July 11, 2020, 08:49:34 AM

Author Topic: Heavy Cavalry through history  (Read 1054 times)

Offline Aldarion

Heavy Cavalry through history
« on: April 13, 2020, 08:32:16 AM »
"Knight in shining armour" is typical trope for fantasy, but heavy cavalry has a much longer history, and has evolved significantly through time. Here is the first part of potential series, dealing exclusively with impact of heavy cavalry on infantry:

Offline Rostum

Re: Heavy Cavalry through history
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2020, 07:20:52 PM »
I would argue that light cavalry have been far more influential on the battlefield than heavy cavalry although they dont get the cudos and glamour of the short gallop and smash the big boys do. They tend to harry, raid and recon all day while the heavys rest then chase a routed army past sunset.

To use any melee weapon from horseback you need stirrups and a cantered saddles or you wont keep your seat.Blinkers are also a great help.

once you have those a charge is permissable but requires a lot of practise for both horse and rider. Charging enmasse requires even more training

The Normans used horses as a walking platform to fight from. Cavalry charges require training and practice and would have been risky with diverse troops unused to each others company and aggressive horses unused to each others company.

Horses really dont like spears, as in will go to great lengths to avoid them. I doubt If anyone ever could get a horse to willingly charge into an infantry line with polearms and it makes no sense to do so. A warhorse is the cost of a house and if it survives you get 4-6 years use from it. Battle is risk but you don't take unneccesary ones with your life and wealth.

The way all cavalry are really successful is when when they can break or charge broken infantry. You cannot run and fight on foot but you can chase and kill from horseback.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 07:22:25 PM by Rostum »

Offline Aldarion

Re: Heavy Cavalry through history
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2020, 11:35:01 PM »
I do agree about light cavalry, but in the end... you need both.

I do not think stirrups are necessary for melee weapons up until actual shock charge becomes a thing - Roman cavalry did just fine without, and they regularly fought melee combat against infantry and cavalry alike. But that melee combat was very different from medieval couched lance charge.

Actually, heavy cavalry was known to charge through enemy spears, pikes, stakes and even pallisades. You can find multiple examples of each through history... especially when it comes to Polish cavalry. One time they defeated a Wagenburg by literally crashing horses into pallisades. And it was not the last time they pulled horse-as-a-battering-ram trick either... And yes, there are quite a few examples of horses willingly charging a line of spears, or else pikes. Now, it is not necessarily the smartest thing, but it did happen with some regularity. Especially after barding became widespread.

Offline Rostum

Re: Heavy Cavalry through history
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2020, 12:24:05 PM »
I am a terrible horseman in comparison to what has gone before but I have used lance, dag, bow and sword from horseback. From my understanding the Romans rode up and chucked stuff from horseback certainly until the 1st centuary BC . I would love to see any evidence of them being used as cavalry BC as opposed to as a mobile force.
From memory the Roman cavalry were a bodyguard and not shock troops as such.
Later comparisons are generally not favourable to Roman cavalry compared to whom they are fighting and it is hard enough to hit things and keep your seat with stirrups not something I would contemplate without. I am  aware of the spatha 'training manual' but see little practical use for other than from a stationary horse.

Undoubtably heavy cavalry (which the Romans were not) have been charged at polearm blocks but my thought would be those troops had been heavily softened up by other troops beforehand. There is no sane reason you would throw your nobility and or your most expensive troops, a great deal of your military wealth into the mill without and expectation of outright victory. Just a thought but the guys who wrote the accounts of these battles at the time either belonged to the same class as your knights or worked for them so are likely to discount the waves of peasants who were sent in first and all the arrows and quarrels used. Again I would maintain infantry who stand and don't break stop cavalry and once the cavarly lose momentum they die.