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Old August 19th, 2013, 05:12 PM   #31

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Originally Posted by AEthelred Nearly Ready View Post
Thanks for all your responses, very interesting and informative.

So, a further question, how is it that the horses aren't frightened going into battle (sorry if its a stupid question) ?
See modern police horses, training and conditioning to sights, sounds and smells helps.
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Old August 19th, 2013, 08:39 PM   #32

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Most of it is conditioning to battle sounds, smells, and experiences. Similarly camels or elephants or dogs or guns etc can scare horses not conditioned to those things but once included into training regime soon the horses can deal with such things without much problem.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 01:48 AM   #33
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See modern police horses, training and conditioning to sights, sounds and smells helps.
A friend of mine is a copper and he said they had to help train the horses by being the "foot soldiers" that the horses charged at. He said it was terrifying! Easy for an arm of the state to do but setting up mock battles to train the horses must have been fairly costly for the medieval lords?
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Old August 20th, 2013, 03:11 AM   #34
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I seriously doubt stallions were ever in widespread use as the main mount of large cavalry forces. Though I'm sure that many Knights and others who had the money or status did indeed use them. In general I doubt horses had "combat moves", in vast majority of situations what the cavalry riders is a horse that predictably follows commands. Independent action by the horse would mostly be a hindrance not a help. Horses have no way of telling friend from foe, had extremely poor vision and depth deception (horse's eye's are structured to pick up movement not shape or distance). Horses almost always kick backwards, (and the effect can be quite powerful if the target is just the right distance at the end of the swing, in close no power) and the horse generally is stationary when kicking, (some horses can learn the "cow kicking" which is sort of pick the leg up turn it a bit and kick sorta sideways but it's only the lower leg and lacks real power) The wastage in Cavalry horses is normally quite high in most periods, and constant supplies of remount are required to keep a force mounted, often the quality was poor (vast generalization across period and places). Some exceptional horses may have "fought" occasionally bit I would say almost none did.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 03:34 AM   #35

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You've cast doubt on stallions before but the consensus of opinion in the historical press is that they did.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 03:53 AM   #36

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Originally Posted by AEthelred Nearly Ready View Post
A friend of mine is a copper and he said they had to help train the horses by being the "foot soldiers" that the horses charged at. He said it was terrifying! Easy for an arm of the state to do but setting up mock battles to train the horses must have been fairly costly for the medieval lords?
Why?

If your a local lord you always have a few men at arms hanging around. They can play the opposing infantry and get some experience against cavalry for themselves, its a win/win.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 06:37 AM   #37

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I seriously doubt stallions were ever in widespread use as the main mount of large cavalry forces.
If you don't believe it, do some research. Geldings were not in general use in European armies until the 19th century, with the exception of mounted infantry. In the Middle East, the use of geldings in battle was quite common, in fact, it was there the practice of gelding was invented, specifically for war.

I have a hard time imagining it too, but the evidence is overwhelming. My pet theory is that they used stallions who had never bred, and probably tried to keep them well away from mares altogether. Stallions that haven't yet bred, are much less unruly than those who have.

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In general I doubt horses had "combat moves", in vast majority of situations what the cavalry riders is a horse that predictably follows commands. Independent action by the horse would mostly be a hindrance not a help.
They had combat moves that were directed, or at least, they did by the Renaissance era. Very complicated and agile ones. Also, an unhorsed, injured, or dead rider won't have any control. If the horse is trapped, and has no rider, it's difficult to imagine it patiently waiting for the battle to be over.


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Horses almost always kick backwards
Kicking backwards is common. It's mostly a reflex and something they do defensively. They do not need to be in an aggressive mode to do this. This is something they will do if you're behind them, and you scare them. It's the equivalent of fear-biting in a dog.

If they're being aggressive, on the other hand, they may buck (depending on where you are) but more typically they rear and strike with their front hooves. This is a close-range attack and it has lethal force. You do not want to be close to the front of the horse when this happens:

Click the image to open in full size.

Leonardo did a study of the horses at the Battle of Anghiari, and you can clearly see he was taken by their aggression, including a sketch of a riderless horse rearing and striking, and images of a horse's face which show the biting posture. Apparently he was having difficulty capturing the rage he saw, and sketched out a snarling lion to base the expression on.

Click the image to open in full size.

Bucking and rearing unexpectedly would throw the rider, so horses would be trained only to do such things on command. Horses were definitely used as weapons, at the direction of the rider (although probably not bucking). The rider would have to focus on the horse, and wouldn't be able to swing a sabre at the same time, but it does appear to have been done. Another of Leonardo's sketches from the same battle shows they were used this way, even against other riders; one of the figures shows that a lancer has ridden his horse right on top of another rider's horse, throwing him from the saddle. He lies on the ground, possibly injured either by the fall or the hooves of his opponent's mount, and he is about to be trampled or speared or both by a third rider.

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by Edgewaters; August 20th, 2013 at 06:51 AM.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 09:25 AM   #38

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The only problem I have with the information above is the need of the rider to control his mount for his own purposes, which is in conflict with the instinctual aggressive behaviour you've described - though in fairness that would be driven by hormones and herd status than any convenient aggression toward an enemy, which the horse wouldn't be especially concious of.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 10:36 AM   #39

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The only problem I have with the information above is the need of the rider to control his mount for his own purposes, which is in conflict with the instinctual aggressive behaviour you've described - though in fairness that would be driven by hormones and herd status than any convenient aggression toward an enemy, which the horse wouldn't be especially concious of.
There is always conflict between the horse's instincts and the rider's intentions, even when you're just going for an easy hack in the field. That's why good horsemanship was so important. The reason I describe their instinctive aggressiveness is because riders weren't always in control.

Sometimes they weren't as good as they thought.

Sometimes horses are very unpredictable (think of Theodoric at Chalons, by all accounts an excellent rider, thrown from his mount in battle ... there are many other accounts of this happening to commanders, we just don't hear about the nobodies).

Sometimes the rider becomes incapacitated in battle, but there is no room for the horse to flee.

There is what is supposed to happen in a battle, and then there's what actually happens. To describe only what's supposed to happen, would be a partial account.
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Old August 20th, 2013, 12:51 PM   #40

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Destrier

this a good link about the war horses refered to as destriers. these horses were trained as foals on up to fight in wars. they were trained to be controlled by the knight's legs so his hands would be free. they were also trained to trample enemies on the ground and to kick and bite. some would even head-butt other horses. they were also favored in tournaments, especially in the joust. very expensive so not many had them..

i haven't seen this but you might like it. it's set during WW I:

Last edited by kbear; August 20th, 2013 at 01:04 PM.
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