Medieval Warhorse

During battles, the knight in chain armor increased his fighting abilities by marching on horseback. This enabled him – in addition to the higher speed – a better overview of the fighting. In addition, the larger masses of man and horse gave him the ability to inflate shocks and blows with increased force.

The basic condition for the fight was the safe mastery of the warhorse even in difficult situations. The education and training of the knight, therefore, provided comprehensive training on horseback.

Like the knight, the warhorse should also be adorned and protected in battle. For the protection of the animal and the adornment, a blanket was hung over it in the coat of arms colors, which were sometimes also provided with rings and platelets. From about the 15th century, the head of the horse was additionally equipped with elaborate forehead protection.


With the development of cavalry in the early Middle Ages, horse breeding became of decisive strategic importance and enabled the unfolding of that state which most of us spontaneously associate with the Middle Ages, the knights.

However, this highly equipped warrior type is inconceivable without the associated specially trained horse, and at least since the Late Middle Ages, the heyday of knighthood, the so-called “great knight horses” or noble hunting and riding animals became important status symbols, which are frequently mentioned in contemporary literature or the sculptures. Illuminations, tombstones, seals and other imagery show the warrior high on horseback.

The horses of the knight

From the 11th century onwards, the retreating knight was usually accompanied by a squire and often accompanied by a servant. For this, he needed at least three horses, namely the warrior, who was only ridden in battle, the marching horse and a third horse, which was intended for the squire, who wore his shield and lance. Quite often, another horse, the so-called Klepper, was needed to transport the armor, the equipment, and the servant. With this equipment, which belonged to each knight since the crusades, joined the smallest military unit of the cavalry, which was named after the knight’s main weapon, the lance.


Warhorse and noble hunting and riding animals were important status symbols of the upper estates. Contemporary texts reveal that knights often identified with the power and beauty of their horses, and mostly stallions were used as warhorses. In contemporary pictures, the horses of important personalities are usually clearly depicted as stallions.

In the late Middle Ages warhorses were about four times as expensive as simple passenger horses. The level of training also represented an important value parameter, such as from English sources is known: a foal cost 6 pence, a yearling already 48 pence, a three-year-old 96 pence and a good stallion a whole pound.

In the epic court, in addition to the shape, characteristics, and coloring of the horse (s.u.), attention is paid to the precious equipment of the riding gear. Saddle and bridles were then made of the most precious materials and were additionally adorned with gold and precious stones. An archaeological equivalent to this can be proven, it was a variety of graying decorative pendants, but mostly made of non-ferrous metal, the horse product assigned. Most castles or richer settlements to assign, however, silver-plated and gilded fittings and pendants are proven.

Further development of the cavalry

For the development of mounted warriors, fundamental technical innovations were just as important as an intensification of horse breeding. Thus, the development of the heavy armored rider with the lance as an attack weapon without stirrups and box saddle is unthinkable. On the other hand, enough and suitable horse material had to be available for this purpose.

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