Monday, June 29, 2009

Native American horse headgear

As promised, here are some of pictures of the Native American saddlery on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Today I am focusing on the bridle and horse masks. Tomorrow I will post pictures of the saddles.

The sign above this bridle reads: Plains Indians first learned about horses from the Spanish. The Cheyenne BEADED HEADSTALL transformed a Spanish iron bit into a fine bridle.This is the sign that accompanies the masks.This is the Crow mask.I love the rawhide horns and feathery forelock.This fully beaded Sioux horse hood is my favorite piece in the entire museum. It was used in Fourth of July parades at the turn of the century.Detail shot of the beading and quilled horse hair mane. I wonder how long it took to make this?
If you are interested in learning more about horse masks, I would strongly recommend the book American Indian Horse Masks by by Ned and Jody Martin, Mike Cowdrey, and Winfield Coleman (shown here in the museum gift shop but also available through Amazon):
This is an expensive book, but it is full of really wonderful detail pictures of all kinds of horse masks including the two shown in this posting!


  1. I had no idea all this was at Denver's museum! I need to go sometime.

  2. LOVE the masks. I need to have something like that in model form one of these days.
    I'm trying to figure out the first bridle. Do the hangy-beads go under the chin? Just a little dark I guess.

  3. Jane, the saddlery is on the second floor in the Native American galleries. That's usually a pretty quiet part of the museum, even on free days when most of the areas are overrun with strollers and little kids!

    Laura, I tried so hard to get a better picture of the bridle but it's behind glass (all the saddlery items are) and it was hard to get pictures without reflections from the camera's flash... Truthfully, I'm surprised they turned out as well as they did!

  4. The Horse Hood on display at the Denver Museum blew me away. I was so taken by the majesty of this piece of history/art that I had to make my own. This started a ten year odyssey on finding the smallest beads I could find and trying to create my own take on this stunning piece. One thing as always leads to another and I ended up creating an entirely beaded set for the model of my late mare Brenda Batty Atty. I cannot even begin to guess how many beads actually went into making this miniature or even the original. Thank you for taking the time to document this mask for us. Best Wishes, Morg

  5. Hi Morg,

    I would really love to see a picture of your beaded set. We visit this museum about once a year and every time I leave telling myself: I'm going to make that someday. Maybe sometime I really will!

    P.S. Did you see the pix from the Denver Art Museum. Lots more great Native American tack can be found there.