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
872
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
202
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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deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
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).
 
Oct 2018
1,710
Sydney
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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Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,715
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).
The knees touching is mentioned from Sarmatians to Normans to Hussar so it was probably an important part of maintaining cohesion and power for well trained heavy cavalry.
 

Dreamhunter

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
7,486
Malaysia
The knees touching is mentioned from Sarmatians to Normans to Hussar so it was probably an important part of maintaining cohesion and power for well trained heavy cavalry.
Not less also to give the feeling of a kind of 'unbroken wall' moving toward & closing in on you, I would be tempted to conject. For intimidation effect.
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,014
Iowa USA
Not less also to give the feeling of a 'wall' moving toward & closing in on you, I would be tempted to conject. For intimidation effect.
Practically speaking, at these speeds (25-30 mph and up) the aerodynamics work out better, too?
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
But you need to go through the canter stage, if you started from the trot.
Off course.

AFAIK, the galop part was very short (far, far from what Hollywood used us to ... ). One of the reasons was to keep the cohesion of the formation.

Not less also to give the feeling of a kind of 'unbroken wall' moving toward & closing in on you, I would be tempted to conject. For intimidation effect.
The intimidation efect is clear (having some tenths/hundred meters large and more than 2 meter high wall moving towards You, it's quit a challenge for remaining in place and waiting for the clash)

The knees touching is mentioned from Sarmatians to Normans to Hussar so it was probably an important part of maintaining cohesion and power for well trained heavy cavalry.
Well, it is the idea the phalanx after all, onlymounted, isn't it?

I think these days mounted police it's still drilled that way.

OK, they're no longer the famous Sarmats/Winged Hussars/and the likes, but look at the beginning of the vid how they attempt forming the close formation:
and in this vid, (at min 1:20 to 1:30) the formation is extremely clear


 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,540
Probably pretty terrifying. The Jurchens had troops who cuts down any cavalry who retreats from a charge:

“奴兵战法,死兵在前,锐兵在后。死兵披重甲,骑双马冲前,虽死而后乃复前,莫敢退亡,则锐兵从 后杀之,待 其冲动我阵,而后锐兵始乘其胜,一一效阿骨打、兀术等行事。”
"The tactic of the slave force (Jurchen), is that the death squad is in the front, the elite force at the back. The death squad put on heavy armor, rides two horses when charging upfront, even if they die, those in the back still advances, without fear of retreating because the elite forces at the back will kill them if they do. When the charge disrupts our formation, the elite soldiers then take advantage of that to attack--this tactic is based on those of Aguda and (wanyan) wushu."
《明实录东北史资料辑》第四册 MingShiLu Northeastern History

Riders could also refuse to charge not in fear for their own lives, but for that of their horses:
On a day (in Spring 1111), a number of footsoldiers came out of Shaizar. The Franks charged them, without disturbing their formation. Thereupon Tancred became angry and said, You are my knights and each of you receives pay equivalent to the pay of a hundred Muslims. You have these sergeants (by which he meant the infantry) in front of you, and you are not capable of moving them!” They answered, ‘Our only fear was for our horses. Otherwise we would have trampled them and pierced them with our lances.’ Tancred replied, the horses are my property, I shall replace any one’s horse that gets killed.’ They then made several charges against the men of Shaizar, and lost seventy horses, without being able to get the men out of their position.”
-Medieval Warfare 1000-1300 edited by John France, Extract from Usamah’s Memoires