Category Archives: equestrian history

Horseback Archery – a Medievalist Sport

Say ‘horseback archery’ and what would you think? Archaic, esoteric, oriental, arcane?

Indeed, horseback archery was and still is a vibrant tradition in Asia, from Iran and Turkey to Korea (home of the World Horseback Archer Federation) and Japan. More recently, however, horseback archery has crossed the east-west divide and is increasingly popular in Europe, the UK and the States. Continue reading

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Medieval Welsh Horses Had Weird Names

What did the greatest Arthurian knights call their steeds? You will never guess it, unless you read he Black Book of Caermarthen – or my post. Continue reading

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Medieval Horses Love Water!

November has come, with its dull winter days, the first snow and cold, wet horses. Apparently, it was no problem in the fifteenth-century France, where the calendar page from the spectacular Bedford Hours show a horse splashing in a fountain: … Continue reading

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Not Fit to Ride? Watch Paradressage

… some people think they cannot be good riders because of weakness, old age, or obesity, and therefore lose the will and give up learning what they need in order to attain knowledge. They are manifestly quite wrong in this, and in many other good things that they lose because of this despair, when they could acquire them if they had good hope… – wrote Dom Duarte I of Portugal Continue reading

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Call for Papers Session on Arthurian Horses at the International Arthurian Conference 2017

Papers are invited for sessions on Arthurian horses, exploring different aspects of the horse and human interface in medieval Arthurian literature from a wide variety linguistic and national traditions. Continue reading

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Mounted Archery – from the Middle Ages to Modernity

In the Middle Ages, archery was used for military and hunting purposes. Horseback archery was a skill mostly associated with the east. Medieval miniatures in western sources do sometimes show mounted archers, but they are either representing the ‘Saracens’ or archers travelling on horseback, who would dismount for battle. Nowadays, it is a sport, but also, if not primarily, an art. Continue reading

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TOP 5 Medieval Horse Names

Seeking for a medieval horse name for your mount? Here is a pick of top 5 names for different breeds, characters and colours Continue reading

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Horse and Human Interface in the Middle Ages

Were medieval horses loved by their riders? Or were their regarded as pieces of functional machinery, discarded when they run out of order without a second thought? So many sources, both modern and medieval, refer to them as if they had been mere machines, complex but replacable. The matter-of-fact testimony of restauratio equorum, analyzed for Edwardian England by Andrew Ayton, certainly suggests as much. Likewise, knights in romances rarely stop to grieve their fallen mounts, as long as they have replacements at hand. Even Dom Duarte I in his famous The Book of Horsemanship has little to say about the personality of a medieval horses, except that it must be a ‘good horse’.
But what was a ‘good horse’ in the Middle Ages?
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Knights and Stallions

‘In the days of Chivalry it was deemed a disgrace to ride upon a mare, and no greater indignity could be inflicted on a recreant Knight than to cause him to be placed upon one’ (Lady Charlotte Guest, The Mabinogion, 1838, vol. 1). Did you ever wonder why a knight could never ride a mare and be considered a man? Was it because the patriarchal, male-dominated chivalry admitted no female to its inner circles of power, even if that female was equine? Or should the narrative of homosocial bonding and rampant feminism be abandoned in favour of a more mundane – or indeed, of a more exotic – explanation? Was it even true that the western male elite rode only stallions, never mares, geldings or mules? Continue reading

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Horsemanship – an essential skill in the Middle Ages

‘the art of being a good horseman is one of the most important skills that lords, knights and squires ought to possess.’ (The Book of Horsemanship by Duarte I of Portugal)

Have you ever thought why horsemanship was an essential skill for almost any medieval person with any sort of ambition? Naturally, there were knights, who could not practice chivalry without a cheval, horse. However, any medieval person, peasant or knight, monk or king, housewife or lady, would have at least some practical knowledge of horsemanship. Horses were everywhere, like cars are nowadays, but there were ways in which horses were very much unlike cars. In fact, horsemanship could save your life – in this world and the next one – or lose it. Continue reading

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