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Cavalry in the middle ages

Knightly cavalry
Up to the Second World War, the power of the armies was determined not only by men, but also by horses. Until 1945, most of the German artillery was transported on a horse-drawn carriage, and large cavalry units remained in the Soviet army.
However, if in the 20th century horses in war retained exclusively transport functions, in previous eras their role was not limited to transportation.

The heroic horse, on a par with the sword of the kadenets, acted as a weapon, and not just a knight’s vehicle. Not for nothing, the Romans demanded that the conquered peoples not only give out armor, but also horses.

In the Middle Ages, cavalry played an important role. However, the art of riding was not yet particularly developed. In most cases, the knights forced their horses to do what was required of them: they bridled them with iron snaffles, tearing their lips, and pricked their sides with long sharp spurs. The knights rode mostly in stride, rushed into battle at a gallop. Later, when the equipment of the rider and the horse became harder and harder to move, there was nothing to dream about the art of riding: lucky, and, thank God!

Forged in armor, weighing about 60 kilograms, the knight was deprived of the opportunity to move, if he was not astride a horse
And accordingly, he needed not a frisky and hot horse, but powerful and calm to withstand the weight of the rider in full gear, and fast enough to be able to pursue the enemy at a gallop.

The warhorses of the knights were mostly heavy-duty vehicles, ennobled by the admixture of the blood of purebred stallions, and even purebred Arabs. Knight’s horses can be compared with the graceful Lippizan, who inherited their status from the Andalusian breed, highly valued in the Middle Ages.

Well-trained warhorse not only carried his master, but also helped him in battle. If a knight was surrounded by enemy infantry, the horse reared up, and the rider was able to strike the attackers with a sword from both sides. This figure was called “levada”.

If the horse, standing on its hind legs, made three – four leaps forward, then he often managed to break the ring of attackers. These jumps were called “curbets”. When the rider with the help of a horse broke out of the encirclement, he forced the horse to make a high jump, and the horse hit its hooves strongly while still in the air. This figure was called “Capriole”.

Free space arose under the horse, as foot enemies sought to get away from dangerous strikes. After the capriole, the horse landed with lightning speed and performed a pirouette, and rushing into the gap, attacked the enemy. Capriole was used against enemy riders. Powerful hooves were for everyone.

Such actions of heavy horses seem incredible to us today. However, it is still possible to see how these figures perform horses of the Lippizan breed, brought up in the style of the Spanish riding school in Vienna.

In modern cinema, the rider, attacking the foot, at best, rushes past him, and at worst, pulls up on a tangent and stops to strike
But this picture is absolutely not consistent with the actual mode of action of the cavalry in the melee.

First, a rider with such an approach would, in general, be in a losing position. The advantage in height would not pay for the lack of opportunity to evade blows. And if the infantryr’s weapon were longer, then the rider’s affairs would have become completely hopeless. Equally, in the case of a battle with throwing weapons, the advantages would also be on the side of the infantryman.

Secondly, in fact, if the attack from the aisle was only ineffective, then the attack from the stop was technically impracticable. A horse is able to distinguish real blood from sham and understands when its life is in danger and when it is not. Stop and wait until the side of the present saber poked too unwise even from a horse’s point of view.

The horse allowed to save forces on the march, which was especially important for heavily armed soldiers, allowed archers to keep the enemy at a distance, allowed the soldiers to quickly move around the battlefield, but only hindered melee combat. Moreover, – a rider on an ordinary riding horse risked being completely incapable of engaging in a close combat, because, in order to do this, the horse must agree to move closer to the enemy, that is, put himself at risk of death. Well, even if the enemy is running, and if not? Will a horse go to blow spears or halberds?

In order for the rider to participate in melee, he needed a special warhorse. He gained the advantages over the pedestrian only if he used this horse as his main weapon, and drove him to the enemy. A spear or a sword went into action if the enemy managed to dodge from under the hoofs. In this situation, the rider took the risk of getting hit only if both of them — he himself and his horse — missed.

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