Tag Archives: Chivalry

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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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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