What Is A Mochila?
A Pony Express "mochila" was a leather saddle cover used by Pony Express riders in America during the 1800s. It had four compartments (one on each side at the front, and one on each side at the rear). Three of the compartments were for carrying mail, while one was for carrying the rider's time card. The mochila had cutouts for the cantle and saddle horn so it could easily be placed over the saddle and held in place by the rider's weight.
Below: A reproduction of a leather Pony Express mochila. This photo is from an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
Public domain image
The word "mochila" is Spanish for "knapsack" or "backpack."
A Little Bit About The Pony Express
The Pony Express was a privately owned mail service that operated in America from April 3, 1860 to October, 1861. It lasted a mere 19 months before the telegraph put it out of business. It was founded and operated by the wagon freight company Russell, Majors and Waddell.
The Pony Express carried messages, mail, and newspapers back and forth between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California across nearly 2,000 miles of American West that was often rugged, desolate, and dangerous. Even so, when the conditions were right the Pony Express could deliver messages in only 10 days, a huge achievement over the weeks or months it would take by the previous methods of stagecoach or ship.
Below: An 1861 painting by William Henry Jackson showing a Pony Express mochila on a saddle.
Public domain image
The Pony Express carried mostly business correspondence, newspapers, or important messages as opposed to personal letters: The price of the service was far too expensive for that. However, even though the Pony Express was expensive to use it never turned a profit. Even so, in spite of its failure as a business venture it was a huge achievement in fast communication at the time.
Roughly 19 months after its first daring and ambitious rides, the advent of the telegraph put the Pony Express out of business. It may have existed for only a short time, but it remains an endearing symbol of Americana and lore.
Below: A 1960 postage stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the Pony Express. Note the mochilla over the saddle.
Public domain image
That Pony Express Ad: "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows......"
Many aspects of the 1800s American West have been romanticized and incorrectly perpetuated, including stories about the Pony Express. Take, for example, that famous newspaper advertisement for Pony Express riders that goes like this:
"Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week."
The problem is, many (if not most historians) searching through newspapers of the time say they have never found an ad with that wording. While there were ads for Pony Express riders, none of them had that famous (and somewhat dramatic) wording. Still, it makes for a fun myth (and it was a very dangerous job, even if the actual ads were worded differently).
Below: An exciting, if not historically correct, poster for the Pony Express.
Public domain image
Resources and References
If you're intersted in reading more about the Pony Express, you might like the two resources below.
- Attach A Leather Rope Strap
- Bridle A Horse
- Buy Cowboy Stuff On eBay
- Care For A Silk Wild Rag
- Care For Your Felt Cowboy Hat
- Care For Your Saddle Pad Or Blanket
- Close A Gate With A Chain Latch
- Estimate Cattle Age By Their Teeth
- Estimate A Horse's Weight
- Estimate Western Cinch Size
- Fishtail Braid Your Horse's Tail
- Flatten Cow Horn
- Hydro Dip A Cow Skull
- Make A Collapsible Wood Saddle Rack
- Make A Flag Boot Out Of A Horn
- Make Homemade Hoof Conditioner
- Make Homemade Horse Fly Spray
- Measure A Horse's Girth
- Measure A Horse's Height
- Measure A Western Saddle Seat
- Put A Horn Knot On Your Rope
- Put A Speed Burner On A Honda
- Recognize Common Horse Colors
- Recognize Common Horse Face Markings
- Saddle A Horse
- Stop A Saddle From Squeaking
- Take Horse Pictures
- Tell A Boy Cow From A Girl Cow
- Tie A Honda
- Tie A Horse
- Tie A Quick Release Knot
- Tie A Stopper Knot
Tie a stopper knot for the end of a rope,
or a metal, rawhide, or plastic honda
- Tie A Stopper Knot For A Honda
Tie a stopper knot for a tied honda
- Tie A Wild Rag Knot
- Trim A Bridle Path
- Turn Blevins Buckles Over
- Turn Western Stirrups
- Understand Leather / Hide Thickness
- Weigh A Horse and Optimize Rider Weight
- Whiten Bone
- Wrap A Saddle Horn With Rubber
What Is / Are...
- What Are 5 Reasons Horse Trailer Lighting Matters?
- What Are Chestnuts and Ergots?
- What Are Cowboy Chinks?
- What Are Horns?
- What Are Horse Blood Marks?
- What Are Horse Vaccines and How Do They Work?
- What Are Leads?
- What Are Saddle Rigging Positions?
- What Are Some Interesting Horse Facts?
- What Are Some Interesting Charts and Graphs With Horse Information?
- What Are Some Options For Temporary Horse Fencing?
- What Are Slobber Straps?
- What Are Synthetic Saddles Made Of?
- What Are Wolf Teeth?
- What Is The Angle System For Branding?
- What Is A Bosal?
- What Is A Bull Riding Vest Made Of?
- What Is A Domain Name?
Why would I need one for my farm or ranch even if I don't have or want a website?
- What Is A Fifth Wheel Trailer Hitch?
- What Is Flag and National Anthem Etiquette At A Rodeo?
- What Is Floating A Horse's Teeth?
- What Is Freeze Branding?
- What Is Freeze Branding......What Do Horse Freeze Brands Look Like?
- What Is A Galvayne's Groove?
- What Is A Gooseneck Trailer Hitch?
- What Is A Headstall?
- What Is Hermann Oak Leather?
- What Is Larvicidal De-Worming?
- What Is The Mark Out Rule?
- What Is A Mochila?
- What Is A Nord Fork?
- What Is The Rodeo Return Gate?
- What Is Rotational Grazing?
- Horse Tips
Short tips to help horse owners and anyone who lives or loves a Western lifestyle do something faster, easier, or better.
Link To This Page
If you found this page useful or interesting and would like to link to it from your own website or blog, you can use the small code snippet below to make a link. Thanks!
Use ctrl+C in Windows or command+C on a Mac to copy the link.
Below: Like and share this page on Facebook!