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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,423

PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 3:07 am    Post subject: how much damage can a cavalry mount (horse) withstand         Reply with quote

Heres a question ive been wondering, as someone who portrays a byzantine anti cavalry trooper, and a lot of byzantine strategies revolved armound stopping heavy cavalry
this makes me ask the question...

what does it take to take out a horse?
Seeing as how targeting the mount was a common strategy to countering charging cavalry which would explain the tendency to armour horses where possible

and the use of cavalry was a key part of warfare in most parts of the worlds excluding a few cases (i.e precolumbian america) it would be crucial to understand what damage and stresses a horse could and could not handle.

(i apologize if this seems a little insensitive to those who do OWN horses , this question is a historical one only)

for example, how well can a horse withstand being hit with projectiles like arrows and bullets?

.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 4:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Horse's legs are extremely vulnerable to wounding. A decent blow will effectively cripple the horse, and it will either die or have to be killed. In the horse industry if a horse breaks a leg it's usually considered fatal as far as I am aware.

So the answer is: not very much. One good blow and the horse is finished. Of course, you have to be in a position to be able to hack or wound the horse's legs.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A horse is not that different from a human - it's a mammal, with various vital organs, major blood vessels, and various body parts that can sustain a lot of injury and keep working. Horses can be, and have been, killed by single arrows and javelins.

A horse is bigger than a human, and a wound that might kill or incapacitate a human might have less effect on a horse. Horses are large and strong. Things that will break human bones will sometimes do rather less to horses.

I have read the claim that horses (and other animals) respond on a more physical level to being wounded - a human wounded by an arrow in a non-vital body part will look at the arrow sticking out, and "Oh! I've been hit!" and be mentally incapacitated, whereas the horse needs to be physically incapacitated.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 6:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Horses also tend to be very skittish, and easily frightened. For instance, it is not uncommon for horses to be scared of a plastic bag rustling in the wind. So, I would imagine that in addition to the capacity of arrows and bullets to kill a horse, a wound from either projectile could easily cause a mount to panic and flee, effectively removing it from the battle.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 6:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hence why war-horses were trained to tolerate such distractions, and the riders were quite experienced in controlling their mounts and making them go where they wanted them to. Unlike today these were people who relied upon their mounts to go everywhere, and generally grew up riding. They knew what to do with their horses and could ride them into the ground if they had to (though this did not happen often, waste of good horse-flesh).

That said, distracting and diverting riders by alarming their mounts was definitely a tactic used in the past. I don't have any specific examples on hand, but I do know that people would on occasion do things like shaking their clothes in the wind, waving torches, etc, to try and avert being charged. A pike-wall is pretty effective too because it's very difficult to get horses to go near such a thing...

That's one of the things about horses-- while they aren't particularly smart, they do have a measure of comprehension of their situation. So a rider has to be able to persuade them to 'follow orders', so to speak. Hence the training and experience above. After battle they would be taken care of by experienced grooms or by the riders themselves.
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lewis Edward Nolan said something about horses and bullets just before the Crimean war. If I am reading what he said correctly then during a charge the infantry would be able to fire two volleys at the charging cavalry when they were in range. The second and last volley would be fired at relatively close range but he claims that it doesn't matter since a horse will not outright collapse and die unless you hit it in the Head, Heart or legs. A horse not hit in these vital areas would at least be able to charge the last few meters and make contact.

Hitting the legs with any kind of ranged weapon be it muskets or bows is tricky so I believe aiming for the head/chest region was what people with bows or guns attempted to do. As you might notice these are the areas most often protected by armor when horse armored is used.

Perhaps some people here who hunt with bows can tell us how far a wounded animal such as a deer walks when hit in a non vital place. Somehow I doubt (but cannot confirm) that a single arrow in the hindquarters or shoulder of a horse would put it out of action immediately.

Horse shot in the face with arrow

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-23410...SSBOW.html

Horse barely hit by arrow

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/hors...2hq39.html

Horse hit by four arrows (through neck) that it survived

http://horsetalk.co.nz/news/2010/01/021.shtml#axzz3IslB9cTK

The last one has graphic pictures but from a scientific standpoint is interesting for us.
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Legs indeed would be extremely fragile parts - with adrenaline etc. going in the battle, horse wounded in the legs will probably serve well for a while, but after that, it will likely to be crippled for life.

I recall that there were many accounts of Polish hussars having to sell some rather precious horses for plough work, because that's all they were capable of afterwards.

Jan Chryzostom Pasek:

Quote:
Brown horse under me got shot in the breast, hacked to the head with bardiche, and second time to the knee.
I could sill have used him, if not this knee wound


Similarly, in WWI, mortally wounded horses still charging forward were instilling fear in shooting infantry, due to creating the
illusion of completely inefficient shooting.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In general there's only two really reliable spots to drop an animal immediately: brain/spinal cord, and heart. Hit anywhere else, and apart from massive shock/trauma (large caliber rounds, cannon balls, etc), a horse is going to keep running. Perhaps not for long depending on extent of damage, but frankly unless they are charging over a very long distance, they will close the distance rapidly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalry_tactics

400 metres in 2 minutes, then gallop for the last 150 metres-- so probably around 550 metres or half a kilometre in three minutes or less. If you extended that to a mile, they could probably cover that in around five minutes. That's well past the distance of accurately aimed fire in battle.

As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
In general there's only two really reliable spots to drop an animal immediately: brain/spinal cord, and heart. Hit anywhere else, and apart from massive shock/trauma (large caliber rounds, cannon balls, etc), a horse is going to keep running. Perhaps not for long depending on extent of damage, but frankly unless they are charging over a very long distance, they will close the distance rapidly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalry_tactics

400 metres in 2 minutes, then gallop for the last 150 metres-- so probably around 550 metres or half a kilometre in three minutes or less. If you extended that to a mile, they could probably cover that in around five minutes. That's well past the distance of accurately aimed fire in battle.

As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...


or stakes, streams, ditches, earthworks, palisades, slopes, rocky terrain, marsh, deep mud etc etc.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Nov, 2014 1:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:


As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...


or stakes, streams, ditches, earthworks, palisades, slopes, rocky terrain, marsh, deep mud etc etc.


Hence why selecting one's field of battle was/is an important step in strategy... This isn't quite something that your normal commander can control per se though, all they can do is try and find the right place to fight. Meanwhile the other guy is trying to do exactly the same thing. Makes life interesting for them. For the rest of the army? Means a lot of walking about!
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 488

PostPosted: Thu 13 Nov, 2014 8:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:


As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...


or stakes, streams, ditches, earthworks, palisades, slopes, rocky terrain, marsh, deep mud etc etc.


Hence why selecting one's field of battle was/is an important step in strategy... This isn't quite something that your normal commander can control per se though, all they can do is try and find the right place to fight. Meanwhile the other guy is trying to do exactly the same thing. Makes life interesting for them. For the rest of the army? Means a lot of walking about!

Which everyone was used to doing. Remember, this was before trains, cars, airplanes, buses etc. If you wanted to get anywhere you either had to hop ship, ride a horse, or walk there. People walked allot more than we do as part of their everyday lives.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Nov, 2014 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:


As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...


or stakes, streams, ditches, earthworks, palisades, slopes, rocky terrain, marsh, deep mud etc etc.


Hence why selecting one's field of battle was/is an important step in strategy... This isn't quite something that your normal commander can control per se though, all they can do is try and find the right place to fight. Meanwhile the other guy is trying to do exactly the same thing. Makes life interesting for them. For the rest of the army? Means a lot of walking about!

Which everyone was used to doing. Remember, this was before trains, cars, airplanes, buses etc. If you wanted to get anywhere you either had to hop ship, ride a horse, or walk there. People walked allot more than we do as part of their everyday lives.


That's a very good point. Doesn't mean they wouldn't have griped any less about it though!
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Nov, 2014 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This video might also be of some insight. Eek!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr3VxnS42vQ

I am not sure how sturdy that wagon was but man that looked like something (and it didn't stop the horses)
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

Posts: 801

PostPosted: Thu 13 Nov, 2014 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's to do with training/conditioning.

I've ridden mounts that were scared of crisp packets and bumble bees. Yet they would jump through burning hedges and allow a machine gun to be fired from them. Because they were acclimatised to it. Also plenty of stories with horses with severe injuries carrying on going due to their adreneline. But eventually they stop and either succumb or are put down.

As has been pointed out above, some humans can take a lot of punishment and keep doing what they need to and others just curl up and want to stop. I can see any amount of someone elses blood and have a high pain threshhold where damage and exertion are concerned but show me a bit of my own blood and I go very pale and want to sit down with a warm cup of tea...

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:

As far as medieval tactics go, about the only way you could hope to withstand a cavalry charge is to pike up. If that failed by virtue of the cavalry flanking you and you got into a fight with them, well, try to hit the horse's legs and hope that the rider doesn't get you before you get him...


or stakes, streams, ditches, earthworks, palisades, slopes, rocky terrain, marsh, deep mud etc etc.


Or have better cavalry. That was the conventional solution and the one most likely to work.
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