Tapaderos (also known as taps) are front-of-the-stirrup covers or hoods. Taps arose from the Mexican culture and served a very practical purpose. They would do:

  • Protect the boots from being scraped or tangled in dense brush and mesquite, which can be extremely damaging.
  • Warm up the feet. Liners made of fleece or lambs wool are included in some.
  • If riding in low-heeled boots like the Mexican charros wore, keep the feet from turning in the stirrups or going through them.
  • When the hands are occupied, slapping the horse’s shoulder or neck can be used to speak with or steer the horse.

While tapadaros began with a very practical purpose, they quickly evolved into highly adorned and decorative objects. Tooling, silverwork, lacing, and strings were all commonplace.
Standard taps stretched about eight inches below the stirrup, but some went as far as 28 inches for a more dramatic and eye-catching look. The weight and balance of the saddle were affected at that length.

Over time, a variety of tapadaros emerged, each with its own unique name to match its appearance: bulldog, monkey-nose, shield, eagle beak, and monkey face.

Tapaderos are usually fashioned of strong skirting leather, but nylon variants, most commonly marketed as hooded stirrups, are now available. The stirrups are frequently integrated and fastened with tapaderos.

Tapadaros can still be found on many vintage saddles nowadays. While they still serve a purpose, riders prefer them for their style more than their functionality.

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