Horses in the Middle Ages

horsesMiddle AgeshorsehobbiesMedieval transportchargerHorse courserhorsebackmedievalMedieval war horses
Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller.wikipedia
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Palfrey

palfreystype of horse
This led them to be described, for example, as "chargers" (war horses), "palfreys" (riding horses), cart horses or packhorses.
A palfrey is a type of horse that was highly valued as a riding horse in the Middle Ages.

Packhorse

pack horsepack trainpack-horse
This led them to be described, for example, as "chargers" (war horses), "palfreys" (riding horses), cart horses or packhorses.
They were invaluable throughout antiquity, through the Middle Ages, and into modern times where roads are nonexistent or poorly maintained.

Medieval warfare

battleMedievalwarfare
They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport. Pitched battles were avoided if at all possible, with most offensive warfare in the early Middle Ages taking the form of sieges, or swift mounted raids called chevauchées, with the warriors lightly armed on swift horses and their heavy war horses safely in the stable.
The cost of their armour, horses, and weapons was great; this, among other things, helped gradually transform the knight, at least in western Europe, into a distinct social class separate from other warriors.

Cavalry

cavalrymencavalrymanhorse
Their quiet and dependable nature, as well as size, made them popular as riding horses for ladies; however, they were also used as cavalry horses by the Spanish.
The speed, mobility and shock value of cavalry was greatly appreciated and exploited in armed forces in the Ancient and Middle Ages; some forces were mostly cavalry, particularly in nomadic societies of Asia, notably the Mongol armies.

Jennet

Spanish JennetSpanish Jennets
The origins of the medieval war horse are obscure, although it is believed they had some Barb and Arabian blood through the Spanish Jennet, a forerunner to the modern Friesian and Andalusian horse.
The "jennet" described a type, rather than a breed of horse, and thus is not used today; the term was in regular use during the Middle Ages to refer to a specific type of horse, usually one of Iberian or Barb extraction, often gaited.

Ambling gait

amblinggaitedamble
Ambling was a desirable trait in a palfrey, as the smooth gait allowed the rider to cover long distances quickly in relative comfort.
The amble was particularly prized in horses in the Middle Ages due to the need for people to travel long distances on poor roads.

List of horse breeds

breedhorse breedsbreeds
While an understanding of modern horse breeds and equestrianism is vital for any analysis of the medieval horse, researchers also need to consider documentary (both written and pictorial) and archaeological evidence.
Thus, many terms for Horses in the Middle Ages did not refer to breeds as we know them today, but rather described appearance or purpose.

Knight

knighthoodknightedknights
While light cavalry had been used in warfare for many centuries, the medieval era saw the rise of heavy cavalry, particularly the European knight.
As the Carolingian Age progressed, the Franks were generally on the attack, and larger numbers of warriors took to their horses to ride with the Emperor in his wide-ranging campaigns of conquest.

Horse transports in the Middle Ages

horse transportsexportstaride
Hobbies were used successfully by both sides during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Edward I of England trying to gain advantage by preventing Irish exports of the horses to Scotland.
Horse transports in the Middle Ages were boats used for effective means of transporting horses over long distances, whether for war or general transport.

History of road transport

road buildingimproved roadsRoad transport, History of
They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport.

Hastilude

lance gamesKnight's tokenknightly games
Tournaments and hastiludes began in the 11th century as both a sport and to provide training for battle.
In contrast to the tournament, which comprised teams of large numbers ranging over large tracts of land, the joust was fought between two individuals on horseback, in a small, defined ground often known as the lists.

Rouncey

rouncy
Words such as 'courser' and 'charger' are used interchangeably (even within one document), and where one epic may speak disparagingly of a rouncey, another praises its skill and swiftness.
The term rouncey (also spelt rouncy or rounsey) was used during the Middle Ages to refer to an ordinary, all-purpose horse.

Courser (horse)

coursercoursersswift-horse
This led them to be described, for example, as "chargers" (war horses), "palfreys" (riding horses), cart horses or packhorses. Words such as 'courser' and 'charger' are used interchangeably (even within one document), and where one epic may speak disparagingly of a rouncey, another praises its skill and swiftness.
*Horses in the Middle Ages

Jousting

joustjouststournament
The destrier was highly prized by knights and men-at-arms, but was actually not very common, and appears to have been most suited to the joust.
The two most common kinds of horse used for jousting were warmblood chargers and larger destriers.

Draft horse

draught horsedraftworkhorse
This led them to be described, for example, as "chargers" (war horses), "palfreys" (riding horses), cart horses or packhorses.
It is a common misunderstanding that the Destrier that carried the armoured knight of the Middle Ages had the size and conformation of a modern draft horse, and some of these Medieval war horses may have provided some bloodlines for some of the modern draft breeds.

Tournament (medieval)

tournamenttournamentstourney
Tournaments and hastiludes began in the 11th century as both a sport and to provide training for battle.
A further question that might be raised is to what extent the military equipment of knights and their horses in the 12th and 13th centuries was devised to meet the perils and demands of tournaments, rather than warfare.

Destrier

ChargerChargersarmed horses
It is also hard to trace what happened to the bloodlines of destriers when this type seems to disappear from record during the 17th century.

Hobelar

hobelarshobilar
This type of quick and agile horse was popular for skirmishing, and was often ridden by light cavalry known as Hobelars.

Chevauchée

Algaracavalgadacabalgadas
Pitched battles were avoided if at all possible, with most offensive warfare in the early Middle Ages taking the form of sieges, or swift mounted raids called chevauchées, with the warriors lightly armed on swift horses and their heavy war horses safely in the stable.

Barding

horse armourbardedchanfron
Horses were specially bred for the joust, and heavier horse armour developed.

Caparison

caparisonedcaparisonscovered in decorative cloth
Beneath the saddle, caparisons or saddle cloths were sometimes worn; these could be decorated or embroidered with heraldic colours and arms.

Double bridle

BridleWeymouthWeymouth curb
Until the late 13th century, bridles generally had a single pair of reins; after this period it became more common for knights to use two sets of reins, similar to that of the modern double bridle, and often at least one set was decorated.
This tradition originated with the same haute ecole and military uses of horses in the Middle Ages, but developed differently from classical dressage since approximately the 16th century, when Spanish horse trainers arrived in the Americas.

Great Stirrup Controversy

controversially been arguedpreviously widely held beliefThe Great Stirrup Controversy
A theory known as The Great Stirrup Controversy argues that the advantages in warfare that stemmed from use of the stirrup led to the birth of feudalism itself.

Sidesaddle

side-saddleside saddlesidesaddle riding
Although an early chair-like sidesaddle with handles and a footrest was available by the 13th century and allowed women of the nobility to ride while wearing elaborate gowns, they were not universally adopted during the Middle Ages.

Michael Prestwich

Prestwich, MichaelMichael Charles PrestwichPrestwich, M.
Prestwich has provided support and encouragement to other historians, in particular Ann Hyland, who recognised his assistance in her work on medieval warhorses.