Field Trip: Antique Mexican Parade Saddles
HOST: The introduction of the horse to North America by the Spanish in the 16th century led to a robust and accomplished equestrian culture. By the 1700s, saddles in Mexico changed to include a horn, used to work a rope for catching cattle. Isn't that right, Julius? (clicks tongue) Come on, boy. In Austin, appraiser Bruce Shackelford joined me to check out a fantastic private collection that included several beautiful handmade Mexican saddles. Bruce, these saddles are elaborate art pieces. But the saddle itself, it was a very important tool to the rider. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about the function.
Well, the saddle as we know it today, the stock saddle for working livestock, evolved in Mexico after the conquest in the 1500s. And these are stock saddles from Mexico. They're not just for your average rider. HOST: Who would be the kind of person that would get a saddle like this?
These people were powerful, and they wanted to show how important they were as caballeros by the way they rode. This saddle was made in the 1880s. It was shown in New Orleans in 1885 at a world exposition. It is said to have been shown in Paris in the late 1880s and it's a masterpiece. This decoration is embroidered sterling silver. HOST: Oh, my.
All the decoration on the horn, on the tree is repoussÈ sterling silver. The tan color embroidery is cactus fiber. It's maguey cactus that grows in Mexico, and it's really hard, stiff material. And to embroider like that, that saddle I'm sure took well over a year to create. The stirrups, those are called tapaderos, and they're to protect the rider's feet and to keep the stirrups from hanging up in brush. HOST: So the seat is made out of wood, and you call the actual saddle seat a saddle tree?
Yeah, it's a saddle tree, and it's the structure that fits on the horse and holds the rest of the saddle together. That label is the label of the tree maker. The tree is called a fuste. Now, sometimes the tree makers put the saddles together, but sometimes they went to a number of craftsmen and then were put together. HOST: And the value of this saddle today?
I would think if it came on the market in an auction, it would easily bring $30,000, probably more. A saddle like this is scarce, especially with history. HOST: Beautiful saddle. We have another one to look at here. Tell me about this one-- what year is it from?
This one was probably made in the late 1800s, but it reflects a tradition that was centuries old, goes back to the armored horses from the medieval period. This is called an anquera, but in the medieval era, in the early Renaissance, these were made out of iron and covered the back of the horse for protection. In this age, they were originally protecting the horse's rump from brush and from thorns working cattle, but then they became parade pieces, just beautiful decorated pieces. All of this is embroidered with cactus fiber that's colored, and behind the rose embroidery, everything's fully tooled. This was made as a set. The sword, the bridle, the bit was made as a set, all of the silver. Everybody saw the other person's work and put it together. We know who owned this saddle, and it was ridden by an officer of Poncho Villa during the revolutionary period of 1910 to 1920. If this saddle came up at an auction, because of the history, I think it would easily bring $40,000 to $45,000, possibly more. HOST: Thanks so much, Bruce. Sure. It's really great we could come look at these masterpieces. They're just fabulous.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
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