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Tyler Weaver




Location: Central New York
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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2005 3:08 pm    Post subject: Armored Horseback Swordsmanship         Reply with quote

Now, I'm sure we all know plenty about armored swordsmanship on foot. Thrust, attack the gaps, grapple, halfsword, beat him on the head until he gets a concussion, and so on. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything substantial about the stage of armored fighting before your horse meets its untimely demise. Given that the amount of cavalry-vs-cavalry melees that happened in the heyday of armored cavalry, I would expect that effective sword (and axe, mace, hammer, and possibly polearm)-manship against equivalent opponents on horseback was very important. Unfortunately, due to the nature of horseback fighting, it seems like many of the techniques intended for use on foot wouldn't be very applicable to it. I'd expect a lot of powerful slashing blows to stun your enemy, attempts to drag him out of the saddle and trample him, short charges and specialized horse training to make for more powerful blows, and a lot of trying to jam your point into a convenient opening, but I know very little about the subject.

So, does anyone have any information about how armored melees on horseback played out?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2005 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This isn't about armoured cavalry combat but it is a very useful article if you are interested in mounted sword work.

http://swordforum.com/articles/ams/cavalrycombat.php
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Alina Boyden





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PostPosted: Sun 03 Apr, 2005 5:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you read Hans Talhoffer's fechtbuch then there are some good examples of armored combat. Also, the Manesse codex has some interesting 13th century tournament examples which are fun.
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2005 3:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler Weaver wrote:
I'd expect a lot of powerful slashing blows to stun your enemy, attempts to drag him out of the saddle and trample him


That is basically what Jean Cuvelier describes happening in his biography of Bertrand du Guesclin (I think I spelled that right, but I make no promises). In the early 1300's, du Guesclin (a French knight) had a bit of a disagreement with an English knight that resulted in individual combat. Neither the English knight, nor du Guesclin was having much luck injuring the other with their swords, so du Guesclin sheathed his sword, and grabbed the Englishman in a bear hug and tried to pull him out of the saddle. Of course, du Guesclin wasn't quite lucky enough to trample his opponent as he (du Guesclin) was the one to end up on the ground. His solution? Stab the horse so that it throws his rider, then sit on the guy's chest and punch him in the face repeatedly. Whatever works, I guess.

-Grey

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-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2005 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Liberi covers mouted combat in the last section of Flos Duelarum:
http://www.varmouries.com/wildrose/fiore/section7.html
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2005 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson;

You got the spelling right just checked the Osprey Men-at-arms series " French Armies of the hundred tears war ".

Good story, thanks.

By the way I remember seeing a French film on Bertrand du Guesclin years ago on T.V. years ago when "classic" films were shown all the time. ( around 1955 to 1965 )

Historical French films of the time tended to stay closer to history or at least " legend " than most American historically based films.

Have no idea what the exact name of the film was and if it is available in DVD, at least in North America.
I assume that his name was probably in part in the title.

What I do remember of the film is vague but I wish I could find it as I remember it having a lot of action and humour and done very much as a biography.

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2005 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the big problems with sword work against an armoured opponent, be they on horse or foot, is the difficulty of landing a lethal blow (thus, obviously, the reason for wearing armour in the first place, Big Grin !) But even the Lance was becoming a weapon lacking in lethality by the middle of the 16th Century, as armour became more and more effective.

The standard armament for most Men at Arms of the 15th through the end of the 16th Century was of course the heavy lance, their side-sword, and either a mace or hammer hung from the saddle-bow. After the lance was broken (or the melee began... a heavy lance is worthless at less than decent speed) then the Hammer or Mace was brought into play. I'm sure that there were plenty of techniques that were taught for dealing with your opponent with these weapons (and countering them as well) but for the most part, the melee wasn't a popular form of combat. Charge, retire, Charge, retire was much more effective against both Cavalry and Infantry both. But the sword was a weapon of last resort (in my humble opinion... I am sure others will argue this point) as it's serious effectiveness against most armour (especially plate) is just not there.

With the dropping of the lance in favour of the pistol, and the subsequent dropping of armour since it wasn't effective against the pistol, the sword once again became a useful weapon in combat. However, I don't know of any serious manuals for swordsmanship on horseback that date from much before the late 18th Century. Strange, but then perhaps I've just not been exposed to them.

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Apr, 2005 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I realize that this thread has been dormant for about three weeks, but I came across some info that might be relevant, so I'll add it.

I was reading Froissart's account of the battle of Poitier today, and in that account, he describes how a Frenchman tried to flee the field and was pursued by an Englishman. When the Frenchman realized that he was being chased, he turned around, but his sword (this is not an error, Froissart specifies that is was his sword rather than his spear) in the rest and charged the Englishman. They both ended up being knocked to the ground and the fight was essentially decided by the fact that the Frenchman regained both his wits and his feet first.

I find Froissart's mention of placing the sword in the rest interesting, as I am not aware of examples of armour contemporary with Poitier (1356) that have lance rests. Is this just a reference to couching the sword under his arm (perhaps this position was referred to as "rest")? Also, I would think that you would ideally want to be using a type XVa or a type XVII sword if you were going to try this. Other types that would have been in use at that point would either lack sufficient length or be a bit awkward. Froissart does mention that the Frenchman's sword passed through both of the Englishman's thighs, so I think XVa or XVII would be a defensible assumption.

Just though it might be of interest.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Apr, 2005 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ringeck has a very extensive section on rossfechten, or mounted combat, in armor. It starts out with the lance, and then later with the longsword (held single handed). The concepts are broadly the same: Strike where the armor isn't. There are a number of grappling manuevers that one wouldn't necessarily expect to see from this kind of engagement, including disarms and throwing the opponent from the saddle. There are explanations on fight from left and right sides of the horse, as well,
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Apr, 2005 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill, thanks fdr that information. I'll have to look up a copy of Ringeck to check into it.

Greyson, that's a great bit of information there from Poitiers! I didn't know that they had lance arrests as of that early either... but there is an interesting bit from Cruso in 1632 in which the Cuirassier is instructed to hold the pommel of his sword against his thigh and "Charge" his opponent with his sword thusly positioned.

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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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Apr, 2005 9:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
Bill, thanks fdr that information. I'll have to look up a copy of Ringeck to check into it.


Christian Tobler's translation is the only one I'm aware of that has the rossfechten section in it, I believe. You can link to it through here (and myArmoury gets a small portion of the funds):

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_books_team.html

Most translations only deal with the longsword portion alone.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2005 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson,

Were you reading the 1805 (?)English translation of Froissart's Chronicle at Steve Muhlberger's website at Nipissing University? If so, please be aware that there are problems with it, especially in esoteric details such as the lance rest under discussion. If you are reading it somewhere else, would you be so kind as to quote it or link it for me?

I think you will find couching the sword "at rest" is more likely than an actual lance rest. There was a discussion of illustrations from the later 14thC and early 15thC which show this. (but where I read this....? probably on SFI-HES) I've never seen a lance rest on a breastplate earlier than about 1370.

Also Froissart wasn't a witness to the battle, but interviewed participants years later. Don't put too much faith in detailed descriptions he wrote.

Cheers!
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Lloyd Clark




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2005 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quick FYI - http://www.varmouries.com/wildrose/fiore/section7.html Shows Fiore's mounted combat. One plate in particular is interesting as it depicts how to use your horse to force the other horse to the ground and it makes reference to this being desirable since the opponent is in full armour and impervious to weapons.

The German manuscripts have extensive equestrian combat - one thing that I have noticed that the drawings in Talhoffer not only show the technique on horseback, but the riding technique (what you are doing WITH your horse) as well.

I am looking forward to working with some of the translators of these manuals (Charron, Tobler, and Price) in collaborating on bringing the equestrian combat techniques up to the level that the "foot" combat presently enjoys.

Cheers,

Lloyd Clark
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2005 2:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel,

You do have avery good point. I was reading the it out of a copy of The Harvard Classics (volume 35, published in the '60's I believe). It is the Lord Berners translation. I don't know if that is the version you were commenting on or not.

I do understand that Froissart was only 19 at the time of Poitier, and that translations often get finer points like this confused. That is what propted me to pose it as a question. By the 1369, when Froissart's first book had reached it's earliest form, lance rests would have been much more feasable (though still uncommon, if memory serves), and by the time of his death in 1410, they would definately have been around. I figure that this referrence is an anachronism resulting from the fact that either Froissart or the translator was used to seeing such things and just assumed that the armour at Poitier would have included a lance rest. Still, the rest of the anecdote is kind of interesting, I think.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2005 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson Brown wrote:
Kel,

You do have avery good point. I was reading the it out of a copy of The Harvard Classics (volume 35, published in the '60's I believe). It is the Lord Berners translation. I don't know if that is the version you were commenting on or not.


Ah. Steve has posted numerous selections from the 1802 Thomas Johnes translation. I haven't found this incident yet. Seeing the original French would be interesting. I'll have to look into it since you kindly provided the link! Big Grin

Quote:
I do understand that Froissart was only 19 at the time of Poitier, and that translations often get finer points like this confused. That is what propted me to pose it as a question. By the 1369, when Froissart's first book had reached it's earliest form, lance rests would have been much more feasable (though still uncommon, if memory serves), and by the time of his death in 1410, they would definately have been around. I figure that this referrence is an anachronism resulting from the fact that either Froissart or the translator was used to seeing such things and just assumed that the armour at Poitier would have included a lance rest. Still, the rest of the anecdote is kind of interesting, I think.

-Grey


An excellent point to look into. I have seen reference to tucking the sword up as if it were a lance, in a tournament context. Now to find the reference. Interesting stuff... Cool
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Alina Boyden





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2005 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are dozens of surviving Furusiyya manuals from the islamic work on how to fight on horseback. I've spent some of the day going through an entire article devoted to mounted lance combat based largely on those manuals. They have quite a bit of sword work in them as well.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2005 8:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alina;

Sounds interesting: Maybe you could write a feature for the forum if your studies leave you enough time Razz Big Grin Laughing Out Loud

It's not nice of me, maybe, to " Guilt you " into something that resembles a homework assignment. ( Sorry couldn't resist a little teasing. Razz )

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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Jun, 2007 3:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello, again i´m a bit late, but if you have time take a look to this page

http://ardamhe.free.fr/biblio/rossfechten/vd-jl-sp-rgc-mh-01.htm

It´s French, but the Goliath´s Drawings are very explicit. I guess it´s an XVI century version. I was told that this is a judicial duel treatise, but most of this techniques are good for battle too... (I guess)

¨Sólo me desenvainarás por honor y nunca me envainarás sin gloria¨
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Fabrice Cognot
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PostPosted: Mon 25 Jun, 2007 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
Hello, again i´m a bit late, but if you have time take a look to this page

http://ardamhe.free.fr/biblio/rossfechten/vd-jl-sp-rgc-mh-01.htm

It´s French, but the Goliath´s Drawings are very explicit. I guess it´s an XVI century version. I was told that this is a judicial duel treatise, but most of this techniques are good for battle too... (I guess)


A very interesting study indeed, furthered by the author - Michael Huber - in his 2005 article published in Maîtres et Techniques de Combat ŕ la fin du Moyen Age et au début de la Renaissance ; in French too, unfortunately (though it is easy French, mind you).

More information by clicking the second link in my sig.


Fab

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Tibor Szebenyi




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jun, 2007 12:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello! I am from Hungary, and I was searching the net for eastern (mongol, schytian, hun, early hungarian, etc.) cavalry armour, when I found this forum. I'm doing Baranta, which is a horse-based Hungarian martial art(spear, sabre, bow on horseback). You may be interested in it, because we do a lot of practice-fight, like buskasi(when we try to pull each other off the horse), or using long staff(as spear). Our principle is to use small horses, as the original size of the horse is only 130-140cm, and the devastating armies from the east(Mongols, Huns, and Hungarians) used such horses. These horses can turn very quickly, and using not just the point, but also the blade of the spear, usually the horseman is in better position in a cavalry-infantry duel. It is my own experience, as I've been both the horseman and the infantryman.

Maybe you should watch our leader's performance in early-hungarian equipment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y69NLLyrULY
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