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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 9:00 am    Post subject: Cavalry charges, help!         Reply with quote

Okay I've come across people who say that a horse won't charge a solid object and if they do it won't be in good
order I disagreed but lacking any sources I kept my mouth shut so what do you guys think? is this true or (As I believe)
false? can anyone tell me?
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Grayson C.




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have no idea how accurateit is but John Keegan says the same thing in his book "Face of Battle" in Agincourt.
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M. Oroszlany




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 9:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From my limited experience with horses, this is definitely true for a horse that wasn't specifically trained to charge things. The same is true for jumping over things, while we all know it's possible for a horse to jump over a reasonably high barrier, most horses will simply stop if they see even some police tape (the one they put around crime scenes) in front of them. I cannot say if a horse could be trained to charge anything (a wall for example), but I'm pretty sure they would charge objects that are reasonable to charge (i.e. humans) if trained so.

The fact that a horse completely disregards the person riding it when dealing with physical barriers is also worth noting, you need to look out for your knees and your head yourself, unless you want to deal with some removed skin and a severe headache after your day at the stables.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Grayson C. wrote:
I have no idea how accurateit is but John Keegan says the same thing in his book "Face of Battle" in Agincourt.

Keegan is actually cautious about that. He notes that horses are naturally reluctant to charge solid objects, but that it is the function of the rider to make them, and that some men-at-arms got among the English archers and others crashed back among the French dismounted men-at-arms. Moreover, Agincourt never saw formed heavy cavalry charging heavy infantry, so Keegan didn't study that in depth.

I think it all depends on the horses, the riders, and the situation. Its hard to understand the battle of Courtrai, for example, if the French never got within 10-20 yards of the Flemmings because their horses baulked.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think one difficult thing is there are no period illustrations that show the exact point of impact of a mounted ms heavy foot charge. It's usually right before.

My thought it was like a big game of "chicken" played with cars - except there were hundreds on each side. Some of the cavalry would balk, slow down, swerve. The infantry would have some flinch and or try to make their way to the rear ranks (and the ones behind themmay do that to). The cavalry if enough infantry fell back in front would keep up speed better, if enough infantry held steady they were more likely to balk.

Of course a solid wall of spears would make the cavalry balk more.

I also can't see a charge like this at a ful gallop, maybe more of a canter or trot.

We do know that at one of the Scottish Battles (Stirling or Bannockburn?) some knights and their horses were impaled on the spears of the schiltrons.

Though some other historians have thought that cavalry did not really "charge" vs a body of heavy infantry, but more pushed at them using lances and the horses more like mounted police riot tactics, though this is more of a minority view.
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Brian Downing




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2009 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have worked with horses for several years and it doesn't seem that they like to charge directly at objects. The horses I have now are pastured and when I go to halter them, I have to walk up to them at an angle or else they get nervous and will sometimes run away from me. Horses have very limited if any vision of an object that is closer than a few feet and directly in front of them. I have owned two horses that were very aggressive and even they would get nervous about anything right in front of them and would sometimes shy away from them. I can't say that I have ever really charged at anything while on horseback, as I don't like the idea of flying over a horses head if they hit the brakes on me Surprised It would probably be possible to make a horse do it and judging by some of the medieval spurs I have seen, it was probably done, but the horse probably didn't like it too much Happy
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Zac Evans




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Modern horses not only have their instinct to tell them not to run into things and people, but its also actively encouraged. I believe that you could train a horse to run someone over: some lairy horses try that kind of stuff anyway. Look at police horses to see how well trained horses can be made to go against their pray mentality that comes natural to herbivores.
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Eric Meulemans
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Firstly, how are you defining "solid object"? Do you mean something that is in fact immovable (i.e. a brick wall) or something that is merely perceived as "solid"? Horses are not stupid. They rapidly learn what they can and cannot push, shove, or move out of the way, what hits back, and what they can or cannot jump over or through. Horses have personalities, and they vary considerably. Some will certainly not go out of their way to test these boundaries, others take every opportunity to do so.

If you have any doubt that a horse will in fact charge a seemingly solid object simply watch a steeplechase, wherein the horses have learned they needn't really bother jumping over something they can jump through. If you doubt that a horse will charge or jump an object we can all agree upon as "immovable" check out some obstacles on cross-country courses in 3-day eventing - you will see some very large, undoubtedly solid logs, pickup trucks, and even the occasional giant duck.

I have personally known and seen horses without riders jump paddock fences and even cars of their own accord. I have seen them charge at people, and advance upon them and rear repeatedly with clear intent to cause injury. Like humans, there are many nice horses and more than a few who are not so nice. I have not read Keegan in a very long time, but principal among my distaste for his writing is his clear lack of understanding of equines and their manner.

A very important aspect to remember is that in battle and specifically in a charge, we are not speaking of a single horse and rider. Dozens, hundreds, or even thousands are involved, and on this scale not only is each horse more apt to run faster and harder, with less care, but even should they wish not to they may have little choice. Think of yourself in the midst of a formation, being pushed from behind by men who do not yet know the fear of lance points at their throats. I have only run together with small groups (10-15) but the group mentality is evident in both horse and rider.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since there are clear period texts describing heavy cavalry running into infantry and then mowing them down I have no doubts it happened. One that comes to mind is the men of London being ridden down during the baron revolts of Henry III's reign. It is mentioned in several accounts. I am sure there are countless more like it. I think Cliff Rogers wrote about this topic in the past.

I have spoken to a few horse trainers, one who trained and used horses in modern warfare and another who worked with riot horses. Both seemed to agree this would not be a problem to train a horse to do this.

Also think of animals that go in herds or packs. Horses, cattle, or whatever in a large group will run you down with no hesitation. I have seen several pictures of horses either biting stomping or running people over. The Mac Bible, Holkham Bible are two for starters.

RPM
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Anders Nilsson




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One has to look at what was used to make the horses charge.

The combatbit for example. A Roman invention. It had a sharp angle on it that was rammed into the roof of the horses mouth to force the horse to obey the slightest command.
And donīt forget the spurs.
The horse was trained to charge but they where also forced to charge.

Anders "Nelle" Nilsson, Instructor Angermanna Mnhfs
To train martial arts without fighting is like slalom without snow.
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs the RenFaire at lake Erie, Ohio, used to have a jousting team of 6 horses. The vet in charge used to give a little lecture on it. He said the horses are trained to joust beginning as young colts and it takes about 4 years. It;s the same with horses in cowboy movies who have people shooting guns from their backs. They have to be trained out of the instincts first. He said that in medieval times horses were trained to bloody bodies on the ground by tying the mare so the colt had to step on a bloody dummy to nurse.(horses run from blood and bodies, it means predator) There are a few ranches in California that do the training for the movie industry, and their horses are enormously expensive. Thats why each jousting team has a liscensed vet plus assistants, they have several hundred thousamd invested in the horses.
Ja68ms
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 5:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

People should take a look at the rodeo sport "team penning". Horses are taught to pretty much push and bully cattle. They bump them, shove them, and force them into chutes. These are much bigger objects than just people, and horses can be trained to really throw their weight against something comparable to themselves in weight.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 9:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yup we just have to reach the horse to be dumb enough to do things he really knows he shouldn't Big Grin
Ja68ms
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2009 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do not know if it is dumb enough but war is war. Even humans are trained in the military to be used to the ruckus of war. As the saying is war is hell. The reason why experienced troops typically have the advantage in warfare.

RPM
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The reason horses are used as cavalry mounts, and mules are not, is that horses are much more easily trained to do things that could harm them, rather like dogs and people. Mules are WAY to smart for that sort of thing...

As Randall noted, there are too many descriptions of armoured knights charging in among even well disciplined bodies of infantry to be able to discount that horses can be trained to it. Obviously, they can. Whether or not one wishes to put the effort into doing so now is a completely different subject. (I've been working on that one, though! Cool )

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2009 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Came across this in a discussion on Husaria

a source to the battle of Kłuszyn states that:

'sieła nasi w koniach przez mężne natarcie znosząc płoty [...] a na spisy piersiami wpadając szkody odnieśli'

( translation: 'thanks to the brave attack, in which fences were broken and horses chests' were runing into piks
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2009 12:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Which source?

(I know, asking this question is a bad habit I've picked up in the last couple of years or so.)
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2009 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are plenty of accounts of horses being used to run down people and penetrate formations.

BUT...

Do those formations involve an unbroken front of spears or have the lines been disrupted by missile fire etc.? There seems to me to be a huge difference between convincing a horse to run down some men who are fleeing, or to run towards a gap in the formation, rather than charging headlong into a solid line of spear points. I don't doubt that some horses could be trained to do it but would there be enough to effect the outcome of a battle?
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Zac Evans




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2009 2:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If there are enough horses to the side and behind it, it wouldn't necessarily have a choice. and then its hard to hold a pike when its being weighed down by a big old destrier.

Also, its pretty intimidating having knights riding around you let alone charging towards you baying for blood. If enough people panic due to bad/no training then the heavy cavalry suddenly becomes that much more effective.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2009 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zac,

I think that is a critical point. Many times the people did not wait around to be struck. Cliff Rogers gave a paper on the effectiveness of cavalry charges some years back now when I was at York and it was packed with accounts over and over again of ranks of men in rank being destroyed by a heavy cavalry charge. I will look around and see if he had it published.

On the flip side it does not always work. IN the wars of independence of Scotland you see in several English chronicles a sense of surprise that the lines remained against heavy cavalry. I think while it is easy to make fun of Edward II as inept he may have been doing something that a great number felt may have worked.

RPM
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