How were war horses trained?

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Ariella Elema » 02 May 2011 22:40

admin wrote:Maybe.. what's the question exactly? :)


Have you run into descriptive accounts of nineteenth-century cavalry horses crashing straight into people or trampling over them (as opposed to prescriptive sources saying that it's a good theoretical idea)?

BD, that's a neat video. At last summer's Ottawa Medieval Sword Guild camping weekend, Dale Gienow and John Woods, who both own horses, tried some of Fiore's mounted sword stuff. It took Dale's mare no time at all to figure out that the aim of the game was to attack the guy on the other horse--so she bit John. Fortunately he was wearing armour. We have it on video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8662877@N02/4867396661/in/set-72157624674991624 It's interesting to see almost exactly the same biting behaviour displayed by the Kazakh horses.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby bigdummy » 03 May 2011 02:04

It reminds me of a rather melancholy and evocative legend about the Battle of Kulikovo Field in 1380 between the Mongols and the Russians. As the two armies faced each other, 60,000 Russians vs. 150,000 Mongols, two lone riders attacked one another in a duel, a Russian Orthodox Monk named Alexander Peresvet, and an unnamed Mongol champion. They charged with lances and both were instantly killed, but as the armies watched, or so the story goes, Alexanders horse and the Mongols horse kept fighting each other. Supposedly Alexanders body remained in his saddle which the Russians took as a sign of victory. In the end they did win the battle and killed nearly 100,000 Mongols, but the Mongols came back and burned Moscow to the ground two years later. It was an unhappy relationship.

I read a similar account in the journal of Usama ibn Munqidh, a Frankish knight and a Saracen knight killed each other and their horses continued to fight while the armies watched. Both of these stories were presented with mystical overtones as if the beasts had been overcome by the religious or sectarian hatred of their riders, but really from these videos it seems like fairly normal behavior. The horses get into it.

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Jonathan Waller » 03 May 2011 06:59

I remember reading an account to do with Custer during the ACW. During the clash of two units of cavalry "horses ran into each other and were flung end over end and in to the air" or word to effect. I'll try to remember and provide the actual source.

As has been mention stallions will fight and shorse fight have been part of various cultures east and west. It only makes sense that they would continue to fight with or without the riders.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 31 Oct 2011 13:02

Corporal Carrot wrote:I dont know much about horses, but I imagine that they have a natural inclination to NOT run directly into things if they can avoid it. So how do you get a horse to charge into an opposing army?


Training. My gelding walks through flapping flags, because although they were scary once, none have yet eaten him. Once, on a hunt, I saw the field scatter to the left, due to an oncoming train; mine held his line and was perfectly happy to ease right towards the train, for which he was duly praised. Perhaps the question should be: how do you get a horse to charge twice into an opposing army?

(well-trained police horses and poorly-mannered private horses barge into people for the same reason: horses, being hierarchical herd creatures, divide the animate world into two basic groups: things that move away from me, and things I must move away from; untrained people nearly universally fall into the former)

As to horses crashing at speed, geometry matters. Patton remarked in his saber manual that t-boning is an effective battlefield tactic, but nearly impossible to practice safely. It is a foul in polo because it tends to take out the t-boned horse (cf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spPuacIGnkE#t=1m05s @ 1:05); conversely, riding into a horse at a shallower angle, from behind, is a foul because it tends to take out the horse whose front legs get tangled up. The rule of thumb is that horses are (with perhaps the exception of bullfighting horses) very stable longitudinally and fairly fragile laterally.

(the military quarter-turn mentioned is mostly useful for gates and parade formations. Just about everyone who does anything at speed (cow work, polo, réjon, etc.) hops the front and turns on the hind end. If you look at where pluvinel departs from modern dressage practice, it's that he focuses way more on --again, as in the bullfight-- having powerful hindquarters and mobile forequarters. In effect, in his time, the warhorse was used for duelling; in the modern period the warhorse was used to transport mobile infantry from point A to point B)

Although it's true that there are general breed differences, there is far more individual variation. Some horses are best suited for decorating pastures. Some horses enjoy chasing cows, and the ideal cutting horse does so completely on his own initiative. Although there are polo breeders, it's more of a job than a breed, and any horse that enjoys running in and reacting to a herd (fairly natural) and can learn that shoving is sporting, but biting and kicking are right out (also fairly natural) will probably make.

Returning to Pluvinel (et.al.), the general training seems to be: take a horse that's already good at going, and more importantly, stopping and turning, then train "under fire" so that handle is confirmed even under stress.

-Dave

(re lance vs. cavalry: we haven't tried this ourselves yet, but I'd imagine the problem is that once the sabreur passes inside the lance, the lancer is in trouble, and while a lancer easily controls the distance when engaged with infantry, he lacks that control against another horse. the rule of thumb here is that the riding skill of the two matters much more than what they happen to be wielding)
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 31 Oct 2011 18:01

Ariella Elema wrote:Have you run into descriptive accounts of nineteenth-century cavalry horses crashing straight into people or trampling over them (as opposed to prescriptive sources saying that it's a good theoretical idea)?


Of the top of my head, I certainly remember one source from the Indian Mutiny where a British cavalry officer was deliberately t-boned (to use Dave's expression) by a rebel cavalryman. He and his horse were bowled over. The sources that say you should ride the horse at an infantryman rather than past him aren't generally theoretical - they state it more as a matter of fact.
At the Battle of Khushab in 1861 a cavalry charge famously broke an infantry square, the first horse litterally jumping onto the bayonets and being killed as a result - two Victoria Crosses were awarded:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Grant_Malcolmson
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 01 Nov 2011 23:35

from the Patton 1914 manual, a prescriptive text complementing the already mentioned descriptive video:
18. ... Also, in combat troopers should ride down opponents, striking them
head-on in the flank, but this cannot be practiced. ...
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Ariella Elema » 04 Nov 2011 20:19

Cool. Thanks for reviving the thread.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 07 Nov 2011 00:23

in his "Manuel de cavalerie"(1742), pp. 137-139, F. Robichon de la Guérinière discusses war horses, starting with the prerequisites:
  • relatively (to modern sport horses) small: ideally 14 hands 1 or 2
  • a good mouth (responsive) with a good head (steady)
  • strong and supple; energetic but not too hot
  • no vices or problems: who wants to engage an enemy while correcting their horse?
and moving on to discuss their training, including specific exercises:
  • suppling at trot, shoulder-in, and haunches-out (which are still clearly part of general XXIth century equitation)
  • pirouettes and roll-backs (still present for upper-level dressage and cow horses)
  • combat circles (now found only in disciplines linked to the bullfight?)
  • passades (still found in polo)
and desensitization training:
  • sounds, fire, smoke, gunpowder, drums, trumpets, pikes, swords, etc.
  • gradual desensitization works for all of the above
  • (shooting a pistol and banging a snare at feeding times is also effective!)
  • riding outside of the training ring will naturally expose a horse to many things that would frighten its more sheltered colleagues
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby bigdummy » 07 Nov 2011 01:08

Brilliant! Thanks for posting that ...

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 01 Dec 2011 10:31

Corporal Carrot wrote: The collisions between the horses in the videos from the article Ariella posted didnt end well for either horse...

Sorry, finally got around to checking out these videos. I believe what you're seeing here are untrained horses. Dressage horses are usually over 10 by the time they're trained enough for Grand Prix competition. Racehorses like this are by comparison very young (2-3 years old), and in that limited time they've only been expected to run; they haven't even really been trained to stop, and certainly haven't been trained to deal with bumps, either dealing or receiving. By way of contrast, polo ponies are trained to make (and take) contact, practice it constantly, are still improving at 7 and 8, and compete well into their teens.

It would be interesting to see what ages cavalry manuals recommended; I believe racehorses would be young even by remount standards.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 09:09

What do people think is being done here? (taken from the Romance of Alexander, c.1340)

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Chiron » 07 Jul 2012 15:18

Saw that one a while back and it stumped me too, Albertus Magnus classifies destriers on the basis of being trained to bite and kick in order to break the enemy lines. The man could be teaching the horse to do just that, I find it somewhat unlikely though, since it would be a bad idea to teach your horse to react to you in such a way, not to mention how incredibly dangerous it would be. My first thought was that it's a thrown rider trying to placate his horse, but i doubt it since the horse isn't wearing a bridle. Probably the most likely option is he's desensitizing the horse to weapons. A more far fetched possibility is that he's teaching the horse to rear with the stick in a similar way to the modern spanish riding school, which would be interesting since it would predate the riding schools by 200 years, however if so I can't explain for the life of me why he has a buckler.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 15:24

My only other thought was that he is making a nose by banging the stick against whatever that circular thing is, in order to get the horse used to noises and aggressive movements.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Chiron » 07 Jul 2012 15:29

That's what I mean with desensitizing. :D
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Ariella Elema » 07 Jul 2012 18:39

I think it's an entertainer and a performing pony. That would be in keeping with the theme of musicians, games and leisure-time activities in the manuscript's marginalia.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby bigdummy » 07 Jul 2012 18:41

And the monkey (minkey?)
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Ariella Elema » 07 Jul 2012 18:43

Is that picture really from the Romance of Alexander? The Alexander manuscript has some similar images at folio 96v, but I don't know where that one is from.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 22:42

That's what it is labelled as and the art style looks right to me.

Regarding this being a performing pony - it may be, but isn't that a war saddle?
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 23:05

Folio 73r:
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby admin » 07 Jul 2012 23:22

There are two more in the same manuscript - it looks to me like this is definitely training the horse to kick a target and react to the stick:
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