Taking Inventory: Saddle
Piggybacking you through the Overworld
What’s the difference between magnificently riding a horse and falling off it like some sort of equestrianally-challenged nitwit? I’ll give you a clue. Wait no, I’ll just give the answer – it’s our item of the week: the saddle.
Saddles were added surprisingly early in Minecraft’s development – in June 2010, during the game’s Infdev phase. But horses weren’t added for another three years. So what was everyone riding all that time? Er, well, they go “oink”...
Saddles, in Minecraft, are mysterious relics from a bygone age. No-one knows how to make them. There’s no crafting recipe. That means there are a finite number of saddles in the world, and when they’re gone they’re gone – so try not to let them burn up in lava, yeah?
Want one? Well, they’re found in treasure chests in strongholds, temples and dungeons. Occasionally you’ll fish one up. They’re also hoarded by villagers – you can buy them from leatherworkers, or just steal them from their chests when their back is turned.
Once you have one, using it is easy. Hold the saddle in your hand, and right-click a horse, donkey, mule, or pig. The first three of those will let you take the saddle off again by hitting the use button on the animal while sneaking. But the pig? No way are you getting that saddle off again, unless the pig somehow meets with a mysterious accident... Don’t worry. I didn’t see anything.
Real-world saddles date probably back as far as 4000 BC, shortly after the horse was domesticated. The earliest saddle-like constructions that survive today are primitive blankets or pads used by Assyrian cavalry forces around 700 BC, held on with a strap.
A key development was that of the saddle “tree” – a frame that distributes weight across a horse’s back, not just on its spine. That makes the whole “being ridden” experience a lot more comfortable for the horse. Another important technology was “stirrups”, which the rider hooks their feet into to increase stability. Both emerged around 200 BC in China.
Today, saddles are a lot more complicated – and there are lots of different kinds depending on what you want to do with the horse. There are saddles for hunting, saddles for polo, saddles for racing, saddles for police horses, saddles for jumping, saddles for rounding up cattle, saddles for carrying heavy loads, and many more!
With all that diversity and complexity, it’s no wonder no-one in Minecraft remembers how to craft this ancient technology. Maybe one day!