Horse Bling History
 By Winniefield Park   •   12th Mar 2019   •   427 views   •   0 comments
Last summer, near a seaside resort in Bulgaria, archaeologists found a burial mound that contained 40 pieces of harness decoration. They are estimated to have been buried there in 333-250 BC. The pieces included round motifs similar to horse brasses and bridle rosettes. This was a very significant cache of horse bling.

Humans have been decorating horse gear for a long time. Early saddle cloths featured woven designs and fringes. Some of the oldest archaeological sites have artifacts that could easily have been used to decorate harness and bridles. And we’re still decorating today, using colorful fabrics, shining metals and real or faux gemstones to bling out our horses.

Horse Brasses
Horse brasses are pendants made of brass that are used to decorate horse harnesses. They became very popular during the Victorian era and are considered collectible. Brasses have some sort of design on one side and are flat on the other so that they lay flat. Some designs are purely decorative or may depict flowers, wildlife, animals, or just about any other subject. They are sometimes cast to commemorate events or places. While they have no real function, superstition held that a decorated harness held off the ‘evil eye’.

While you might see them on light horse harness, you’re more likely to see them on draft horses. Even a simple working harness might have a few brasses to dress it up, and show harnesses will have even more. Brasses might be mounted singly, right on the harness, or the harness might include leather panels and straps that hang over the shoulders, barrel or haunches of the horse, holding multiple brasses. Smaller brasses might be hung down the horse’s forehead. There are still competitions for decorated harnesses, and brasses are a big part of the bling, along with studs, fur, chains, colorful braids, feathered toppers and flowers.

The shanks and rings of bits are obvious places for bling. A a western show snaffle might have decorated rings, and embellishments within the rings. The shanks on curb bits might be decorated with engraving, contrasting inside metals and other embellishments. These bits might only be used in shows or parades since they need a bit of maintenance to keep the shine.

Bridle Rosettes
Bridle rosettes were once in style, and they are not the type of rosettes that you win. Bridle rosettes may also be called buttons. They are about an 1.5 inches in diameter, usually circular and have a slot on the back so they can be attached to the bridle where the headstall holds the browband. The simplest ones are plain metal—usually brass. But there are much fancier ones to.

Antique rosettes often feature a picture set in a brass circle and covered with rounded glass. Sometimes the picture was embedded in the glass, giving a sort of 3-D look. Others may be cast in elaborate designs in relief on the surface of the disk. They weren’t purely decorative as they did hold the browband in place on the headstall. Today, you might see rossettes made of ribbon alongside browbands decorated in woven ribbon. Or they may be engraved brass, silver or other metal.

Decorated browband come and go in style. There are many styles, including very elaborate jewelled bands that cover the horse’s forehead, or more subtle styles that feature a pretty strip down the middle of a regular browband. There are bands decorated in crystals and of course, ones covered in braided and woven ribbon. Both riding and driving horses may have decorated browbands, but you need to pay attention to the rules of the discipline you are competing in to learn whether they are allowed.

Some western bridles may feature silver or gold fittings along the cheek pieces of a head stall, or on the reins. And Baroque style horses may wear elaborately decorated bridles with colorful tassels, leather inlays, beads, and other bling.
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