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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Dec, 2006 1:07 pm    Post subject: horses knocking down straw men         Reply with quote

I've heard it said that warhorses were trained to knock down straw mannequins as part of their training. It is also alluded to in numerous books. However, I can't find a single footnoted reference to this practice.

Is this myth or historical fact?
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 1:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dom Duarte has written (1438) a true masterpiece about knightly horse riding.
He adresses the best course of action in a melee and is VERY adamant that the rider should avoid the horse becoming unbalanced or loose momentum. The best and safest tactic is to ride cleanly through and back, etcetera.

Trampling seems to ME as a rider an unwise thing to attempt and I conclude the same from Duarte as a knight. I would be risky and not at all that sure to eliminate anybody. Better ride past fast and hack away using the kinetic energy of axe, hammer, morgenstern, goedendag or whatever.
I am pretty sure deliberate trampling was not a common tactic.

I am expecting a copy of an arabic 14th century cavalry training manual and that may shine a different light.

HC
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And of course, it's better still to break the enemy's morale so that by the time you reached him he's running away from you and you can stab or hack him in the back at your leisure. In my opinion, that would have been the most common method of heavy cavalry employment.
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Shawn Shaw




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

He said "knocking down" straw mannequins-nothing there about trampling. A horse's natural instincts would be to avoid bowling people over-the horse would rather go around. So, I would assume that some sort of training would have to occur to accustom a horse to charging INTO things (i.e. people) instead of trying to go around them (which would cause all kinds of havoc in a charge).

So, given that assumption, straw mannequins seem a reasonable choice for a training target.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gervaise Markham in his book of 1623 on horsemanship (trying to remember the exact name of it now... something like "Instructions to the Young Horseman" or some such. I'll have to go dig it up) discusses such things, though I don't recall specifically a straw man. I'll have to look it up for you this afternoon if I can.

His method of training is quite "modern" by most standards, as he suggests a number of things to calm the animal, and to encourage him in the training with treats and praise rather than with any sort of punishments. His suggestion for getting horses used to the sound of drums (which believe me, are a LOT scarier to a horse than gunfire!) is to put peas on the drumhead and allow the horse to eat them off of it, and gradually work up to banging on the drum while giving the horse treats. Likewise with armour, a suit is put up for the horse to sniff, push over and even step (yup, step on) on to get him used to the idea. For firearms training, it is recommended to put some feed down for the horse, and then have, at some distance, someone begin shooting and gradually move closer, all the while continuing to allow the horse to feed. Not much different from US Army, or British Army training manuals of the 19th Century.

Anyway, a very enlightened book for the era. I'll check the title out, and also the specifics of training for war.

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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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shawn Shaw wrote:
He said "knocking down" straw mannequins-nothing there about trampling.

...and what do you think happens after knocking down when travelling at speed??

The function of heavy cavalry is to break open a unified opposing front . The knights charges with the lance and continued with all sort of arms to swing, taking care not to loose momentum as that would both make them more vulnerable and rob them of very usefull kinetic energy.
A well organised body of infantry would most definitely offer more points of engagement for the infantry follow-up after a cavalry unit had passed through a few times.

As to chasing an enemy on the flight, that is called running down without actually meaning that. Slashing them down on the pass to the next victim is meant by it.

It is open to discussion weather shock tactics by heavy cavalry ever was the most efficient use of cavalry but it sure played a vital role during several centuries. Even then however it relied om maintaining momentum!

Peter
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
For firearms training, it is recommended to put some feed down for the horse, and then have, at some distance, someone begin shooting and gradually move closer, all the while continuing to allow the horse to feed.

We have the local hunters doing that on sunday mornings and Julio the bode fires off handfulls of rockets exploding QUITE loudly to announce important village events to the people living in the country-side, resulting in bomb-proof horses free-of-effort Laughing Out Loud

Above the valley there is a quarry that occosionally blows up a wall and on one end there are cannons in a cherry orchard. You can imagine it comes in quite handy the horses are trained Cool

HC
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:
...and what do you think happens after knocking down when travelling at speed??


If the "knocking down" had been accomplished by the means of a weapon wielded on the back rather than the horse itself, it's quite reasonable that the rider would simply have ridden past--or stopped and delivered a second blow just to be sure. Experienced riders can stp a galloping horse pretty quickly.

Quote:
The function of heavy cavalry is to break open a unified opposing front . The knights charges with the lance and continued with all sort of arms to swing, taking care not to loose momentum as that would both make them more vulnerable and rob them of very usefull kinetic energy.


But this does not mean that the heavy cavalrymen always have to actually come into contact with the infantry formation to break it. The psychological impact of a solid line of men and horses and steel hurtling towards the infantry line at high speed was often enough to break it before actual contact, and the moment of contact happened after the infantry had begun to run away.

Some chroniclers actually mentioned this mechanics in their accounts of warfare. Procopius's account of Belisarius's campaigns comes to mind.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
[
But this does not mean that the heavy cavalrymen always have to actually come into contact with the infantry formation to break it. The psychological impact of a solid line of men and horses and steel hurtling towards the infantry line at high speed was often enough to break it before actual contact, and the moment of contact happened after the infantry had begun to run away.

Some chroniclers actually mentioned this mechanics in their accounts of warfare. Procopius's account of Belisarius's campaigns comes to mind.


That's certainly the BEST way to do it. Nothing like running down flying Infantrymen to get the blood up! Big Grin

The nice thing is that it's not nearly as dangerous to the horse or horseman that way, either. Cool

Allons!

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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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Dec, 2006 6:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel;

I finally got a chance to go through my Markham book again, and discovered a few interesting things. First, the proper title is "Cavalarice, or The English Horseman", and it wasn't printed in 1623, just sold then. The original printing date was 1607, which is pretty cool. Secondly, I didn't find any reference to using a "Straw Man" to knock down. However, I did find this:

"...(W)hen you come to the riding place, you shall there have an image made like a man, and armed at all peeces, from heade to foote: To this image you shall trott and first making your horse smell thereto, you shall then trott about it, as ever as you pace or trott about it, you shall strike upon it with your sworde, making the armour sounde and ring in the horses eares, your self ever cherishing and encouraging your horse in all his excesses."

I'll keep digging into this though, you've gotten my interest up!

Allons!

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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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 12:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

it's quite reasonable that the rider would simply have ridden past--or stopped and delivered a second blow just to be sure. Experienced riders can stp a galloping horse pretty quickly.


Sure they can, but at least Duarte clearly advises neither to stop nor to whatsit and do all to keep momentum and who am I to disbelieve him. After all, my battle experience is nil and his was quite expert.
Also, there are various accounts that make clear that loss of momentum by the charge clogs things up, stops its effectiveness, obstructs.

Obviously THE best way for cavalry to fight is to avoid actual contact. That is why the javelin and bow&arrow were such ideal weapons for the horseman.

There are innumerous acounts of battles but the one I realy LIKE is Ceasar commenting on his first engagements with the numidian cavalry. To me THAT was cavalry at its pinnacle. Making optimal use of the terrain, - the speed of the horse. Maximum damage with minimum losses. A good example of guerilla-type warfare on horseback. From Ceasars comments it is clear he liked it a lot.
They gave me the most wonderfull trouble....

In between the Numinians and the fully amoured knights ly about a thousand years. I forgot the source but there is a written summon about where an early Frankish king calles his freemen to the annual war gathering. In it he prescribes what they SHOULD bring. An amazingly flexible array of arms for a horseman in fact giving insight on the way they most likely fought. Small wonder they were SO effective and made europe.

The battle between Karel Martel and the Moores is often described as a key battle. Sort of a theshold too towards armoured knights as popular history portrays them.
As studies progressmore light is shone on this and other things. From arabic sources it has become clear that they did not make much of the battle at all. One source ridicules the islamic cavalry for going home loaded with loot from the frankish camp and forgetting about any combat....
Did the franks stop the moores or were those simply far enough from home?!

From this moment till 1492 the europena knights reconquer the iberian peninsula. To ME one of the most amazing aspects is that is remains a batlle between two differing styles of riding through all these centuries.
Duarte has very wise words to offer about this.

Now this has NOTHING to do with the ACTUAL shock tactics used by armoured knights. On that era for me Duarte is THE source. He and his family drove the moores from Portugal, he ventured into african territory, fought numerous battles and his book is VERY detailed and clear.
He was a VERY wise man, he DID it, I bow to him in awe.
Oh, btw, his book is also simply nice to read I think and availeable from amazon Wink

Peter
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Joep Klijs





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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 3:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some breeds of horses do not have to be trained to knock down (even fully armoured) men! I have noticed various times that the actual breed of horse used by the medieval knight is a matter of some debate. Some modern jousters have a preference for the smaller, faster and more agile breeds and argue that this has to be the breed that was used for jousting.
Contrary to my limited experience in WMA, I started riding horses at the age of 6. In the region that I come from we have an affection for the heavier breeds of horses (something akin to what Americans know as Clydesdales). In my opinion these have a number of advantages over ¨normal¨ breeds.
Apart from the obvious advantage of added mass and power they are almost fearless and enjoy working for their master. If you equip these horses with barding it is literally like riding a small tank. And a formation of just a couple of these beasts causes vibrations that resemble a miniature earthquake.
If you take several hundred of these horses and direct them at full speed towards an enemy formation, they will probable have knocked down several lines before even noticing that they hit something.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 5:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On this subject of horse training, I was quite impressed by a documentary I watched a few years ago about Mario Luraschi, a french horse stunt specialist.

He was speaking about training the horses for stunts such as jumping through a stained-glass window, etc. I remember him saying that not all horses were able to do that, but that "a good war-horse will do whatever I tell it to. If I rush forward in an obstacle, it doesn't know whether it is glass, or paper, or concrete. A good war-horse will kill itself crashing into a wall if I say so. It trusts me completely." (it may not be the exact words, but I think it was the idea).

To achieve this, he was specifically training horses to jump through sheets of paper with a small opening, getting smaller and smaller with each try. Then through a sheet of paper without any opening, and finally through glass and stained glass.

In this light, I can see the use of training a horse to knock straw dummies. There were certainly cases where horses were used to break open a relatively thin line of opponents, and this could require a training because it's not something the horses do naturally (as far as I know, which is not much...). This requires that the horse obeys the rider without hesitation.

I still remember this documentary because I was amazed to see what he could get his horses to do without any violence or constraints. It was really enlightening to see sequences of training as well...

Of course, he is not a warrior so the goals are different, but I do think he is extremely knowledgeable in horses, and since this sequence was related to the discussion I thought I'd mention it.

Regards

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Vincent
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:
Sure they can, but at least Duarte clearly advises neither to stop nor to whatsit and do all to keep momentum and who am I to disbelieve him. After all, my battle experience is nil and his was quite expert.
Also, there are various accounts that make clear that loss of momentum by the charge clogs things up, stops its effectiveness, obstructs.


But did he actually advise riding into and knocking down the enemy?

On a tangent, I think the best way to use cavalry does not even get them into a battle at all. Use them for raids. Burn the enemy's crops! Kill his people or force them to flee! Steal his arms, his money, and his livestock! Hoo-rah!

Incidentally, this was just what the Hundred Years War's chevauchees were all about. But I'm straying form the realm of tactics into strategy, so I should stop before it gets too far.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's certainly an interesting post, Vincent. As a matter of fact, it reminds me that I've seen a glimpse of a manual describing how to train horses to charge a line of men by having it charge through the space between two wooden dummies and then reducing the space until the gap is just barely large enough to let the horse through. This comes from a 19th-century manual, however, so I'm not sure about how applicable it would be to earlier periods. And nowhere did it advise the horseman to drive the horse into the straw dummy.

As for battle accounts, Winston Churchill's account of the battle of Omdurman is worth mentioning. There, he described two squadrons of British lancers charging clearly through a loose line of Mahdist riflemen about three or four ranks deep. Neither side was broken, and the Lancers ended up dismounting on the far side of the Mahdist formation and tearing it apart with point-blank fire from their carbines. However, at one end of the line another squadron met a much deeper line of infantry (eight, ten, or twenty deep--I don't remember precisely) and was practically annihilated.

Other possible instances of cavalry breaking into infantry lines were the 16th-century battles of Ceresole and Dreux, where French gendarmes broke into the corner of pike squares and cut their way through to the other side, though they did little real damage along the way and at Ceresole they suffered horrible casualties in doing so. But then, these gendarmes were the most heavily-armored cavalry ever if we take account of both men and horses, so there might have been several unique factors in action.
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 11:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:


But did he actually advise riding into and knocking down the enemy?


Yes he advises most definitely to charge and FIGHT. He explaines how to wound and maim to maximum effect with minimum risk to the knight and the horse is a key player.
The way I read it he advises AGAINST knoking down the enemy. He advises to ride THROUGH the melee and maintaining momentum at all cost, CUTTING down the enemy.


Peter
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is in artworl often images of horses kicking and biting people too. I know people who have been kicked, I imagine in the middle of a battle that could be quite useful.
I had a cousin who worled as a horse trainer and think it would be more than probably that some of these animals could be quite formidable. I imagine they are paying literally a good chunk of their income on war horses because they are NOT normal horses just from riding around on the field or off. What a normal horse now adays is capable of is totally besides the point but still some are quite violent to start with, although from what I have seen the smaller breeds are more agressive typically, the larger tend to be nicer but make no mistake they can be trained to run at solid objects, I assume a straw man would be possible (thought I have never trained one too). It take months to train horses for the joust as they do not like to run toward the barrier,other horse or rider but it can be done. I think Andrew Ayton has something on thisin one of his books,

RPM
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do believe that most of the posters have touched on this, but it hasn'te quite jelled yet: that is that some horses have a natural affinity for doing certain things, and others other things. One finds the proper animals (usually from the same line, though during the era under discussion they didn't have actual "breeds" as we know them) and goes from there.

Randall mentioned that it takes time to train a good joust horse. Well, usually, this is true. But I lucked into a wonderful horse: big, sweet tempered and yet fearless, who took to it like a duck to water. I started him out by getting him used to the quintain, and having my wife ride my old warhorse and smack it while I stood with the new boy to the side. He was so unimpressed with the noise that he just dropped his head and looked for some grass to munch on. And so on through his training. He's now the horse that ANYONE can use for jousting, though I tend to be jealous of him, and keep him for myself. (They can go buy their own! Wink )

On the other hand, my pard has a gorgeous Percheron who we're still working with after a year of practice. He can do it, but he sure doesn't care much for it, and gets pretty spun up, too. Funny thing, this one doesn't mind gunfire at all, whereas my horse isn't really pleased by it at all. Oh well, different strokes and all...

Anyway, most of the treatises I've read definitely suggest starting with a horse that, obviously, has good confirmation, but also rather enjoys contact (rather like a good polo pony), is fearless (or at least can have his fears overcome) and can learn to trust you. At that point, you've got a warhorse in the making.

Peter: are you reading Dom Duarte in the original, or in a translation? And if so, then to which language? I understand that the latest English translation still leaves something to be desired.

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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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 4:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
Peter: are you reading Dom Duarte in the original, or in a translation? And if so, then to which language? I understand that the latest English translation still leaves something to be desired.

The origibal is beyond my linguistic skills. I have a french version and an english one.
The later is NOT bad. Not at all. The main critisism is that the translator did not have an knowlegeable advisor on horseriding. Modern day classicla dressage is post Napoleonic and QUITE different.

About the destrier.
There is fighting and there is fighting. It is far more effective and safe for a rider to be moving fairly fast past opponents. Slicing trough a melee sums it up nicely.
Once you do get bogged down the rules change. Sure neough a horse that would fight with you would help A LOT.
I personally have several horses. My harem-stallion would be brilliant as a destries that would fight. He btw very agressively keeps people away if I happen to trip when walking with him or fall off.
He would however NOT be my first automatic first choice. My favorite mare is the dominant lady in the group but she switches to automatic obedience reflex-mode when we are riding.
Imagine hunting a boar. Potentially lethal to the horse. I would want her, not him.
Imagine sorting out an agressive rottweiler. I would want him.
She will be far more reliable cooperating WITH me, he will crack more difficult problems FOR me.
Same thing on the battle field.
I think it cannot be caught in general truisms.

Two pictures and you can SEE the differance straightaway




ONE thing however is sure. Cavalry in itself is the most efficient when light and fast.
There may be all sorts of reasons why circumstances dictate a different use and that may very well be more effective under those circumstances BUT the sum is always less.

Peter
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Dec, 2006 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:

ONE thing however is sure. Cavalry in itself is the most efficient when light and fast.
There may be all sorts of reasons why circumstances dictate a different use and that may very well be more effective under those circumstances BUT the sum is always less.

Peter


Peter;

I would have to disagree with you there, as it depends completely upon the tactical, indeed strategic situation of the day and age. For anything after the adoption of rifled Infantry firearms, you are absolutely correct, as basically true Dragoons, which can fight either mounted or dismounted, such as almost all Cavalry was from the mid-19th Century until the end of Horse Cavalry in the mid-20th.

For dealing with lightly armoured, poorly disciplined opponents, yes, Light Horse is a wonderful tool and can be used to strike hard and fast while the enemy is expecting them elsewhere. For engaging in "chevauchee's" lightly armed horsemen can outrun their pursuers and get away with their plundered goods far easier than could heavier horse that could stand and fight.

On the other hand, in the case of dealing with well-armed and well-disciplined Infantry (be they Greeks, Romans, Spaniards or Russians) , Light Horse is virtually useless. It was the Persian Cataphracts that gave the Romans the most trouble, and it was the French Gendarmerie that gave both Swiss and Spaniard their worst time during the 16th Century as well. Likewise the Heavy Horse of Napoleon, his Cuirassiers and Carabineers, were the smashing power of his Grande Armee, not his Hussars and Chasseurs á Cheval. For screens, Light Horse is absolutely necessary (as many a general who ingnored this found out to his discomfort) but for shock, which is after all the primary reason for Horse anyway, it's the Heavies, the "gens d'combat" who decide the day, not the Lights.

Allons!

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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