EQUUS - - Conformati­on Insights -

Dozens of pho­tographs show Theodore Roo­sevelt with horses. The four I’ve se­lected here rep­re­sent a time pro­gres­sion; we see Roo­sevelt as he gets older and heav­ier. In this photo taken in South Dakota in 1885, Roo­sevelt is 27 years old. His horse, which looks ex­actly like a mod­ern Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse, was easy-gaited – as many early Quar­ter Run­ning Horses were– and I have to sus­pect he was a Rondo, “Billy” or White Light­ning of Al­sup breed­ing. The fu­ture Pres­i­dent has him in a low-can­tled sad­dle and a spade bit with ro­mal reins. Note the fully func­tional mo­hair rear cinch.

When he was 40 years old, Roo­sevelt trained with the “First Vol­un­teer U.S. Cavalry” – the Rough Rid­ers– in the San An­to­nio area in 1898. This horse is an ex­cel­lent Cayuse, show­ing some Mor­gan in­flu­ence as many Army horses did, plus some Thor­ough­bred as ev­i­denced by the long and rather nar­row back and loin cou­pling and clean shoul­der. But there is also a good deal of some­thing else— steeply an­gled, some­what short croup, low-set tail, nar­row chest, clean hard legs and slightly overan­gu­lated hocks re­veal the Cayuse’s Span­ish com­po­nent. Teddy rides a McClel­lan sad­dle with a thick Mex­i­can blan­ket and has reg­u­la­tion bri­dle and S-shanked curb bit with leather lead strap.

Roo­sevelt goes “out for a morn­ing gal­lop near Laramie, Wy­oming.” The im­age, dated 1903, shows the Pres­i­dent at age 48. The horse, once again, is of clas­sic Cayuse type, al­most mule-like in ap­pear­ance. The main as­sets of the Cayuse are util­ity and dura­bil­ity; they are no­tice­ably un­like thick-mus­cled Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horses. The sad­dle has a high fork and a rop­ing horn, with long skirts that ex­tend back over the horse’s hips. Again note the pair of fully func­tional cinches– not un­til af­ter World War II did most stock sad­dles morph into equip­ment purely for show, con­vert­ing the rear cinch into a non­func­tional part or los­ing it al­to­gether.

Taken on a morn­ing in 1908, this photo shows Roo­sevelt at age 50. He and two ob­vi­ously pleased guides are about to em­bark on a bear hunt out­side Glen­wood Springs, Colorado. It is early spring, it’s chilly out­side and the horses still have their rough win­ter coats. Like many horses in the north­ern tier of Western states, Roo­sevelt’s Cayuse shows def­i­nite Cana­dian in­flu­ence. Roo­sevelt, who strug­gled with weight gain all his life, was get­ting portly, and the guides made sure to sup­ply him with a horse who could bear his weight.

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