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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Jan, 2008 8:33 pm    Post subject: Quick Question regarding mounted two-handers         Reply with quote

Hey guys I've always assumed that on the horseback you will always want to use weapons that can be held in one hand, especially when it comes to swords and axes.

Then I've read somewhere that Partian Cataphracts used lances in both hands when charging the enemy! Now obviously it is possible to control a horse without having a hand at the reins at all times, or mounted archery would not exist. Is there another reason why you wouldn't want to use a viking two-handed axe or a zweihander on a horse?

Or is this just my misconception?
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Adam Bodorics
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

(Just theories, may or may not be true.)
I'd think that two handed striking weapons have their balance more forward than onehanders, and they are heavier. This would lead to less control, which would be important on horseback - you don't want to strike your own horse. And in my experience, you can strike with strenght with one hand without body movement, but you can't really use two handed weapons without moving your body.
And one more thing I'd think logical - the hilt could get in your way when cutting/striking. Lances wouldn't cause any of these problems, as they are held more or less static, but I never fought from horseback.
...
And there's a lot of twohanded weapon usage in the Maciejowsky bible, so probably I'm speaking nonsense here... Big Grin
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've done mounted combat and lance work since '97 and jousting for 5 years, so I speak from experience.

Aside from the practical limitations in using a 2 handed weapon on a horse, primarily the unwieldiness of the weapon, there is a simple reason for not using one on a horse-- you don't need to.

The primary reasons for a two handed weapon are: reach and increased force of impact. Most typically, the longest swords used on horseback were long swords (also called hand and a half or bastard swords), which offered the reach, primarily for thrusting, but were still able to be used in one hand.

The extra force of impact comes from the speed of the horse. It is well documented in fighting manuals that speed of horse was to be used wherever and whenever possible and forward cuts and thrusts were the primary attack, using that speed to advantage.

The mindset historically, in the 14th and 15th centuries which is generally considered the zenith of historical mounted cavalry, was never to use more armour or weaponry than was necessary to keep the combatant alive. A two handed sword would be more a liability than a benefit, so wouldn't have been desired or carried. That's why the long sword was developed.

It should also be noted that generally men at arms usually fought against men of their own class, meaning other armoured and mounted combatants. This required the use of weapons that could potentially breach their opponents' plate armour defenses, which isn't generally possible with a sword, so mass weapons like hammers, axes and maces were developed with the rise in popularity of plate armour. Swords were a second-to-last resort, just in front of the dagger, but well behind the lance and mass weapon.

I hope my clumsy explanation is somewhat clear and that it helps clarify the matter.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
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Peter Lyon
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lances are easy, as they are generally lined up with the horse, or used as thrusting weapons to left or right. The problem with swords is the path they follow in a cut; if it intersects the horse, it is bad news. I do mounted weapons practise a fair bit, and mistakes are not such a problem as the swords we use for skill at arms are blunts, apart from a possibly spooked horse after being whacked on the bum. I suspect (and this is where the more knowledgeable WMA people could chime in) that with the true two handed cutting weapons that the cutting path would be an issue more often. The swords that could be used with either one or two hands are less of a concern probably - my own sword has a 36" blade and a grip about 8" long, and I use it one-handed. I think there are instances in the manuals of the reins being dropped for a two handed blow then regathered?
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Martin Evensen




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies, especially nice to hear from the point of view of actual experience.

I must admit the reason I asked is because I've often used this as a house-rule in d20 RPGs such as D&D.

Total realism isn't important, but I just thought the idea of using a two-hander on horseback as odd, and thus said it wasn't a good idea. Now at least I know a few reasons why medieval knights might also have thought so.

Thanks again.

Martin.
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Martin Evensen




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just came to think on another question: Saddles.

How difficult would it be for a footman to sever the saddlestrap on a horse in combat? Say, compared to poking out the horses eyes or something.

And if by some stroke of luck the strap was severed (without the horse being severely injured), what would happen to the rider?
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why bother cutting a girth when a quick stab to the horse's chest or flank does more and is less risky to the footman?

Cutting a girth would not be easy or quick, and the chance of getting attacked while doing it is quite large.

My recommendation is to look at the weapons used by footmen and visualize what they were used for and how. You'll see a lot of pollarms with hooks. Just right for pulling a cavalryman from the saddle, or stabbing the horse "long distance".

Sounds like you have some homework to do for yourself, rather than having others do it for you. Nudge, nudge. Boot to the head. Cool There are plenty of articles on this site and others, not to mention a comprehensive reading list. Time for you to do some reading, mate.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin, if I were a ground poundin' foot soldier way back when, I don't think I'd be too concerned with what happened to the horse when I cut the saddle strap. The horse was part of the weapon system and if you destroyed the horse you destroyed that system. I would like to note, however, that I'd probably find the rider's leg a better target than the saddle strap. A knife in the horse's chest or belly would also be a quicker target than a leather strap if I were in that close with such a weapon.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 12:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The exception to the two handed weapon being impractical would the lance used two handed by some cultures.

The details about how this was done I'm not sure about but I think that couching the lance would not have been the primary way to use a lance two handed on horseback.

The lance blade would maybe have been used more like a sharp knife at the end of a long stick for cutting style attacks on either side of the horse as well as quick lateral thrusts.

A grip with a centre balance on the lance/spear making the weapon agile.

More cutting types like the Japanese naginata or forms of Chinese halberds also being used as well as spears.

Many types of spears have useful edges like the Japanese yari that can have very long and very sharp blades.

Oh, and where the lance is used two handed the shield would not be used at the same time even if a small one might have been carried on the horse ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kataprakts didn't use shields, nor did they normaly charge with the lance couched. instead they would opperate like a mounted twhanded spearman. Which would be quite posible.

Also note that the shields used by high and late medevial knights are made to leave the left hand free to hold the reins.
They are supported primarily by the guige, not the armstaps.
Some of them have their straps arranged so that the shield is attached to the upper arm rather than the lower, so that you can actually block blows to the head by raising the arm.

Thus you can also opperate a two handed weapon witht the shield in place.

Long weapons are a cavalry favorite; Some of the 12th century "knightly swords", such as the Sword of st Maurice, had blades as long as later longswords.
Quiter probably the longer handles where a uppgrade to these long bladed swords, or started out as balance "cheating"; moving the PoB closer to the cross by elongating the handle.
These would typically be used in one hand on horseback, though.

There ARE however quite a lot of pictures, especially from the high middle ages/ mac bible, showing two handed axes and glaives used on horseback.
So, it can be done.

Horsemen have different needs based on who they are facing.
Against infantry, they want long, powerfull weapons. Against each other they often end up at very close quarters: Imagine fighting someone fighting on wheeled office chairs.
(Sabres combine these abilities nicely, since they can be quite long, yet draw cut at close range without snagging.)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Assuming that you may actually intend to ride, it is probably wise to use one hand to hold the reins. Exceptionable horses may be able to work as you want without reins, but, surprises like concussions are not pleasant. Given distractions (dogs barking, automobile horn, battle commotion, etc.) the reins are the most proven backup.

In terms of weight, I don't consider a genuine (not a parade prop) 4 to 5 pound, two-handed sword unusable if mounted, but, the grip length would make those other than "hand and a half grip" swords extremely awkward. Even on foot, a grip that significantly exceeds ~7.5 inches starts to make one handed drills (on foot) awkward for me. I theorize that this might be an explanation for "hand and a half" grips in the first place. You can wield them two handed on foot, or one handed if mounted or when using a shield. You can find a few surviving historical swords in the 40" to 50" overall length range that would seem to be approaching two-hander weight and length proportions, which are gripped "hand and a half." If you were unhorsed or had deliberately dismounted, changing to a two handed grip would cost about 1 second.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Martin Evensen




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 5:30 pm    Post subject: To sum it up         Reply with quote

OK, so what you guys are saying is that

- Zweihanders are awkward on horseback
-Horse momentum makes 2 hands unneccessary for wielding the weapon
-lances are different
-cutting saddle strap is stupid
-big axes and glaives might have been used on horseback anyway

Hmmm....

Wink
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 9:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin perhaps you should build a mockup saddle in your back yard and try vanquishing some milkjugs with a big sword. There's nothing so enlightening as experience.

Cataphracts used a two handed lance called a kontos, but as noted already, a lance attack is linear and uses the speed and inertia of the horse as a force multiplier.

In order to execute a slashing attack that takes advantage of these factors you would need to ride by your target, which would only be possible if you were at the extreme flank of the opposing force, or if the enemy was in such an open formation that your mounted troops could ride between them. This is fraught with danger as well; first you'd have to dodge a lot of spears, then leave one side of your body exposed whilst attacking on the other. Of course cavalry sabers require exactly this, and somehow they were quite popular.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 9:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mair had horsemen perform all manner of two-handed tricks with their lances, including striking with the butt. For example:

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00007894/image...;seite=365

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00007894/image...;seite=368

He also showed halfswording while mounted:

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00007894/image...;seite=370
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At the risk of drawing smug looks and snickers; who is Mair?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
At the risk of drawing smug looks and snickers; who is Mair?


See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulus_Hector_Mair

Happy

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The illustration of halfswording seems to support the notion of using the horse's inertia in a linear attack, and the notion that heavy armor would be a highly advisable component of this weapon system.
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 11:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is a nice collection of pics of mounted combat. I'll have to save that for later but one quick question. In tghe picture http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00007894/image...;seite=369 is the knight on the right tripping the horse on the left?
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
is the knight on the right tripping the horse on the left?


Sure looks like it to me. You see similar moves on other pages. Has anyone translated Mair's mounted sections? I wish I read Latin.
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 9:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if it was one of the pictures from Mair's work or not but reciently I saw a picture of a knight spearing his opponent's horse with his lance. This seems like it would bring the opposing knight down before coming within range of that knight's lance. It would seem also to risk depriving the first knight of his lance because it would either break off in the opponent's horse or he would have to get rid of his lance before his own horse carried him past his target and sweep him from his saddle. Comments?
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