Tack Up for a Horse

Tack Up for a Horse


As a part of the game, the player is tasked to tack up his horse to earn experience points. On the way to the barn, we get a glimpse of the army and Indian camps and how differently they are supplied. We see the locations and different roles of Europeans of various ranks, African servants, and natives. We see the different types of horses, tack, and decoration indicating the status of their owner as the player learns to place each piece of tack on the horse.

Knowledge Objectives

  • Become familiar with pieces of 16th century horse tack
  • Learn that the 16th century Spanish military were not uniform in dress or equipment and that status was indicated by type of horse, decoration on tack, coat of arms on saddle blankets/barding, and by who was tacking up the horse (i.e. upper level officers would have had servants to do this for them)
  • See that different positions and roles were accorded based on social status
  • Earn experience points in game

Primary Actors

  • Game player is a Spanish cavalry man
  • Extras: There are African servants working in the army camp and the tack room and indios amigos in their own camp and caring for the livestock. A 12-yr-old Indian boy opens and closes the paddock gate as cavalry men come to fetch their horses. Cavalry men and servants are tacking up horses at the fence.

Setting: Weather, Time of Day, and Soundscape

It is a sunny morning with only a few small clouds, about 9:20am. The sun has been up for two hours, and it has warmed the air to a comfortable 70°F (21°C). By the time of the muster, it will be a warm 80°F (27°C).

Compostela lies in a grassy, semi-tropical valley with clumps of deciduous and palm trees, bordered on the northeast and southwest edges by wooded mountains. A stream runs along its southern edge, dotted with trees. White-tailed deer, wild pigs, wolves, and jaguarundi roam the valley from dusk until just after dawn, but retreat to the trees during the daytime.

The men have finished breakfast and are preparing for the muster and for the start of the expedition tomorrow. From the center of camp, we can hear the clanking of dishes and pots as the servants clear away the last of breakfast. The player hears his own footsteps on the dry ground as he walks. Passing each tent, he hears the rising then fading of excited but indistinct conversations, preparations, and laughter within. In the Indian camp, a mother calls to her children who are chasing each other toward town. Clank, clank, clank echoes from the barn where the blacksmiths are busy with last-minute shoeing. Approaching the paddock, the calls of the indios amigos who have taken the sheep and cattle out to graze can be heard over the contented munching of hundreds of horses and pigs in the paddock. The stream babbles over stones, and a slight breeze rustles the grass and trees where a dove calls to its mate. The cavalry men and officers’ servants talk softly to their mounts to calm them while they are being groomed and saddled.

Image and Soundscape Bank

Compostela Town Layout

Task Sequence

  1. [6 min] Walk from camp to the barn [—> 1]. In the army tent camp, the soldiers are excitedly getting ready for the big day, putting on their best clothes, shining their boots, then layering on what armor they have, all while excitedly imagining the journey ahead and boasting of their coming exploits. The officers’ servants are helping them get ready while they ponder the logistics of moving so large a force through unknown terrain, wondering whether they will have enough supplies and whether there really is gold. A couple of young cavalry men say good morning as you pass. In the Indian camp, blankets are folded up for the day, while the men paint bright colors on their faces, bodies, and quilted armor. A young boy waves shyly as you pass. Walk into the tack room to pick up your tack (saddle, bridle, breast and haunch straps, blanket, brush, and lead). Give your name to the servant who will find it for you.
  2. [3 min] Carry tack to paddock and set on fence [—> 2]. Taking lead rope, go to paddock gate and whistle for your horse [—> 3]. From the horse’s left side, attach lead rope to halter and lead him out of paddock. Tie him to the fence just to the right of tack [—> 4].
  3. [5 min] Starting behind the horse’s head on left side, brush with direction of hair down neck, chest, shoulders, back, sides, belly and legs to remove any dirt, smooth hairs, and add shine. Brush out tail. Repeat on right side. Gently brush head. While brushing your horse, you see another cavalry man saddling his to your right. He has been on other expeditions and has a bright red saddle blanket with his coat of arms and matching breast/haunch straps and reins. To your left, an African servant is tacking up the captain’s horse, a beautiful Andalusian stallion. It wears decorative barding with crests for his family and Spain. His saddle is covered in red velvet and his bridle is plated with silver.
  4. [30 seconds] From the horse’s left side, center the saddle blanket on the horse’s back where the saddle will sit. The front edge should cover the withers (top crest of shoulders between neck and back). Smooth fabric so that there are no wrinkles to irritate the horse’s back.
  5. [2 min] Lay the stirrups and girth over the seat of the simple leather estradiota saddle so that there are no dangling straps. Hold saddle with left hand under pommel (front rim) and right hand under cantle (back rim). From horse’s left side, smoothly lift saddle and gently place on horse’s back with pommel just behind withers. Saddle blanket should show evenly around saddle. If necessary, lift saddle to re-position – do not slide saddle or blanket as this could cause wrinkles. From the horse’s left side, reach under the horse to pull the girth to the left side across the rib cage four finger breadths behind the front legs. Buckle girth snugly without stretching or pinching the horse’s skin. Carefully remove stirrups from seat of saddle so that they hang down the sides of horse without thwacking his sides.
  6. [3 min] Buckle the breast strap to the front of the saddle on each side of the horse and the haunch strap to the back of the saddle on each side of the horse, making sure they are not so tight that they restrict movement, but not dangling.
  7. [2 min] From left side, remove the halter from horse’s head and buckle loosely around upper neck. Holding leather bridle headstall in right hand and guiding the Moorish bit with left hand, open the horse’s mouth by placing finger of left hand into the corner of the horse’s mouth. Gently place the bit into the space between his front and back teeth without bumping his teeth or lips while simultaneously placing chin ring under chin and lifting headstall over the horse’s ears. Buckle the throatlatch so that it is not too tight when the horse arches his neck, but not so loose that it is flapping. Place the reins over the neck.
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