Warhorses

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,021
Australia
Mongol ponies didn't have much endurance. It is impossible on a grass diet. The Mongols compensated for this by having a string of remounts.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,021
Australia
There were certainly known breeds but the diffusion of breeds we see today was not that well documented though there are certain types of horses referred to regularly and greatly sought after as early as the Persian empire and probably before that though written records grow sparser there are some other evidences.
Horses were not categorised according to breed; they were categorised according to the task they performed. Horses from certain regions were preferred for certain jobs but there were never specific breeds until fairly modern times.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,759
Dispargum
I agree that grain is more nuitritious than grass. I don't know if that difference would be expressed as stamina/ endurance or the lack of it. I have also read of Mongols riding a string of ponies across the steppe at high speed, changing mounts every 10 or 20 miles and traveling perhaps 100 miles in a day. That's considerable stamina/ endurance. Most horses can't run at high speed for 10 or 20 miles, certainly not while carrying a rider. Maybe I'm making an unwaranted assumption about the distances involved, but my sense is that Mongols rode all day and covered great distances in a short amount of time. Mongol ponies ate grass and had great stamina/ endurance.
 
Sep 2014
984
Texas
Horses have been used more in warfare than any other domesticated animal. Recently, I've been wondering about how horse breeds might have affected the capabilities of various armies.

Are there any surviving breeds of warhorse out there?

Has the outcome in any battle been largely attributed to the difference in quality between the combatants horses?

What traits were most prized for horses used by heavy cavalry, light cavalry, horse archers, etc?

Do we have specific descriptions of any specific breeds of warhorses?
The Andalusian is a descendant of the Nisean Warhorse of Persia. There are few breeds that do not have its blood in their veins.1550935203680.png

The Marwari horse, virtually unchanged from the days the Mittani traded them to Egypt, is the oldest surviving intact Warhorse breed...well that and the Kathiawari.1550935307562.png When Kikkuli wrote his training manual, this was the breed being trained. The Indian name for horse Ashva and the Persian name for horse Aspa influence the Hittite word Aswa. This is clearly a borrowed word.1550935436098.png1550935455184.png

The legendary Indian stallion Chetak was a Kathiawari1550935541304.png
1550935618296.pngChetak, horse of Maharana Pratap.

One of the oldest known descriptions of a classically trained warhorse comes from Herodotus who said the Athenians were so afraid of one stallion that they actually had men trained to fight the horse.

1550935803634.png Chosroe and his horse, Sassanid era. It was during this time that Justinian opened two studs, one in Bynthia and the other in Seville because of his constant war with the Sassanids over Armenia among other things.

The earliest known breeders of the Nisean were the Medes.

To this day the descendants of the Vedic Indians still train their horses in the ancient arts.I saw one Indian horseman in a tentpegging competition put his horse through several maneuvers before charging down a path and stabbing whatever it was he was supposed to hit. I was too mesmerized by the horse.
 
Sep 2014
984
Texas
I agree that grain is more nuitritious than grass. I don't know if that difference would be expressed as stamina/ endurance or the lack of it. I have also read of Mongols riding a string of ponies across the steppe at high speed, changing mounts every 10 or 20 miles and traveling perhaps 100 miles in a day. That's considerable stamina/ endurance. Most horses can't run at high speed for 10 or 20 miles, certainly not while carrying a rider. Maybe I'm making an unwaranted assumption about the distances involved, but my sense is that Mongols rode all day and covered great distances in a short amount of time. Mongol ponies ate grass and had great stamina/ endurance.
The Persians domesticated alfalfa. It is more nutricous than grass and easier to grow than grain. I once saw a map of the spread of alfalfa, when each country started growing it. Alfalfa spread with the Persian horse.
 
Feb 2019
905
Pennsylvania, US
Mongol ponies didn't have much endurance. It is impossible on a grass diet. The Mongols compensated for this by having a string of remounts.
There is NO horse or pony that can gallop or canter for hours... everyone using horses as a means of covering distance would have to have remounts. Wild horses can cover many, many miles per day, but riders are essentially asking to an extended “flight” response from horses to cover ground quickly... so moving over large distances at speeds only reaching top speeds of 30 mph... no one horse or pony has the stamina for that... grain or no grain! Remounts were always an essential part of longer distance rides, especially at speed.

On the grain note... Ponies don't need grain the way horses do. There will be exemptions from this rule, but generally speaking... grain does not equal better performance. It only relates to energy needs (what a equine can and can't extract from its diet... )

Most ponies would have issues with the sugar and excess weight from a grain diet (speaking generally about modern horses vs. modern ponies). Think of them as having low thyroid issues and horses as having hyperthyroidism... one needs what will kill the other.

Ponies like Fjords (called horses, though they are pony sized) are easy-keepers, gaining too much weight if fed a grain diet and being at risk for founder... they literally need a poor diet, because even being worked regularly isn't enough to keep their weight healthy. They are favored by the Amish, because they are cheap to feed (little to no grain) and have the endurance to work their fields, etc... which is much more exertion than riding.

Mongol ponies were some of the best in the biz... Don't mistake good riding practices and proper nutrition for weakness!
 
Feb 2019
905
Pennsylvania, US
I agree that grain is more nuitritious than grass. I don't know if that difference would be expressed as stamina/ endurance or the lack of it. I have also read of Mongols riding a string of ponies across the steppe at high speed, changing mounts every 10 or 20 miles and traveling perhaps 100 miles in a day. That's considerable stamina/ endurance. Most horses can't run at high speed for 10 or 20 miles, certainly not while carrying a rider. Maybe I'm making an unwaranted assumption about the distances involved, but my sense is that Mongols rode all day and covered great distances in a short amount of time. Mongol ponies ate grass and had great stamina/ endurance.
Yes!!!

???

Though the nutritional concept of one hay field in the world versus another can be completely different... Grain is essentially sugars - a quick burn for an energy punch... but typically the large part of a horse's energy requirements (like 80%) come from digestion of forage (hay, seeds, etc) in the hindgut about 2-3 days after they ingest it.
 
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Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
6,605
Planet Nine, Oregon
"While the Mongolians valued their horses for provision of food with their meat and milk and as transportation, the horses were prized for the advantages they provided in warfare. The short, strong animals to this day are known for their sturdiness. The ability of the animals to run for long periods of time without getting winded allowed the Mongolians to cover land faster than their opponents could. The Mongolian strategy of hit-and-run raids was developed because of the horses’ ability to quickly turn and gallop for miles after battle. This was an advantage the nomadic Mongolians had over the sedentary agricultural based societies. The victims of these raids could not keep up with the long distances that the Mongolians were able to cover with their horses. These horses were so fast that, according to Morris Rossabi, they were the «intercontinental ballistic missiles» of the Mongolian army [11, p. 48–57]. The mobility and surprise of the Mongolian raids was one of the key components in the military strategies developed by Jenghiz Khan. The rugged animals also required little maintenance from their riders, when compared to the upkeep of the European horses. The horses’ small sized contributed to the little substance it needed to survive, as they did not need as much grazing time. The horses’ ability to forage for their own food, even in the snow, allowed the Mongolian forces to travel with less gear that would have otherwise slowed them down. The toughness of the Mongolian horses’ hooves resulted in little loss of time and horses from lameness. They were able to endure through snow, rocks, and other harsh climates – far surpassing the abilities of the European horses, all contributing to the Mongolian war machine"

A scientific and historical investigation on mongolian horses — История: факты и символы


"The Mongolian horses, as a neglected scientific resource, have excellent endurance and stress resistance to adapt to the cold and harsh plateau conditions. Intraspecific genetic diversity is mainly embodied in various genetic advantages of different branches of Mongolian horse. Abaga horse is better than Wushen horse in running speed, for example. Because people pay progressively attention to the athletic performance of horse, such as horse racing in Mongolia's Naadam festival, we expect to guide the exercise-oriented breeding of horses through genomics research. We obtained the clean data of 630,535,376,400 bp through the entire genome second-generation sequencing for the whole blood of 4 Abaga horses and 10 Wushen horses. Based on the data analysis of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), we severally detected that 479 and 943 positively selected genes, particularly exercise-related, were mainly enriched on equine chromosome 4 in Abaga horses and Wushen horses, which implied that the chromosome 4 may be associated with the evolution of the Mongolian horse and athletic performance. Four hundred and forty genes of positive selection were enriched in 12 exercise-related pathways and narrowed in 21 exercise-related genes in Abaga horse, which were distinguished from Wushen horse. So, we speculated that the Abaga horse may have oriented genes for the motorial mechanism and 21 exercise-related genes also provided molecular genetic basis for exercise-directed breeding of Mongolian horse."

Exercise-related genes analysis of Mongolian Horse - Abaga horse and Wushen horse
 
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