What type of Horse was best for Mounted Infantry?

Apr 2017
1,626
U.S.A.
What type of horse (not necessarily breed) would work best for mounted infantry? Destriers were could for charging while palfreys were good for riding over long distances. Rouncey's were good for all around, being able to used in war, for traveling and as a pack horse.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
Anything with good endurance, not reliant on high quality fodder, cheap to buy, tough and hardy.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
Why did you not list strong or fast as necessary qualities ??

(endurance and toughness certainly make sense)
What is fast mean? A dragoon horse will almost never gallop (as they aren't charging). They need to be able to walk, trot, and occasionally canter for long distances, that's the point, to make an infantry force more mobile than the human legs (human walk at 3-4 mph vs horse walk at 4 mph, trot at 8 mph, canter at 15 mph). It would be better to have a horse who can trot all day than to have one who can gallop fast for a quarter mile.

Any horse that is hardy with good endurance is going to be strong enough to act as a riding horse for a mounted infantry/dragoon. Since it doesn't need to haul a large rider in heavy gear/full armor, at a fast pace, and be tough enough to ride over other men, bully enemy horse, and to even participate in close quarters battle (destriers fought too), then added strength means weakness in other ways. Cost, amount of time to train, increased need for high quality fodder, etc.

Most importantly is cost. Horses aren't cheap. If someone wants to mount a large group of infantry then even using cheap horses its going to cost a fortune. So the cheaper the horse, the more they can mount.
 

Robert165

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,266
North Georgia
What is fast mean? A dragoon horse will almost never gallop (as they aren't charging). They need to be able to walk, trot, and occasionally canter for long distances, that's the point, to make an infantry force more mobile than the human legs (human walk at 3-4 mph vs horse walk at 4 mph, trot at 8 mph, canter at 15 mph). It would be better to have a horse who can trot all day than to have one who can gallop fast for a quarter mile.

Any horse that is hardy with good endurance is going to be strong enough to act as a riding horse for a mounted infantry/dragoon. Since it doesn't need to haul a large rider in heavy gear/full armor, at a fast pace, and be tough enough to ride over other men, bully enemy horse, and to even participate in close quarters battle (destriers fought too), then added strength means weakness in other ways. Cost, amount of time to train, increased need for high quality fodder, etc.

Most importantly is cost. Horses aren't cheap. If someone wants to mount a large group of infantry then even using cheap horses its going to cost a fortune. So the cheaper the horse, the more they can mount.
Yes but the infamous cavalry charge that you see depicted in paintings and stories of old, don't those horses need to be able to close ground to the enemy very quickly.




BTW - I know we often disagree on the current event/cultural debates but in terms of these history questions I really do respect your opinion, a lot. I'm trying to learn more about history and you guys know so much about it, it's very impressive to me.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
Yes but the infamous cavalry charge that you see depicted in paintings and stories of old, don't those horses need to be able to close ground to the enemy very quickly.

BTW - I know we often disagree on the current event/cultural debates but in terms of these history questions I really do respect your opinion, a lot. I'm trying to learn more about history and you guys know so much about it, it's very impressive to me.
Mounted infantry don't charge. Mounted infantry use horses for transportation and then dismount to fight. They don't need to be able to ride fast in battle, they just need to be able to keep up with the cavalry during marches, which are done at walk, trot sometimes, very rarely cantering, almost never galloping unless very short distances. So its about endurance.

Fast horses in standard cavalry charges have issues because they will ride out in front of others in their troop or squadron. So they will have to be held back, unless all the horses are equally fast. Besides that, most charges were actually conducted at the trot, then advancing to canter, and those few times that they went to gallop only did so at the last bit of distance. One, to save the horses (they will become "blown"/fatigued too early if ridden too hard), and two, to create a disciplined and cohesive formation of horses.

A blown horse is useless, its not uncommon to literally just stand motionless no matter the "encouragement" of the rider. It wont be prodded, it simply wont follow commands anymore, even with the enemy bearing down on it. Ride it harder, and it can die. It usually happens when cavalry race their horses at the gallop too early, too much, at the wrong times. A common problem with ignorant and incompetent cavalry commanders is causing entire wings, of multiple squadrons, to become blown before a decisive engagement even occurs, rendering them unfit for combat duties for the remainder of the day.

Dragoons might blow their horses during a route march to reach a battlefield faster, but they are going to dismount and either corral or hand reins to an attendant or junior soldier while the rest form as infantry and fight on foot.
 

Robert165

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,266
North Georgia
Mounted infantry don't charge. Mounted infantry use horses for transportation and then dismount to fight. They don't need to be able to ride fast in battle, they just need to be able to keep up with the cavalry during marches, which are done at walk, trot sometimes, very rarely cantering, almost never galloping unless very short distances. So its about endurance.

Fast horses in standard cavalry charges have issues because they will ride out in front of others in their troop or squadron. So they will have to be held back, unless all the horses are equally fast. Besides that, most charges were actually conducted at the trot, then advancing to canter, and those few times that they went to gallop only did so at the last bit of distance. One, to save the horses (they will become "blown"/fatigued too early if ridden too hard), and two, to create a disciplined and cohesive formation of horses.

A blown horse is useless, its not uncommon to literally just stand motionless no matter the "encouragement" of the rider. It wont be prodded, it simply wont follow commands anymore, even with the enemy bearing down on it. Ride it harder, and it can die. It usually happens when cavalry race their horses at the gallop too early, too much, at the wrong times. A common problem with ignorant and incompetent cavalry commanders is causing entire wings, of multiple squadrons, to become blown before a decisive engagement even occurs, rendering them unfit for combat duties for the remainder of the day.

Dragoons might blow their horses during a route march to reach a battlefield faster, but they are going to dismount and either corral or hand reins to an attendant or junior soldier while the rest form as infantry and fight on foot.
Wow, thank you for a good answer. So 2 quick questions:

1- What then is the difference between calvary and mounted infantry? Is it the same or is it different?

2- You seem to know this topic well. Do you ride horses? I do not. But some of the people on the homesteading/bushcraft site if go to ride horses.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,738
USA
Wow, thank you for a good answer. So 2 quick questions:

1- What then is the difference between calvary and mounted infantry? Is it the same or is it different?

2- You seem to know this topic well. Do you ride horses? I do not. But some of the people on the homesteading/bushcraft site if go to ride horses.
Cavalry fight on horseback, mounted infantry and dragoons fight on foot, only using horses for increased mobility. Dragoons are usually considered a type of cavalry but being that they fight on foot make them infantry.

I rode some years ago but no longer (bad back, can't handle bouncing in saddle). But I've studied cavalry in depth and to do that I need to learn a whole lot about horses. It helps that I'm friends with a lot of "horse people" who fill me in questions, as well as reading a lot.

Too many discussing cavalry see the horse as a car with flesh and blood. In reality, they were smart, stubborn and mischievous (horses often like screwing with the rider, purposelessly), behavior ranging from aggressively brave to cowardly submissive all depending on their mood. They had personalities, and those personalities translated a lot into combat performance. Which is why war horses were so expensive and valuable, because they'd not only been bred for it, they'd spent their entire lives, every day, being trained for combat duties.
 

Robert165

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,266
North Georgia
Cavalry fight on horseback, mounted infantry and dragoons fight on foot, only using horses for increased mobility. Dragoons are usually considered a type of cavalry but being that they fight on foot make them infantry.

I rode some years ago but no longer (bad back, can't handle bouncing in saddle). But I've studied cavalry in depth and to do that I need to learn a whole lot about horses. It helps that I'm friends with a lot of "horse people" who fill me in questions, as well as reading a lot.

Too many discussing cavalry see the horse as a car with flesh and blood. In reality, they were smart, stubborn and mischievous (horses often like screwing with the rider, purposelessly), behavior ranging from aggressively brave to cowardly submissive all depending on their mood. They had personalities, and those personalities translated a lot into combat performance. Which is why war horses were so expensive and valuable, because they'd not only been bred for it, they'd spent their entire lives, every day, being trained for combat duties.
Ah, ok, I see, yes another good explanation.

My sister used to live in the part of Florida, central Florida, that has lots and lots of cattle. Her ex-husband was good at riding a horse and managing cattle. I guess you are in/from Oklahoma? That is definite cattle country right?

BTW - did you ever read Lonesome Dove? Most of the book is about a long cattle drive from Texas through Oklahoma to one of the Dakota territories (I think that was the end destination).



BTW - I made a new thread on modern cavalry if you'd like to take a look at it.
 
Oct 2017
169
Poland
Aggienation explained it well. However, it is worth adding that dragoons performed different tasks depending on the period and place. Sometimes an army was composed mostly or entirely of cavalry, and then the dragoons were practically not treated as cavalry. At other times, the true cavalry practically did not exist and its role was fulfilled by dragoons. However, even the normal cavalry often rode on poor horses, so it was more important to think about equipping infantry with any horses than to ensure the high quality of those horses.