My thanks go to Rob Barnes tonight for his help in identifying tonight’s object- it is far easier to write about something when I know what it is!
I have (very) slowly been collecting up items of mule pack saddlery over the last year, as with so many of my projects this is very much a back burner thread to my collection with items being picked up as they appear but with no real plan to quickly complete a set. It was therefore very nice to come across a strap for a couple of pounds a few weeks back:This is a ‘breeching’ strap and was part of the tack of a pack saddle used to prevent the saddle from slipping forward when the animal was going downhill. The strap itself is made of heavy duty leather, 1 ½” wide by 2 ½ feet long/ At one end a small becket is attached:The opposite end is cut into a tongue:There is a faint War Department /|\ mark stamped into the leather:In this diagram from the 1937 Manual of Equitation, the straps can be seen at Number 4:The manual also gives some advice on leading mules up and down hills and what steps should be taken with the breaching:
The driver should always give the animal a long rein when moving over rough or hill country; this is quickly effected by letting go of the rein with the right hand, seizing the T-piece from the outside of the ring of the bit and pulling the rein through. In difficult ground additional assistance can be given by steadying the loads and helping the animals along. It may even be necessary to unload the animals and carry the loads over an obstacle by hand.
For ascents the driver must tighten the breastpiece and loosen the breeching, doing the converse for descents. This can be quickly done without halting by means of the chain attachments of the breastpiece and breeching.
This was clearly a skilled operation however as the manual goes on to recommend:
Until the drivers gain experience, a short halt should be ordered to tighten breast pieces for ascents, and breeching and cruppers for descents.