HEAVY CAVALRY UNIFORMS, ARMS & EQUIPMENT - DRAGOON GUARDS & DRAGOONS
The military saddle was to undergo its greatest evolution between 1881 and 1902. The progression from wooden arch through iron arch to the Universal Pattern steel arch saddle would largely affect the rank and file. For officers there would be little change until 1896. It was described in regulations as a “Hussar” pattern saddle in 1883 and 1891 which in reality was a militarized hunting saddle. It would later be described as such in the lengthy regulations in Appendix VII in the 1900 regulations. The girth was blue in all regiments except the 6th Innisking Dragoons in which is was white.
The bridle and reins were of brown leather and had the military addition of the bridoon rein and the ear and bit bosses were to be of regimental patterns. The ear bosses were in the form of brass rosettes often with the regimental device on it and the bit boss devices were also brass - the crown over garter with either the royal cypher or regimental badge within the garter. The head chain was worn until 1896 when it was changed to the head rope worn by other ranks. All the dragoon regiments wore throat plumes on their bridles in review order – the 1st Dragoons was black, the 2nd Black over scarlet and the 6th was white.
The subject of horse furniture (especially saddlery) in the British army is long and complicated and no attempt will be made here to describe it in detail. The first item under Horse Furniture in the dress regulations for Dragoon Guards and Dragoons is the “Shabracque”, the large saddlecloth that covered the entire saddle including the holsters or wallets. It was to be of authorised regimental patterns and the regulation emphasised that it “must not be re-introduced into regiments which had discontinued it or may discontinue it.” It was also not to be taken to or used in India. There is not much evidence that any regiments completely stopped using them until 1896 when they were abolished. The shabracque of the 6th Dragoon Guards is a typical example; Since their truncated conversion to light dragoons, they had adopted the style of that cavalry arm with rounded ends to the blue shabracque. After their return from India in 1893, they took up a white one with pointed ends (in dragoon style) which must have been the devil to keep clean. At any rate, by 1896 they had to put it in store. One of these was used for the Drum Horse until 1922. The fore part of the shabracque which went over the wallets was decorated with the Royal Cypher, while the rear ends had the crown over garter with the regimental device within and the designation underneath.
Over the shabracque was a dress lambskin made of “Black Ukrainian Lambskin” which was edged in scarlet scalloped cloth, white in the 2nd and 6th Dragoon Guards and lined with Moleskin. After the abolition of the shabracque, a larger version of the lambskin was used. An undress lambskin was also authorised which was similar to the dress one without the edging and slits to get to the wallets. This was also discontinued in 1896 and not worn in India.