Page 3 of 4
So what caused the demise of the Galloway? Their fate was inextricably linked to that of the Reivers. James VI realised that without their horses the activities of the the Reivers would be severely curtailed. So he enacted banning orders on the keeping of horses in the Border country. Once the Reivers were gone and “peace” returned to the Borders (which would remain a turbulent place for at least another 100 years) then the only requirement for horses was for farm work. With the introduction of the heavy horse, especially the Clydesdale, one of which could do the heavy work of several Galloways eg ploughing, then the fate of the Galloway was sealed. The breed went into decline and by the 19th Century existed as only several broken-down horses. The breed was a shadow of its former self. I is at that time that I believe the term “nag”, which until then had just been an ordinary term for the breed, took on its pejorative overtones, implying a horse that was fit for nothing. Once these survivors were gone the breed officially ceased to exist, though, as we have seen, their bloodlines flow on.
As an aside
When people talk about the “Galloway” nowadays this is generally what they are referring to: the Galloway breed of cattle. This particular one is the “sub-set” variety known as the Belted Galloway or , colloquially, “the Beltie”. They are a small, hardy animal, at home on the poor conditions of weather and fodder of the Border hills, unlike the modern imported breeds eg the Limousin or Simmental. These are the direct descendants of the type of cattle the Reivers would have farmed or taken from others.
The Galloway of Reving times should not be confused with this character, the modern day Highland variety. It’s not that you don’t get them in the Borders, they can be found all over Scotland, but they didn’t exist in Reiving times. The Highland is a relatively modern breed, only being developed in this form from the 18th Century. One big difference - Galloways don’t have horns.
The saddle used in the 16th Century is large, robust and heavy. It is derived from the medieval “Great Saddle” and is well suited to the rider who has to spend hours in the saddle.
For a larger view of the saddle at left, click on the picture.
At left is an authentic 16th Century Spanish saddle. You can see the similarity to the one above. This item can be found in the collection of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. At right is a modern day Portugese, Picador’s saddle, virtually the twin of the one at left.
Again, for larger views click on the photos at left and right.
The Spanish saddle, when taken to its new world colonies went down an evolutionary path which would lead to the modern day Western saddle.
Bits and Bridles
Unfortunately, I have no photos of period or reproduction Bits and bridles. If anyone does have photographic examples maybe they would like to e-mail them to me.
Period bits would nowadays be considered extremely cruel to the horse. The rider had to have instant obedience from his horse, his life might depend on it. If escaping a situation meant injuring, perhaps irreparably, a horse’s mouth then the rider would have considered the risk worthwhile. The horse could be replaced. Likewise with spurs. Professional horsemen in that period would not have had the “sentimental” attitude we have to horses nowadays.