Author Topic: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages  (Read 342 times)

Erpingham

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Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« on: March 17, 2019, 12:55:33 PM »
I know we have discussed Jurg Gassman's writing before but I'm not sure if we've looked at this article before

Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
Jürg Gassmann Artes Certaminis and Schweizer Rossfechten-Verein

Abstract – The cavalry horse, tactics and training in Western Europe – the European provinces of the Roman Empire of the West and the Frankish Empire – during the Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000) are still subject to many myths in both popular media and academic literature. Source material is admittedly thin, yet it is specific enough to allow us to correct many of these misconceptions and outright errors.
The article initially summarises the current state of knowledge on the war horse of the period, by reference to the archaeological record. It then reviews the cavalry’s battlefield tactics, derives the skill level required to execute the manoeuvres described in the sources, and analyses where and how this training could have been provided.
The information gleaned provides an insight into the skills and expertise necessary to achieve the requisite sophisticated level of horsemanship. We shall argue that these imply a considerable investment in organisational infrastructure, personnel and institutional memory, which has so far not received much academic attention, and has wider implications for our view of the era.
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2019, 03:56:42 PM »
Very interesting. He makes the point that the physiognomy and intelligence of the horse as much as its size determines how effective it will be for its rider. So western European horses were superior in this aspect to eastern horses. Also the need to train fresh horses fairly frequently as a cavalry horse's career was only a few years.

I notice he affirms horses will not charge into formed foot. Someone should have told the Romans.  ???
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Erpingham

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2019, 04:07:08 PM »
I notice he affirms horses will not charge into formed foot. Someone should have told the Romans.  ???

We forget we live in a bubble sometimes.  This is one of the few places I know where it is regularly stated cavalry have nothing to fear from close order infantry and will just smash through them unharmed.   ::)
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2019, 04:20:45 PM »
I notice he affirms horses will not charge into formed foot. Someone should have told the Romans.  ???

We forget we live in a bubble sometimes.  This is one of the few places I know where it is regularly stated cavalry have nothing to fear from close order infantry and will just smash through them unharmed.   ::)

One place but not the only one.... 8)
 
   
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 04:24:47 PM by Justin Swanton »
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Erpingham

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2019, 04:44:27 PM »
I notice he affirms horses will not charge into formed foot. Someone should have told the Romans.  ???

We forget we live in a bubble sometimes.  This is one of the few places I know where it is regularly stated cavalry have nothing to fear from close order infantry and will just smash through them unharmed.   ::)

One place but not the only one.... 8)
 

I love that scene :)  It's what a cavalry charge should be like.  Maybe we give up on the historical gaming and just do big battle fantasy?

It's difficult to pick out the actual horse use from the CGI alas but it seems the orcs are quite widely spaced to allow the stunt horses to ride among them. 
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Jim Webster

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2019, 04:48:53 PM »
I notice he affirms horses will not charge into formed foot. Someone should have told the Romans.  ???

We forget we live in a bubble sometimes.  This is one of the few places I know where it is regularly stated cavalry have nothing to fear from close order infantry and will just smash through them unharmed.   ::)



One place but not the only one.... 8)
 

I love that scene :)  It's what a cavalry charge should be like.  Maybe we give up on the historical gaming and just do big battle fantasy?

It's difficult to pick out the actual horse use from the CGI alas but it seems the orcs are quite widely spaced to allow the stunt horses to ride among them.

Certainly when you look at the spacing, the infantry in that clip do stand well apart.
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2019, 05:12:23 PM »
I love that scene :) 

Nah. This is my favourite scene. Rohan horses had never seen forty-foot high oliphants before in their lives but they don't hesitate. Now that's what I call well-trained cavalry.

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Duncan Head

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2019, 05:15:15 PM »
Very interesting. He makes the point that the physiognomy and intelligence of the horse as much as its size determines how effective it will be for its rider. So western European horses were superior in this aspect to eastern horses.

There's an earlier article by the same author that is interesting on eastern and western breeds.
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Erpingham

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2019, 05:34:36 PM »
Very interesting. He makes the point that the physiognomy and intelligence of the horse as much as its size determines how effective it will be for its rider. So western European horses were superior in this aspect to eastern horses.

There's an earlier article by the same author that is interesting on eastern and western breeds.

Which we discussed here http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=2977.msg36328#msg36328

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aligern

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2019, 08:59:26 PM »
Justin did quite a valuable job on the ‘cavalry charging close order infantry’  front.
There is a tendency to state that cavalry won’t charge close order infantry and that is tge general rule. Hoplites and Romans are close order infantry therefore cavalry will not charge tgem frontally.
However, tge debate listed a number of special circumstances, such as the infantry being exhausted, or a section of them being disirdered by terrain or by casualties. Then the cavalry stand a chance if they are really good aggressive horses and men. Arrian’s order of battle that has his legionaries firming dense and bracing in a form of foulkon against Sarmatians would semmto prove that relying on normal order and depth is not good enough to be certain. Maurice’s foulkon is an admission that facing charging cavalry not in a special, braced, formation is not enough. Clearly  later Byzantine manuals that envisage opposing cataphracts breaking into infantry formations armed with the standard long spear shows that ‘cavalry will not charge formed infantry’ is not a satisfactory rule of thumb.
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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2019, 07:38:50 AM »
Concur.
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Erpingham

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2019, 08:14:17 AM »
Quote
Clearly  later Byzantine manuals that envisage opposing cataphracts breaking into infantry formations armed with the standard long spear shows that ‘cavalry will not charge formed infantry’ is not a satisfactory rule of thumb.

Actually, I also agree.  Gassmann is rolling out an old standard which, if he'd gone through the evidence, he'd find it wasn't true.  What I still have issues with is an understanding that horsemen ploughed headlong into the infantry, unless they plunged over the edge of a wadi and fell into them or some such, or that the horsemen were pretty invulnerable if they did so.  I think he is right though that the history of interaction with solid, confident infantry, was more probing than headlong, even if I disagree about the impossibility of making horse attack a solid line.
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nikgaukroger

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2019, 08:35:01 AM »
Clearly  later Byzantine manuals that envisage opposing cataphracts breaking into infantry formations armed with the standard long spear shows that ‘cavalry will not charge formed infantry’ is not a satisfactory rule of thumb.

Mainly armed with maces actually, hardly any of the katafraktoi described in the Praecepta have spears/lances.

Probably worth noting though, that in those manuals only the katafraktoi are expected to charge infantry and even then the wording seems to suggest that it is seen as risky.
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aligern

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2019, 03:20:11 PM »
Nik, I think my punctuation is clear enough that it is the infantry who have the standard long spears.
The fear is that the cataphracts will break the long spears abd close with the infantry. athe Romans respond with squads of menauloiti who have thicker spears that can resist the monentum of the charge.
That does show that there was a real chance that cavalry on armoured horses could break an infantry line.
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nikgaukroger

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Re: Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2019, 07:48:12 AM »
Apologies, I managed to rearrange the sentance in my head whilst reading it  :P

Indeed it is clearly seen as possible that katafraktoi could break the infantry.
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