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"French Heavy Cavalry Shabraque" Topic

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Widowson22 Dec 2011 1:07 a.m. PST

I was doing some research on this subject, related to when the Guard Dragoons changed to the 3-piece holster covers, when I was reminded of a question I've long ignored about the square shabraques:

Some sources show a shabraque that extends all the way to the holster covers, while others show a "half shabraque" which terminates under the rear portion of the saddle.

It seems like the half shabraque is always shown with the sheepskin cover, whereas the full shabraque is associated with the officer's horse furniture, that has no sheepskin.

I would venture that the sheepskin was an ADDITION to the plain shabraque, and the "half shabraque" is an error based upon some artistic license. My general knowledge leads me to think that this "half shabraque" makes no sense. It has no function, and I can't see how it is even mounted on the horse, who apparently has bare leather saddlery at the front end. Seems like the bare saddle in front would harm the horse, and the half shabraque would slide off the horse with little help.

Anyone else have an opinion?

French Wargame Holidays22 Dec 2011 4:35 a.m. PST

You seem to be confused a shabraque is NOT a saddle cloth and the broad sense as we know it today, it was more of a saddle covering, and it is absolutly not artistic licence by period artists!

A majority of napoleonic military saddles were mostly all Hungarian style except for the officers who preferred German hunters (more comfortable) hence the shabraque was sometimes underneath.

Hungarian saddles can be adjusted to fit any rider and have a High Gullet so they will fit any horse (high of flat withered)and have the added advantage of adjustable side bars so as the horse lost conditioning due to campaigning the saddle could be adjusted to refit the horse. also the hungarian saddle had platted horsehair (the best as it breathes)felt or sheepskin padding fitted onto the sidebars.

The padding sits directly onto the horse withers and back, hence the Hungarian saddle doesn't need a saddlecloth, only if the horse had lost a lot of condition would one have been used.

Saddlecloths were used by the British as their trees were not adjustable (1778 model) and they used a girth and circ single arrangement, although they were mostly replaced by the 1805 ('Light Horse Saddle', designed by Sir Wiliam Erskine) model based on the german dragoon style with longer flaps.

the sheepskin shrabraque was for the benefit of the rider not the horse making the laced harness more comfortable (but horrible in wet weather!)

It is described well here

and the Hungarian saddle here

german hunter and hungarian together


french (hungarian style) hussar saddle

german cuirassier saddle 1786 model, however the tree is hungarian,this is more commonly known as the dragoon saddle, note the side skirts or leather flaps, and also note no saddlecloth, primarily used by heavy cavalry and you guessed it dragoons.

a good read if you have time, although it is written some 100 years later

Horses, saddles and bridles capt W H Carter

and reproduction saddles (english)

my two cents

Personal logo Condotta Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2011 5:30 a.m. PST

Matt, very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I paint and play with my figures with nary a thought about how the fit of the saddles was engineered. I'll look at my cavalry figures differently. Glad they are not the smelly lot the real men and horses must have been ; )

DeanMoto22 Dec 2011 9:47 a.m. PST

Wow, Matt, thanks for the schooling. Great information in a few words. Appreciate the info. Best, Dean

Kevin in Albuquerque22 Dec 2011 11:19 a.m. PST

Matt – lovely stuff and excellent links. Thanks.

Widowson22 Dec 2011 11:32 a.m. PST

Sorry if I didn't communicate effectively. Here's a link to the cent jours site (I hope) for the 1st Carabiniers. Note how the officer's shabraque extends all the way to the front of the saddle, but the troopers' shabraques stop short. I can't see how it stays on.


Widowson22 Dec 2011 11:45 a.m. PST

By the way, other sources show the troopers' shabraques identical to the officers', except they have white edging and details instead of the officers' silver.

French Wargame Holidays22 Dec 2011 1:44 p.m. PST

this link?


The troopers shabraque is attached under the rear of the saddle by lacing through the leather reinforcement in three places.

DrsRob24 Dec 2011 4:52 p.m. PST

The saddlecloth used by Heavy cavalry – and not just the French – had a semi circular cut-out for the saddle. Its front ends were strapped to the saddle.
In the French model the front ends of the saddle cloth had a buckle and the outer ends of the front saddle ards astrop, pointing rearwards.
In the Dutch model the front end of the saddlecloth had both a buckle and strap. The strap was looped around the girth strap.
The full saddle cloth used by officers and elite heavy cavalry was not worn underneath the saddle either. It had a full circulair cut-out for the saddle, the ends being buckled together over the horse's withers.

As far as padding and horse blankets are concerned, thing get blurry in the 19th centure because of extensive modification and experimentation.
In fact it was the hungarian saddle that had no padding other then a multi-folded saddle blanket. So called 'german' or heavy cavalry saddles had saddle pads attached and were – at least until the 19th century – used without a saddle blanket.

Widowson30 Dec 2011 8:45 p.m. PST

As I understand it, the original French heavy cavalry shabraque had no sheepskin, so it must have been constructed like the later officer's model.

The carabiniers kept this style up until they were armored, and the guard heavies kept it to the end.

At some time I don't know, the cuirassiers and dragoons adopted the sheepskin cover. I guess this is where the cloth part of the shabraque was cut down so as only to be in the rear of the saddle.

Does that make sense? Does anyone know when the dragoons and cuirassiers made the switch?

Camcleod31 Dec 2011 9:19 a.m. PST

Based on the Lienhart-Humbert plates at Deutsche Uniformen and Funcken's The Lace Wars V.2 the French Cavalry and Dragoon Regts. started using the sheepskin covers around 1791.
The Cuirassiers always had them, as they were formed in 1804.

Widowson01 Jan 2012 6:59 p.m. PST

How about the carabiniers? Seems like they got the sheepskin covers at the same time they were armored.

Camcleod01 Jan 2012 8:42 p.m. PST

Looked at Rousselot. He shows the 1804-10 Carabiniers with sheepskin covers.
There are a few plates that show Carabiniers and other Heavy Cav. without the sheepskin covers (M@A #405 plate B1 – Rev. War carabinier and in the Funcken Nap. Wars) but Rousselot shows them WITH during the Empire.

Widowson01 Jan 2012 10:50 p.m. PST

Ok, so I haven't lost my mind. I knew I had seen it somewhere. Are we to consider that error? I know I've seen miniature figures with the non-sheepskin, officer pattern shabraques.

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