How terrifying is it for well-armored elite cavalry to charge at infantry?Not just as shieldwalls or blocks of spears, but even disorganized infantry?

Feb 2019
Pennsylvania, US
Norman destrier was supposedly a big beast. How big it really was, or maybe how not so big, would be anyone's guess, though.
It seems like compared to the coursers, the destriers were more muscled, especially through the neck and hindquarters, but they are thought to average about 14-15 hands (just over what is considered a pony size) and top out at 16 hands (a little over 160 cm at the withers). Research for this was based on archeological info as well as depictions and descriptions of destriers... There is medieval horse armor in the Royal Armories that was made to fit horses just under 16 hands.

They would have been more like what is now described as a baroque body type, which is pretty light compared to the modern draft breeds (drafts generally being 16-19 hands)... those massive draft frames and heavy muscling were bred for forward pulling strength, not necessarily having the quickness and maneuverability needed by knights under saddle.

Modern “recreations” of destriers are made by crossing Friesians and Andalusians or Percherons and Andalusians. Sounds like a fun mix! ;) Plenty of go, quick transitions, maneuverable, and very athletic/strong.
May 2019
Salt Lake City, Utah
Economy of mass and velocity could punch a hole into disorganized infantry, where as extended line could overlap infantry lines and allow horsemen to get behind them.
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Oct 2013
So, you are more or less saying that, it was either the slow trot or the fast gallop, but not the middle-speed canter in between.
If I remember well Polish Hussaria passed to gallop only when quit close from adversaries.

And about formation: the ideal for a Polish formation charging infantry formation was the knees of the cavaliers' touching each other ( if it was achieved, IDK).
Yes the Goths, Sarmatians and Alans, to name but 3, were 'famous' for their cavalry. Although those Visigothic horses seemed, from what I've picked up, a lot smaller than the monster cavalry horses of later (?)
Syrians and Mesopotamians were also often recruited as cavalry, so that they could fight as cataphracts against the Persians on the eastern front. They of course weren't the only people being recruited as cataphracts for this theatre of war (and cataphracts were used on other frontiers as well). But considering the imperial Roman penchant for local recruitment, I would imagine that quite a few Syrians and Mesopotamians were recruited in this capacity. Armenian allies would have also provided cataphracts.
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