RED AND GOLD HORSE NECK DEFENCE (CRINET)
Place of Origin: TIBET
Date: 15th - 17th Century
Overall: 640mm x 400mm (25 x 16 inches)
The importance Tibetans place on equestrian life is demonstrated by the elaborate and well-crafted equipment now preserved in museums and private collections.
This neck defence for a horse (crinet) is constructed from a single piece of stiff leather, and the illusion that it is constructed from four separate pieces is caused by the ornamental copper stitching, and rows of holes where hollow iron bosses would have sat, the bosses are now unfortunately missing, though this does not distract from the exquisite scenes depicted over the crinet’s surface. The decoration is mindfully balanced: the fourth and second layers both depicting cloud formations in gold leaf on a reddish shellac ground, whilst the third and ‘first’ (central) sections depict tendrils, blossoming lotuses and other flowerheads on a black ground, the centre depicting a victory banner at the left and a flying phoenix on the right.
In ancient Indian warfare, such banners frequently adorned the chariots of powerful warriors, and so its appearance here is certainly relevant. In Buddhism, the banner was adopted as an emblem of the Buddha’s victorious enlightenment and the vanquishing of the armies of Mara.
The reverse of the crinet retains the majority of its vibrant red shellac. For the right side of a horse, this neck defence or crinet was intended to be secured to the animal as part of a pair. For comparison, a mounted pair can be seen in the Royal Armouries, Leeds (XXVIH.21 and XXVIH.22).
The ornamental chain stitching that adorns this crinet is of a type observed by Don LaRocca who comments that such a wire stitch is likely to have been reserved for the better pieces of Tibetan horse armour.
 Robert Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Boston, 1999.
 Donald LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, p. 105.