These Indians are passionately fond of horseraces: by the bets they make on these occasions they sometimes lose all that they possess. The women ride, as well as the men. For a bridle they use a cord of horse-hair, which they attach round the animal’s mouth; with that he is easily checked, and by laying the hand on his neck, is made to wheel to this side or that. The saddle is a cushion of stuffed deer-skin, very suitable for the purpose to which it is destined, rarely hurting the horse, and not fatiguing the rider so much as our European saddles. The stirrups are pieces of hard wood, ingeniously wrought, and of the same shape as those which are used in civilized countries. They are covered with a piece of deer-skin, which is sewed on wet, and in drying stiffens and becomes hard and firm. The saddles for women differ in form, being furnished with the antlers of a deer, so as to resemble the high pommelled saddle of the Mexican ladies.
They procure their horses from the herds of these animals which are found in a wild state in the country extending between the northern latitudes and the gulf of Mexico, and which sometimes count a thousand or fifteen hundred in a troop. These horses come from New Mexico, and are of Spanish race. We even saw some which had been marked with a hot iron by Spaniards. Some of our men, who had been at the south, told me that they had seen among the Indians, bridles, the bits of which were of silver. The form of the saddles used by the females, proves that they have taken their pattern from the Spanish ones destined for the same use. One of the partners of the N.W. Company (Mr. M’Tavish) assured us that he had seen among the Spokans, an old woman who told him that she had seen men ploughing the earth; she told him that she had also seen churches, which she made him understand by imitating the sound of a bell and the action of pulling a bell-rope; and further to confirm her account, made the sign of the cross. That gentleman concluded that she had been made prisoner and sold to the Spaniards on the Del Norte; but I think it more probable it was nearer, in North California, at the mission of San Carlos or San Francisco.