Mongolian saddle

The Mongolian saddle, with its often elaborate fittings and ornaments, varies from tribe to tribe and signals the status and origin of the rider. Main type used by Khalkha men and women of Mongolia. Constructed over a split wooden frame, its side skirts are covered with pigmented and applique&engraved leather and its seat with heavy striped Tibetan wool stamped with crosses.

The edges of the high pommel and cantle are finished with strips of repose Engrave; silver. Bosses of silver, the two near the back in the shape of locks, decorate the frame and seat. The Khalkha customarily evaluated saddles on the basis of their silver ornaments, called “whites.” Thus a saddle could be an eight-whites saddle, a ten-whites saddle, or, as here, a twelve-whites saddle, the highest category.

Mongolian saddle

The long yellow leather pad fitted to this saddle is also elaborately decorated with strips of black and green applique&engraved leather. Leather straps (ganzaga) hang down from silver bosses on either side of the rider’s leg; they were used to hold equipment or to secure game after the hunt.

These eight straps had a meaning beyond mere utility for Mongol horsemen, who customarily said an incantation over them before setting out, following a tradition initiated by Chinggis Khan himself. The Mongol folklorist B. Rinchen wrote that “it is passed down by tradition that Holy Chinggis Khan once made an offering to the straps of his golden saddle…this is the reason why today the saddle and the bridle of the lord of gifts will be purified, the eight saddle-straps spoken over and a blessing recited.