Equine Epochs

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Displays of Equine History, Famous Equines, Demographics, Economics, Apparel, Equipment,

In the Lobby
Antique Studebaker Carriage
Studebaker carriages were created in 1857 by the Studebaker brothers. The Studebaker marked a highlight of horse carriage development, with its plush seats, sophisticated springs, and undercarriage. It became one of the most popular carriages in the United States and was used by American Presidents. President Harrison ordered a full set of Studebaker carriages for the White House. By 1887, Studebaker was one of the world's largest manufacturers of horse-drawn vehicles with sales over $2 million (equivalent to over $49 million today). The 1903 Studebaker carriage was pulled by two horses and carried four people. Only those in the back had shade from a flap in the rear which could be rolled up and lowered. Studebaker continued to produce carriages until 1920.
Round Barn Displays Western Equipment and Apparel Racing Corner  

Scrims & Equestrian Clubs

English Equipment & Apparel

Cal Bar Trophy Room

The Future - CEPEC

Round Barn: External Panels

Round Barns


Equine Demographics


Equine Revenue


Early History


Historic Uses of Horses


Modern Uses of Horses




Race Tracks


Horses and Vineyards


Round Barn: Internal Panels and Trophies of Famous Horses


Aerial View of Round Barn
Internal Panels and Trophies

Trophies for Brat, Black Ruby and Shakin'Flo

Trophies for Brat, Sur-Galant, and Black Ruby

Panel 1: Historic Champions

"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Panel 2: Historic Champions

"A real racehorse should have a head like a lady and the behind like a cook." Jack Leach - English Champion Cricketer


Panel 3: Historic Champions

"Sometimes when the little guy doesn't know he's the little guy, he can do great things." Charles Howard - Owner of Seabiscuit


Panel 4: Historic Champions

"A man on a horse is spiritually, as well as physically, bigger than a man on foot." John Steinbeck


Panel 5: Historic Champions

"A lovely horse is always an experience.... It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words." Beryl Markham


Panel 6: Historic Champions

"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Panel 7: Historic Horses

"A woman never looks better than on horseback." Jane Austen

Sonoma County's Horse Breeds

Click here to see individual breed displays

Competitive Events

Western Equipment and Apparel    

U.S. Cavalry Saddle

The McClellan saddle was designed by a career Army officer to make it simpler, less expensive, light weight, sturdy enough to support a rider and gear, and provide equipment attachments. Its design was based on Spanish saddles commonly used in Mexico. It had a rawhide-covered open seat, a thick leather skirt, wooden stirrups, and a girth strap of woolen yarn. Additional accessories included a nose bag for horse feed, a curry comb to groom the horse, a hoof pick, lariat, saddlebags, and a holder for a carbine muzzle. Saddle attachments were also used to tie coats, slickers, blankets, and bedrolls. The McClellan saddle was adopted by the U.S. War Department in 1859 and remained standard issue, in various models, until the Army's last horse cavalry and horse artillery was phased out in World War II. By 1928, a major objection to the McClellan saddle was that troopers could not easily get their legs around the horse because of the double girth billets and the cotton web girth. The straps were then covered by a leather skirt and with adjustable billet rigging. Between 1904 and 1942, the black leather was changed to a russet color which continued through 1942. The McClellan saddle had been used by endurance riders and is still made in the America for use as a pleasure riding saddle, for historic reenactors, and ceremonial mounted units in the U.S. Army.
Cavalry Bridle
The cavalry bridle was designed with bronze Eagle rosettes on the side of the browband. The eagle rosettes were on artillery harness bridles.

Vintage Horse Equipment

Curry Comb The cast iron curry comb is from the late 1880s. The top is a trotting horse and the opposite side has three rows of short metal teeth. The metal post was probably encased in a wooden handle. This comb was designed to remove caked-on mud, particularly on horses with a heavy winter coat. It was not intended for use directly on the summer coat of a horse as the metal teeth can damage the skin and hair. It is also too harsh to be used on the legs or head.
Squeeze Bit Antique squeeze, scissor type, iron hand forged, bit possibly over 100 years old. This bit could be quite severe if not used properly.

Snow or Mud Horseshoe The horse snow or mud shoe was used to keep horses from sinking in snow and mud. Snow was not a problem in Sonoma County, but its logging trails got very muddy during the winter. The shoes helped keep horses from sinking in the mud and making pot holes in the logging trails. The shoe was made of 1" ash plank and was 13" long by 11" wide. It was rounded at the corners to prevent horses legs from striking each other. A hollow space was cut at the back of the shoe to allow the horse full leg movement without being cut or bruised by the shoe. Shoe calks were inserted to keep the foot in place and stabilize it to the tread. Flat iron bands lined with rubber fit the shoe snugly to the horse's hoof. On the under-side of the shoe, a ½" thick steel flange prevented sliding in any direction and increase its strength. When wearing the shoes, horses would carefully lift their feet higher than normal, with a somewhat rotary and semi-oscillatory movement. They extended each foot forward with one shoe over the other with such dexterity that they rarely touched each other. This careful movement managed to take the front shoe out of the way, before setting the hind shoe in its place. Although horses' appendages appeared ungainly, there was little evidence of awkwardness in their use.
Vaquero Spurs The Mexican vaqueros used spurs when riding and brought them to the western United States in the late 1700s. Their spurs have since become an integral part of the vaquero and cowboy traditions. The vaquero spur has a large rowel with many, often sharp points and a metal extension for a chap guard. It has a simple, basic design with large heel-bands. The design of the rowels designates the standing of the wearer in the community. The Vaquero spur also can have a jingle bob (pajados) attached to the rowel which produces a distinctive jingle sound when walking.

Leather Tooled Saddle Tooled leather is any piece of leather onto which a decorative design has been applied or "tooled." Leather tooling involves the use of shaped implements (stamps) to create an imprint onto leather, often by striking the stamp with a mallet. Most stamping is performed on vegetable tanned leather that has been dampened with water which softens the leather and allows it to be able to be compressed. After the leather has been stamped, the design stays on the leather as it dries out, but can fade if the leather becomes wet and is flexed. To make the stamped impressions last longer, the leather is conditioned with oils and fats for waterproofing and preventing the fibers from deforming. Leather saddles can have many layers of tooling leather glued together. Tooled designs are often applied to leather of Western saddles, bridles, and cowboy boots. The designs in Western saddles are typically elaborate shapes, curves, and floral or basket weave patterns. In the United States and Mexico, the floral pattern (as in the displayed saddle) is the most popular tooled design.

Leather Tooled Bridle The displayed bridle is a hand tooled headpiece with the same pattern as the saddle, a spade bit, and romal reins. Romal Reins are used on horses that have transitioned to a spade bit after being well trained in a hackamore and/or snaffle bit. They were introduced to the western part of the U.S. in the mid 1700's by the vaqueros. Rawhide buttons (knots) are braided onto the first 18 inches of each rein. The buttons help keep the body of the rein off the neck of the horse to protect it from sweat and they put a little extra pressure on the side of the neck when cueing for a turn with the rein. A popper or quirt is attached at the end of the romal. It was used by the vaqueros to train the horse and aid in moving cattle. It's constructed of a flat doubled piece of leather so it makes a pop when it touches a surface.


Vintage and Modern Western Riding Apparel

Hats Sombrero hats were popular because of their wide brim and resistance to being blown away in the wind. In 1870s, the Stetson hat became the most popular cowboy hat due to its use in the Union Cavalry. Strings made from leather, or horse hair, called stampede strings, were attached to the hat to keep it from blowing off during fast riding and extreme wind.
Shirts Cowboy shirts were originally styled after the red, shield-front shirts issued to pre-Civil War fighters. They were constructed of denim or tartan fabric with long sleeves as a protection from the elements. Decorative shirts originated from elaborate Vaquero costumes and were worn to rodeos so that cowboys could be easily identified. Fringe decoration on cowboy shirts began with costumes worn by Buffalo Bill during his Wild West shows.
Neckware Cowboys often wore scarves around their neck to absorb sweat and around their face to protect it from dust, sun, and weather. Neck scarves originated when troops in the Mexican War replaced their military issued leather collars with cheap kerchiefs that were less restrictive, cooler, and more comfortable.

Trousers Early trousers were made out of wool, but changed to denim during the Gold Rush because they were cheaper and more breathable. Levi Strauss originally made work trousers from duck canvas and later changed to demin with copper rivets to the pockets enhancing their longevity and popularity with cowboys by the 1870s.
Chaps Leather leg coverings, or chaps, were worn to protect the cowboy's trousers and legs from cactus spines and increased the longevity of trousers. There are three styles of chaps: shotgun, batwing, and chinks. Shotgun chaps are leather coverings wrapping each leg with zippers on the outside edge; they trap body heat and are thus warm, but can restrict leg movement. Batwing leather chaps cover the front each leg, and are secured around the back of the legs by two or three fasteners around the thighs. They allow greater freedom of movement of the lower leg, more air circulation around the legs, and are thus cooler than Shotguns and are more popular with cowboys on the range. Chinks are half-length batwing chaps, cover only the thighs, do not restrict leg movement, and are the most cool. They are most like the legs coverings worn by the vaqueros. The chaps displayed are a "hair on hide" chap meaning that the leather was processed leaving the hair on the leather hide. These chaps were made from a long haired animal, such as a buffalo or bear.
Boots Boots were individually handmade in a variety of types, depending on the culture of the wearer. Early cowboy boots were greatly influenced by vaquero and military designs. The mass produced Wellington boot was popular with cowboys until the 1860s. During cattle drives cowboys started wearing stovepipe dress boots to town and eventually replaced their Wellington boots with them. Top stitching on the boots gave the leather around the legs more support and kept them from sagging. The stitching evolved into fancy designs.

Modern (Vaulting) Equipment
Vaulting Surcingle Vaulting horses are not saddled but wear a surcingle and a thick back pad. The surcingle is a strap that is secured around a horse's girth with handles that provide support and a grip surface for a vaulter. Surcingles are made of leather or leather-like synthetic material such as nylon or neoprene. Handles of various styles and sizes are available with loops called Cossack straps. Surcingles with two Cossack straps (one on each side of the horse) provide vaulters with the means to perform a number of freestyle moves.

Harness Collar

A harness collar is used to distribute a load around a horse's neck and shoulders when it is pulling a wagon or plow. It allows a horse to use its full strength when pulling, enabling it to push into the collar with its hindquarters to move forward. A horse collar is oval rather than circular, thus conforming to the shape of the horse's body. It is narrow over the horses withers, and wider toward the base of the neck. It is padded and designed so that its contact points do not interfere with the horse's windpipe. By protecting the airway of the horse, the horse can use its full force to pull a load. From the time of the invention of the horse collar, horses became more valuable for plowing and pulling. When the horse was harnessed in a collar, it could apply 50% more power to a task in a given time period than could an ox, due to the horse's greater speed. Additionally, horses generally have greater endurance than oxen and thus can work for longer periods of time. The importance and value of horses as a resource for improving agricultural production increased accordingly. Use of the horse collar sped development of transportation and trade and greatly increased use of the horse as a draft animal. When oxen were replaced with horses, economies increased and reliance on subsistence farming was reduced. This allowed people more free time participate in specialized activities, and consequently to the development of early industry, education, and the arts in the rise of market-based towns
Racing Corner


Cavonnier is a Thoroughbred race horse owned and raced by Barbara and Bob Walter of Forestville. Cavonnier captured the hearts of Sonoma County residents not only for his speed, but also for his big heart. He started racing in 1993 as a two year old at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The following year, he won the Santa Anita Derby, a race for three-year-olds at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia and then won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in Albany. Cavonnier was one of the early horses to race and win on a synthetic track which are now used in tacks across the U.S. Cavonnier also raced in the Kentucky Derby but lost by "a nose", in the final stride in spite of being struck in the head by another rider's whip at the beginning of the race. The Derby race launched the now triple-crown trainer Bob Baffert into thoroughbred racing's national limelight. Chris McCarron, Cavonnier's jockey, once said "I have never ridden a more honest or generous horse in 22 years." Cavonnier was favored to win the 1996 Preakness Stakes in Maryland as well as the Belmont Stakes in New York. After he injured a tendon, he made a brief but successful return to racing before permanently retiring to the Vine Hill Ranch. Cavonnier won 6 of 15 lifetime starts and earned $934,157. In 1996, he was named the California-Bred Horse of the Year, after being crowned California Champion 2 Year Old and Champion 3 Year Old.

Black Ruby

The sport of racing mules can be traced as far back as 1835, but it did not graduate to recognized racetracks until 1995, when Northern California fairs added mule races to menus that already included races for Thoroughbred, Appaloosas, Quarter Horses, and Arabians. Black Ruby is the result of a cross between a donkey mare and Appendix Quarter Horse stallion (Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred cross). Named for the distinctive black birthmark on her rump, Black Ruby has a rough start to life. When she was three, a trailer accident severely injured her hind legs. The scars are all that remain of her injuries, but she didn't let her past injury slow her down one bit. Although mule racing has been a popular event at California county fairs, it wasn't until Black Ruby came along that a mule could break into the upper echelons of Thoroughbred racing. Black Ruby was such a consistent winner that tracks eventually refused to take wagers on her. Out of 199 starts, Black Ruby won 70 and placed either second or third in 37 races. She is a 5-time world champion with earnings in excess of $260,000, unheard of for a racing mule. She also set world records in three distances and was inducted into the Mule Racing Hall of Fame. Not everyone was happy with Black Ruby's success. Her archrival Taz raced against her frequently and more often than not, lost by a nose or more. While Taz had a few wins against Ruby, their rivalry infected California fairs with mule fever. Cover stories about her appeared in Daily Racing Form, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. She even had a song written about her. Ruby was once lauded as the "Secretariat of mule racing." Her legend lives on in the annals of racing history and the hearts of her owners and Sonoma County fans.

Racing Sulky

In the early 1800s, horse racing was a contest between horses at their fastest speed. American states controlled by puritanical principles regarded horse racing with disfavor. Because a horse runs faster than he trots, racing at a trot was accepted by the morally righteous as a harmless diversion and became immensely popular. The street cart was soon modified for racing into a light weight vehicle called a sulky which looked more like the frame of a cart. In the mid 1800s, the racing sulky weighed about 100 pounds, had a straight iron axle, and 5" diameter wheels 5' which positioned the driver high above the horse. Various innovations throughout the 1800s reduced the weight of the sulky to about 50 pounds. In 1878, the bent axle was introduced which allowed the use of shorter shafts, resulting in the horse's hind legs no longer hitting the axle, and a more compact and stable vehicle. However, the high-wheels still had a tendency to slide violently and uncontrollably in turns. In 1892, a radical innovation was made which created the ancestor of today's sulky by placing pneumatic-tired bicycle wheels on the sulky frame. This greatly increased the potential speed of the trotter by lowering wind resistance and by increasing stability of the sulky. The "bike-sulky," as it was named, quickly replaced the high-wheel model. Enthusiasm for trotting became so great in many parts of America that local horses could not satisfy the demand for fast trotters. Fine trotters were developed by breeding mares to stallions of prominent lines. The result was champion trotting horses like Lou Dillon and Sonoma Girl from Sonoma County who toured the nation in exhibition matches.
Scrims and Horse Clubs    

How Times Have Changed!

In the 1800s, the most popular equine event in Sonoma County was harness racing which was dominated by Standardbred horses. Adult males were the only participants and all equine genders (mares, geldings, and stallions) raced. Protective head gear was not used. In 200 years, there has been a radical change in events, riders, and popular breeds of event horses. One the most popular competitive events in Sonoma County is now arena and cross country jumping. These events are dominated by a variety of warmblood breeds including Dutch Warmbloods, Haflingers, Holsteiners, Irish Sport Horses, Lipizzaners, Oldenburgs, Thoroughbreds, and Trakehners. Women and junior riders are the predominant participants. The majority of horses ridden are mares and geldings; stallions are off limits to youth riders. Helmets are mandatory. The left window scrim is a world champion harness racing mare at the turn of the 20th century. Her driver is an adult male with a fashionable hat on his head. On the right is a Thoroughbred gelding ridden by a 11 year old amateur girl wearing a mandatory helmet.
Horse Clubs

There are 35 equestrian clubs in Sonoma County.
Two, established in the mid 1900s, are single gender.
The Occidental Equestriennes is a women's riding club.
The Trail Blazers is a men's riding club.

Occidental Equestriennes

The Occidental Equestriennes (OEs) were formed on a spring day in 1975. A group of ladies took a break during their trail ride in Occidental, tied up their horses in front of Negri's Restaurant, and, during lunch, decided to form a club of trail riders. The mission of the club is to further the enjoyment and knowledge of the horse, promote and support an interest in horses and horsemanship by equestrian related activities, and a high standard of humane and ethical treatment of horses. The club evolved from a trail riding organization into a group of women who ride a variety of English and Western disciplines. Its members have diversified backgrounds in teaching, art, engineering, recruiting, medicine, contracting, and therapy. Members host monthly dinner meetings at their homes for business reporting, event planning, lectures, demonstrations, and socialization. Events include fund raisers, horsemanship clinics, wild horse center tours, local trail rides, and horse treking.

Trail Blazers

The Sonoma County Trail Blazers is a non-profit organization consisting of men who get together annually for a 5-day camp out and trail ride through public lands and private ranches in Northern California. The annual ride has been occurring since the association was formed in 1941. The Trail Blazers are sometimes called the "Cowboy Bohemians" - a reference to the famous Bohemian Club also in Sonoma County and composed of men who meet once a year for a several day camp event. The first Trail Blazers trek, under the guidance of president Warren Richardson from Healdsburg, consisted of 100 riders. They rode from Santa Rosa to Middletown. Trail Blazers are dedicated to the proposition that a horse is man's best friend and that the best way to carry on the traditions of an earlier California is to ride over the hills as the early settlers did, where roads were "mighty scarce and pavements unknown". Membership includes a wide range of professionals such as ranchers, former rodeo riders, accountants, attorneys, veterinarians, doctors, and politicians.
English Equipment and Apparel

Victorian Riding Dress

In the late 1500s, an outfit specifically designed for sidesaddle riding was introduced which also followed fashion of the day. Three hundred years later, in 1875, a safety skirt was introduced and later evolved into an open-sided apron. Sidesaddle outfits, also known as riding habits, developed as women became more active in the hunting field. Cumbersome skirts were gradually replaced by an apron (still used today) which was a half skirt worn over breeches designed so the rider does not sit on the apron. The sidesaddle apron could be attached to the right foot by a piece of elastic to hold it in place when riding. When dismounted the apron was wrapped behind the legs and attached to a button on the left hip allowing it to appear as a skirt. In the early 1900s, became socially acceptable for women to ride astride while wearing split skirts and eventually breeches. The rise of women's suffrage also played a role as women rejected traditional restrictions on their physical activities as well as seeking greater social, political, and economic freedoms. Charmian London (see photo) was the first woman in Sonoma County to ride horses astride wearing breeches.
Side Saddle

A side saddle is a unique English saddle requiring the rider to sit aside with both feet on the same side of the horse. It was initially developed during the Middle Ages in Europe as a way for women in skirts to ride a horse in a modest fashion. One leg is draped around the pommel and the other hangs along the same side of the horse with the foot in the stirrup. The saddle thus only has one stirrup. In the 1830s, a sidesaddle was invented with a second, lower pommel called a "leaping horn." The impact of the second pommel was revolutionary; as it gave women both increased security and additional freedom of movement when riding sidesaddle. This design opened up nearly all recreational equestrian pursuits to women, yet they could also conform to expectations of modesty. It allowed them to stay in the saddle at a gallop and to jump fences while fox hunting and show jumping. The leaping horn was the last major technological innovation for the sidesaddle and remains the core of basic design for contemporary saddles. Between 1900 and 1950 side saddles fell out of use as it became acceptable for women to ride astride. The modern sidesaddle rider may be seen in many equestrian competitions. Specialty sidesaddle classes with either traditional equipment or period costume are popular at many horse shows. In addition, riders with certain types of physical disabilities, as well as those that have lost part of a leg, find sidesaddles more comfortable than riding astride. The sidesaddle has also become a part of some therapeutic riding programs because provides extra security to certain types of riders.
Modern English Riding Attire

English riding attire consists of a helmet, shirt, trousers, and boots. Clothing for riders in competition is usually based on traditional needs from which a specific style of riding developed, but most standards require boots, trousers, a shirt with some form of stock tie, jacket, and helmet. Modern riding trousers are either jodhpurs or breeches. Jodhpurs extend to the ankle and usually worn with short boots; breeches extend to the mid-calf and are worn with long boots. Originally, jodhpurs were snug-fitting only from just below the knee at at the ankle and were flared at the hip; modern stretch fabrics have allowed jodhpurs to remove the flare but remain supportive and flexible. Ladies began wearing jodhpurs during the 1920s, as they changed from riding sidesaddle to riding astride.
The Future - CEPEC


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