when owning a horse. They are what you put on the horse’s head to lead him. They range in styles, from five dollar rope halters to hundreds of dollars for a silver show halter. A lead rope attaches to the bottom of the halter, underneath the chin, and that’s what people hold to lead them. People use halters to catch horses, lead them, tie them, haul them places, etc.


As you can imagine, it takes training to teach a horse to do all that while wearing a halter. Most people start training their horse as babies, or foals. This halter was designed for a foal. They normally wear them everyday until they are used to them and can be lead around without fighting. It makes them much easier to handle as adult horses.



14. Flank Strap/Back Girth

It is a part of a western saddle called a flank strap or a back girth.

It is made of leather.

It came from Amarillo, TX. A local horsewoman donated it from her saddle.

There is no date that it was made or origin.

The flank strap, also called a back girth, is most commonly seen on young horses and roping horses. It is made of heavy leather and it drops down below the cantle of the western saddle; it does not fit as tightly as the front girth. The back girth helps keep the saddle in place if a young horse starts bucking, but is more commonly used to work cattle. It helps to secure the saddle if a cowboy ropes a steer and dallies the rope to the saddle horn.


15. Breast Collar

It is part of a western saddle called a breast collar.

It is made of leather.

It came from Amarillo, TX. A local horsewoman donated it from her saddle.

There is no date it was made or origin.

Breast collars are seen in both Western and English riding. They help keep the saddle from sliding too far to one side and from sliding too far back. English breast collars are made of narrower strips of leather and with more pieces than a western breast collar. Western Breast collars are much wider and have “3 arms”. Two attach to either side of the saddle and the bottom strap attaches to the girth between the horse’s front legs. Riders who use breast collars frequently are ropers and trail riders. When the rider dallies the rope on the horn of the saddle, the breast collar helps keep the saddle in the middle of the horse’s back when the lasso becomes tight between the horse and steer. Trail riders find them helpful when riding up and down hills and mountains. It prevents the saddle from sliding too far forward or back.