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The Native Americans and Horses

Amongst our vast range of Native American blankets from Pendleton, we carry some stunning saddle blankets.

Saddle blankets have been used for hundreds of years - to absorb sweat, to cushion saddles, and to protect the backs of horses when they were ridden or carried loads. Over the last few hundred years, horses have become intrinsic to Native American culture, and Pendleton has designed a beautiful range of saddle blankets in authentic American Indian designs.

Native Americans and Horses

Before the introduction of horses, intertribal warfare was uncommon and battles were rarely fatal. The only domesticated animals the Native Americans had were dogs, which were used as both companion and draft animals. These obviously had their limitations, especially when it came to hunting buffalo.

Horses were introduced to the Americas by the Spaniards for the first time in 1541 when Viceroy Mendoza gave allied Aztec warriors the “Big Dog” aka horse. Interestingly, the Apache developed an early taste for roasted horse meat. The Pueblo tribes forced the Spanish out of New Mexico in the late 17th century, and the horses were left behind. The Pueblo learned to ride, however, they did not come to rely on horses, valuing them more for trade with the Plains Indians or a food source.

Escaped horses led to expanded wild herds. The Plains Indians quickly understood the benefits of combining horses with the also newly available guns, also brought and traded by the white man. Mounted groups could more easily support themselves, follow buffalo herds, and hunt (though bow and arrow hunting was still preferred to using guns). The Plains Indians came to be renowned as great mounted buffalo hunters.

Horses had a profound impact on the Native Americans, especially those of the Midwest Plains, including the Cheyenne, Sioux, Crow, Blackfoot, and Comanche among others. Horses increased their mobility and regional productivity. They became an integral aspect of tribal culture, altering hunting practices, nomadic living and travelling patterns, and warfare, denoted prestige and wealth, and horses came to be honored in stories, songs, and ceremonies. Native Americans even formed spiritual bonds with their horses, loving them as companions and friends. The Comanche, in particular, became legendary for their riding skills, terrorizing their enemies and the colonial settlers, and keeping the Plains wild and open.

The Plains Indians became known for their equestrian prowess and savvy. They understood the importance of caring for their horses. Though they did not have saddles, they understood the importance of using saddle blankets or numnahs.

Pendleton Saddle Blankets at Indian Traders

Our Pendleton saddle blanket range is designed to pay tribute to the Plains Indians and incorporates both aesthetic appeal and functionality.

It is the Plains Indians who represent the American Indian archetype in popular culture worldwide.

The designs on the Pendleton saddle blankets in our collection consist of geometric patterns taken from decorative paintings done on rawhide by the Plains Indians of the Midwest.

Browse our full range of Pendleton blankets today.