One of the main saddles used by American officers during World War I was the Model 1917 Officers’ Field Saddle.
William Goodrich, Master Harness Maker at Rock Island Arsenal, is credited with designing the saddle, but actually it is only a minor modification of the French Saumur & also has many similarities to the Officer’s Model 1912. One of the main improvements of the saddle was that it now featured padded “points” that extended downward from the pommel & front sidebars, providing added stability & preventing lateral movement. That design feature would be incorporated in all future officer saddles.
The new saddle, adopted for use by all mounted army officers in 1917, was fitted with French-style pommel pockets & newly designed cantle bags, which were mounted separately on the saddle. The pommel pockets were mounted onto the pommels with a shaft & socket fitting (sometimes called a swivel plate), while the cantle bags were attached by “D” rings on either side. Sometimes the right side bag was left off & replaced with a sabre carrier.
The M-1917 was issued with the Model 1916 Stirrups, although many officers replaced them with the more popular M-1912 Stirrups.
During WWI, the M17 Officers’ Saddle was made at Rock Island Arsenal. Beginning in 1920, production was shifted to Jefferson (Indiana) Quartermaster Depot. RIA produced saddles were stamped under the left jockey with the arsenal name & production date. JQMD-made saddles apparently included an oval brass tag stamped with the depot name, saddle model & date, attached in the same position as the RIA stamp. However, those disks often came off or were replaced with brass repair tags, so very few original JQMD tags are found today.
A beautifully made saddle, the M17 had only one design flaw: when jumping the horse, the pointed ends of the rear side bars dug into the horses back & could injure them, sometimes seriously. For that reason, the M17 was not used for jumping events, but continued to be a popular field saddle, even after the adoption of the improved M-1936 Phillips’ Officer’s Saddle.
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