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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Anglo-Saxon era horses Reply to topic
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Dean Whitlock




Location: Thetford, Vermont
Joined: 24 Apr 2009

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue 05 Jan, 2010 1:19 pm    Post subject: Anglo-Saxon era horses         Reply with quote

Can anyone point me toward information about the horses used by the Anglo-Saxons? I'm particularly interested in the early invasion period, circa 500 AD. My understanding is that they had yet to breed in Arabian features and were more like the Icelandic horses. This made them less suitable for warfare, being robust but not very large. Were there horses specially bred to be large for fighting, or was it more a matter of general beast of burden of varying sizes, with some large outliers that were much treasured?
Thanks,
Dean
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jan, 2010 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There have been several previous posts and discussions related to your question(s). I started one a long time ago.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...rse+breeds

In a later re-enactment related post, someone proposed modern Icelandic ponies, and the Cobb breeds as probably having strong descent from Norman era breeds. They might be worth looking into in more detail if I understand your primary interest correctly.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...rse+breeds

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Nathan Beal





Joined: 02 Apr 2006

Posts: 68

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would suggest you try to get hold of a copy of The Medieval Warhorse: From Byzantium to the Crusades by Ann Hyland. The bibliography in there would probably be of help for more information about the horses of the period.

Generally we see the Anglo-saxon army as what we might describe as mounted infantry (typically fighting on foot in the shield wall, using horses for mobility and pursuing fleeing foes). The law-codes that specify what the fyrd were required to bring for mandatory military service mention horses for wealthier men (the minimum being a helm, shield and 3 spears and that probably represents much/most of the fyrd).

HTH
N.

Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Wed 06 Jan, 2010 2:13 pm    Post subject: Anglo-Saxon Era horses         Reply with quote

Hiya Dean

What Nathan states in his reply is the generally accepted view on the Middle and Late A-S military. As far as I am aware there is no evidence to suggest that this may also not be true for the Early Englisc of the 6th century. There is evidence to suggest the 'war horse' held a special place amongst high status warriors with a number of horse burials in what is now England.

The horse or stallion also appears to have held totem status, ie Hengest and Horsa been cited as examples as a reflection of this belief. Again in the 'home lands' horse sacrifice and display of the flayed hide and head at liminal spaces, water margins, appear to have special significance.

In Northen Scandinavia. present day Sweden, during the Vendel Period the elite appear to have seen them selves as horse warriors to some level of degree if pressblech iconography and burial finds suggest. .

best

Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Dean Whitlock




Location: Thetford, Vermont
Joined: 24 Apr 2009

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Jared, Nathan, and David,

You've given me just the sort of references I was hoping for. As always, there's a lot of great information out there if you know where to look. I don't know why it never occurred to me to use the search function here! I guess I just never got past the thought that no warrior ever brandished a horse. (Though, come to think of it, I suppose some dead ones might have been fired over the walls from a trebuchet.)

David, the religious significance of horses in that period is an intriguing side topic, since so many peoples seem to have worshipped them in one way or the other. I've read a bit about it in the Anglo-Saxon culture already but haven't extended beyond that to the Celts, Scandinavians, Mongols, etc. I'm sure it would make a doctoral thesis in itself. I am planning to make use of it in one scene in my book.

Thanks again,
Dean
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Dean Whitlock




Location: Thetford, Vermont
Joined: 24 Apr 2009

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared, I found this in your original thread:

"There are a lot of Frankish-Saxon burials in which a warrior was buried with his horse decapitated. (Sutton Hoo mound 17 has a male youth with a gelding.) In a majority of cases, if skeletal data has been reconstructed for purposes of an estimate of height at the withers, the horse burial skeletons turn out to be between 135 cm and 140 cm (about 14 hands) tall."

That and the other comments about build give me a very good indication of the size for a working and fighting horse in the 6th-century setting I'm dealing with. I'm sure there were smaller horses, more like the Icelandic and Fells Ponies, and some larger as well, but this puts me in the right ballpark.

Now to find a local horse that high. My neighbor has Canemaras (did I spell that right?), but there are quite a few horse farms around, including a woman who has Icelandics. What I really need to do is stand next to one and climb on. Should be fun - I haven't been on a horse in over 30 years.

Which brings up the next question: What sort of saddle and bridle would a 6th-century Angle have used?

Many thanks again,
Dean
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 11:39 am    Post subject: Anlo Saxon Era Horses         Reply with quote

Hiya Dean

Heres a link to an interesting paper on religous aspects of horse sacrifice.

http://su-se.academia.edu/AnneMonikander/Pape...Iron-Age--

best

Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Peter Lyon
Industry Professional



Location: New Zealand
Joined: 20 Nov 2006
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Posts: 225

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dean Whitlock wrote:
Jared, I found this in your original thread:

"There are a lot of Frankish-Saxon burials in which a warrior was buried with his horse decapitated. (Sutton Hoo mound 17 has a male youth with a gelding.) In a majority of cases, if skeletal data has been reconstructed for purposes of an estimate of height at the withers, the horse burial skeletons turn out to be between 135 cm and 140 cm (about 14 hands) tall."

That and the other comments about build give me a very good indication of the size for a working and fighting horse in the 6th-century setting I'm dealing with. I'm sure there were smaller horses, more like the Icelandic and Fells Ponies, and some larger as well, but this puts me in the right ballpark.

Now to find a local horse that high. My neighbor has Canemaras (did I spell that right?), but there are quite a few horse farms around, including a woman who has Icelandics. What I really need to do is stand next to one and climb on. Should be fun - I haven't been on a horse in over 30 years.

Which brings up the next question: What sort of saddle and bridle would a 6th-century Angle have used?

Many thanks again,
Dean


Something to consider when looking for a horse for you to ride yourself, is that the horse needs to be proportional to you. I don't know anything about your height and build, so the following are generalisations. Even though AS and medieval people were not much shorter on average than we are today, they likely weighed a good deal less than us due to a less fatty/sugary diet and more exercise, so didn't need large horses to carry them (and the armour worn was generally lighter than later and fuller-coverage armours). Also consider the welfare of the horse, if it has to carry a larger portion of its weight that AS horses did, it will be working harder, tire faster, and be more prone to back and leg problems. To illustrate this, look at photos of Boer War and WWI cavalry and mounted infantry - the riders tend to be lean. Now look at a range of photos of modern riders and note the difference.

Still hammering away
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 12:34 pm    Post subject: Anglo_Saxon Era horses.         Reply with quote

Hi Dean,

Probably similair to the reconstructions of saddles and bridles used in this link, made by the members of Ulfhednar.
http://www.ulfhednar.org/frame.htm


best

Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jan, 2010 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Lyon wrote:


Something to consider when looking for a horse for you to ride yourself, is that the horse needs to be proportional to you.


Some of the period breeds, and proposed theories of modern descendants, are quite stocky, particularly in the chest, legs, and hoofs. "I hesitate" to strictly apply modern breed sizing recommendations to the period height of horse versus weight and size of rider. If a Cobb or barb cross, or similar tough little breed were selected for reenactment, it might be o.k. to go with a shorter horse than current generalizations may suggest.

The rather small rodeo quarter horse - mustang crosses that work very well for current U.S. rodeo team penning are an example of a breed that look undersized when you see 200 lb to 250 lb pot bellied riders on them. However, they have the perfect strength and agility when turning and bullying calves with those heavy riders upon their backs. They do fine in trail riding and longer distance usage as well. I could see similar short stocky breeds in period time performing well in ambush style mounted encounters, and holding up well to general travel use.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Dean Whitlock




Location: Thetford, Vermont
Joined: 24 Apr 2009

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Mon 11 Jan, 2010 8:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter, A good point, but I'm pretty safe. I'm 150 pounds at 5'-9" in street clothes so won't tax most horses, even with a bit of gear. (I have celiac disease, a gluten-intolerance that has done some work on my gut. I have to eat constantly to keep weight on. Most women hate me for it, and not a few men.)

Dave, Mein gott! You sent me to the Aktuals page, but I managed to find the sattels. Good thing the links are in English - I studied French in school. Great pictures, many thanks.

Jared, funny you should mention the mustang breeds. I strolled down to the neighbors this weekend and chatted them up about their small herd. They have three Nakota's, a North Dakotan breed descended from the horses used by Sitting Bull. I suspect they have Arabian/Adalusian blood given their provenance. Apparently the US national park system is trying to clear them off of park lands to avoid over grazing and some people are trying to save the breed. In any case, they have one at 14.1hh, one at 14.3hh, and a filly just shy of 14hh. (She and I could pretty much look at each other eye to eye as long as she was slouching a little, and the others didn't require much of a glance upward either.) They're quite shaggy right now and are very pretty in shape. Not particularly slender but not as bulky as some of the smaller pony breeds I've seen. I'm using them as the basic model for my Anglo-Saxon horses. (If you want, I could take photos and post them.)

The neighbors also have a Canamara at 15.1hh (large for the breed) and a Percheron at 17hh. Talk about different heights! It was really great to see the variation. The wife, who is quite petite and thus prefers the smaller breeds, said that the Canamara is actually wider than the Percheron. I suspect the Nakotas might be about the same width as the Perch. When it warms up a bit and the snow melts off (April, around here), they're going to take me out for a ride on one of the Nakotas so I can get a feel for climbing aboard and (hopefully) staying on.

Thanks again. As usual, you all have a wealth of useful answers.
Dean

(edited once to change 4.1hh to 14.1hh - now that would have been a small horse!)
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