Embroidered Pad Saddle

These saddles were made by women, and Métis women have been credited with exceptional expertise in their creation.

Written by Amelia Fay

May 30, 2016

Pad saddles were used for horseback riding and were highly prized items on the northern plains, particularly during the heyday of the bison hunt. These saddles were made by women, and Métis women have been credited with exceptional expertise in the creation of beautiful pad saddles that were traded or sold to other indigenous groups and fur traders.

Pad saddles were made from tanned moose hide that was stuffed with grass or horsehair and then decorated with beads or embroidery. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. This early twentiethcentury example represents a more modern variation, using canvas on the top but still retaining the tanned hide bottom and elaborate beadwork and yarn tassels.

It was donated to the HBC museum collection by the proprietor of a Winnipeg taxidermy store that operated from 1880 to 1910.

Amelia Fay is curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the June-July 2016 issue of Canada's History.

This article is available in French.

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