Native Arts & the Horse (1840–1900)

Native peoples became expert in fabricating horse gear for hunt and for war. Along the way, they transformed utilitarian equipment into a unique level of art.

New ideas in design and ornament circulated through Native trade routes from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. Some Native groups acquired Spanish-style gear, or copied it, with modifications based on local materials and personal taste. A lively trade in bridle bits and other metal parts sprang up. But for the most part, Native craftsmen made their own: saddles, bridles, cinches, whips, and ropes. Blending a variety of influences—Spanish saddles, eastern beadwork, traditions of family and tribal identity—Native artists created a rich new visual art form.