Beaded Native American Ceremonial Costume
for Model Horse

(c) Paula O'Keefe, updated April 2004

[Rather see a warrior's costume? Right here.]

This is a model-scale version of a Plains Indian woman's horse trappings, circa about 1850: at that time commercial goods, like glass beads, trade blankets and fancy metal harness fittings, had made their way into native culture, and beading styles were at their most lavish and distinctive. The costume uses chamois leather, feathers, genuine fur, and lots of beadwork! Designs drawn from research and from Thomas Mails' classic reference book "The Mystic Warriors of the Plains".
(A quick note on beads: the higher the size number, the smaller the bead. In the old days of the hobby we all used size 8-10 seed beads. Nowadays state-of-the-art beaders use size 15-18s and down to 20-22s. Size 16 is the smallest seed bead commercially produced anymore. However, up until the 1880s they made glass beads as small as size 24 - hardly bigger than sand. The size 20 beads used in this costume are at least 120 years old. They were quite probably made by the same factories that supplied the trade beads the Plains tribes themselves used, and are in colors that were popular then.)

Basic Costume:

Saddle: Cast resin trees by MagikWorks Minis. Loom-beaded drops on pommel and cantle. Cast resin stirrups, usually left plain, loom-beaded trim or other decor optional.

Breastcollar: Hundreds of beads! plus tiny silver or copper bells or flower drops. (Small light bells called "hawk bells" were much liked by the Crow and Shoshone for horse gear.) All beadwork is hand-loomed.

Crupper: Examples below. Size 15 beads on chamois backing, with fringe; can add beaded hip drops if requested.

Saddle Blanket: Soft leather, or heavy felt to simulate trade woolen blanket. Decorated with bands of beadwork along front and back edge.
All feathers used are natural, hand-cut to scale.

Bridle: Leather headstall with beadwork on sides, beaded "keyhole" style brow ornament or round drop (your choice),
Rio Rondo fancy pewter or Sulser Saddlery white bronze Western curb bit. Reins are braided floss with colored fabric or natural leather trim.

Medicine bundle: As genuine as I can make it. Holds dried sweetgrass (I grow it myself =) and white sage, shell or gemstone beads and a quartz crystal, rolled and tied with a beaded feather decoration. (Please don't open it!)


Saddlebags ("parfleche"):Made from chamois leather trimmed with fringe, they can tie shut with beaded cords wrapped around a shell disk "button" or have an overhanging fringed and ornamented flap. Beaded, quilled or fur trim; beads or silver cones on the fringes; your preference.(I can't get the darn photo to work! email me if you want to see one.)

Fur throw: Genuine, complete ermine skin with legs, tail and even little whiskers. Available in pure white, brown with white underbelly fur (both of them appear on this page), or transitional phase ("silverback"). Other furs may be available to suit your color scheme or taste, just ask me.

Quirt (riding whip): Wooden grip, leather loop and lashes. Wooden grip wrapped with leather and tiny beadwork - more size 20s in bright jewel colors.

Bell collar: Originally a Shoshone idea, it was traded and adopted throughout the Plains tribes for ceremonial and and festival wear, Copper, brass or silver bells and turquoise beads.

Throat collar: Fits close under the jaw, trimmed with feathers and beads or a fur "tail".

A great deal of work, care, and attention to detail go into these pieces -
I hope you will like them!

If any questions, please feel free to write me:
Thx for reading!

[Costume not enough? Here's some information on designs the Plains tribes
painted onto their horses.

And some detail of pad and frame saddle construction.

Collect Micro Minis? Check this out. =)

Native American graphics courtesy of Silverhawk's Creations.

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