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Controlling a wounded horse

Discussion in 'Research' started by skip.knox, Sep 17, 2020.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    At the Battle of Bouvines (1214) the Emperor Otto was taken out of the battle when his horse was struck by an arrow, causing the horse to bolt. I intend to use this in one way or another and thought I'd ask here to get a sense of the parameters and possibilities.

    So, an armored knight--this is 13thc so no plate armor, but an emperor would be wearing good stuff--is riding his war horse, an animal trained for combat. The creature would sure have at least some armor as well, since I know crusader horses were armored as long as a hundred years prior.

    We can suppose the arrow penetrated the armor--a close shot, which isn't unlikely. Or we can suppose the horse was struck in a vulnerable point.

    Either way, my first thought was this: would other knights, hearing of this incident, think Otto was an incompetent horseman for letting his mount ride off the field of battle? Or would they nod and in effect say yep that happened to my buddy and to my cousin. IOW, what might I make of this bare historical fact?

    I'd also like to know if it's reasonable to say that Otto should have been able to turn the horse around and re-enter. I know, it depends on the nature of the wound.

    Speaking of which, what sort of wound is likely? Bad enough to make a charger run, but not so bad as to bring the horse down. Just in case I want to get specific about the scene.

    I have this notion that I might foreshadow the catastrophe earlier by showing Otto to be a rather poor horseman (makes for yet another contrast with Frederick of Hohenstaufen). But that doesn't work if pretty much any horse becomes uncontrollable if wounded (seems unlikely, but ... specifics!)

  2. ChazAngel

    ChazAngel Dreamer

    You have to remember that horsemanship back then wasn't the same as it is to day. So it isn't unreasonable to believe that yes the horse would bolt under certain circumstances, and don't forget if the horse would be injured so it's gait would be unbalanced depending on where the wound was, as for him being an incompetent horseman I wouldn't say that in those circumstances he wouldn't be seen as a bad horseman. Wars were loud and bloody, yes you could argue that horses would have some level of being able to withstand it but the younger the horse they would have been more difficult to control because they would have been scared, and there wasn't a whole lot of training involved in getting a horse ready for battle. At the end of the day the history books don't talk about how the horses were trained for battle, so I think you have a lot of play to manipulate the story to how you want it.

    I hope this helps some what, I've been riding and involved in the horse industry for years now.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Thanks, that was helpful. I think I might let Otto keep a bit of pride by having a last-minute switch of horses. Maybe his pirze charger falls ill or lame or some such. Has to ride a different horse into battle, which makes both horse and rider nervous. So, not his fault, but if someone were inclined to find fault, they could easily say he ought to have been able to control the horse anyway. After all, he's an emperor and supposed to be naturally better than other men. Unfair, but emperors do have enemies.
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    One also must consider where the wound is, and that horses have adrenaline as well. A wasp under the saddle can make a well-trained horse buck and throw its rider (seen that!) but on the other hand, that was a relaxed show horse who was startled to say the least to get stung multiple times. A horse struck in the chest by an arrow? A powerful stallion and their mass of muscle is built for defense, just watch a mare lay into a randy stud sometime, you can hear the thud from a half mile away and the horse will prance and dance and flirt. For these purposes, our modern horsemanship would be inferior to theirs, because we don’t train horses quite the way they used to, because we don’t need to. The Civil War might be a good place to look for better documentation of horse behavior in combat, but I’d imagine a ruler of his day would have a powerful, muscled horse, with a particular temperament.

    But of course, anything is possible, so you have leeway.

    From what I’ve seen of noncombat horses, it’s strikes to the rear that are most likely to startle, and its a mass of muscle that could take arrow and not really slow them down. Same with chest, but, the chest is probably the heaviest armor. I’m not sure on this, but logic would dictate that a horse could carrying thicker armor than a man, so depending on the barding...
    Aldarion likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I think I have this somewhat resolved. I'm going to switch horses on poor Otto. His favorite charger comes up lame--not at all unlikely given they've been traipsing through heavy forest--and he is given a "spirited war horse" at the last minute. Unfamiliar rider, unfamiliar horse. Plus, I'll be foreshadowing Otto's horsemanship a bit.

    As I said, this really happened. Battle of Bouvines, 1214. The horse was struck by an arrow and carried the emperor off the field, starting a panic among his men. I was more curious to know if people would regard that as bad luck in battle or an example of lousy horsemanship. Probably if this fellow was an enemy, he'd choose the latter, whereas a follower of Otto would be more inclined to call it bad luck. At least, officially. Anyway, I do appreciate all the responses.
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Personally, I would call him a k-nig-it whose mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries... but I’m weird like that, heh heh.

    I’d be curious where the horse was struck by an arrow. But horses are flighty beasts, not quite as flighty as a cow launched over a castle wall, but you know.... But all and all, I don’t think people would have an issue with it.

    skip.knox likes this.
  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

    As a rider myself I'd say that a lot depends on how much trust there is between rider and horse. Horses are by nature nervous animal who prefer to be in a herd. If the mounted knights are all heading in the same direction then the chances are that a light wound from an arrow won't stop the horse charging forward, it will just follow the rest of them. But in a later melee its more likely that the horse will bolt. You may be able to get the horse under control, but it takes time and you probably won't be able to get it back to the battle again. Of course, if you come up against a line of men with pikes the horses will probably stop, they won't jump if the ground beyond the line isn't clear. At which point of course the horses and their riders become very vulnerable to the pikes.
  8. Don Coyote

    Don Coyote Scribe

    It all depends on the agenda of the one spreading the tale, the listener, general reputation of Otto and what the author needs the fallout to be.

    Someone wanting to undermine Otto's credibility will hint at, or openly accuse Otto of cowardice. A loyal friend might tell a tale of Otto skillfully bringing his mount under control in trying circumstances. Considering that Otto being carried off started a panic, dark whispers of cowardice and questions about fitness to rule will quickly spread.

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