When we think of the Pony Express, this iconic picture of a horse and rider is usually what comes to mind. But there’s a serious flaw in that thinking.
The bag slung over the rider’s shoulder would have flapped in the wind, and could have panicked a horse. The Pony Express “bag” was actually a leather blanket designed to fit over the cantle and horn of a special light-weight saddle. The bag was called a “mochila“, and it looks like this when paired with a saddle:
It lay flat against the horse, held down by the rider’s legs, and had four pouches that the mail was carried in. Another benefit of the mochila was that it made transfer to a fresh horse quick and easy. The mochila was designed by Israel Landis of St Joseph MO.
Other interesting facts & legends:
– The Pony Express operated for only 19 months in 1860 and 1861, and the original route was from St. Joseph MO to Sacramento CA.
– It had 184 stations placed 5 to 25 miles apart.
– 35,000 letters were delivered.
– After the telegraph made its way as far as Salt Lake City in March of 1861, the Pony Express operated from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.
– Buffalo Bill Cody was a Pony Express Rider.
– The Pony Express want ad read: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.
Both of these legends might be true, but we have no way to substantiate them.