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post #1 of 9 Old 06-28-2013, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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The real horse of the Conquistador

The Light Cavalry horse of Medieval Europe and horse of the Conquistadors

The amount of personal opinion often wrongly stated as fact and even fiction that has been written about the light cavalry horse of Europe is astonishing.

The purpose of this article is to separate the fact from the fiction.

Recently real scientific research has been done on the horse in Europe.

This research was carried using science and Osteo-archaeology.

Ireland was chosen as the ideal place for this.

There was several reasons for this,

( 1 ) In Britain and the European Continent the native European wild horse ( Tarpan ) and domestic horse coexisted at the same time which makes trying to distinguish between the wild and domestic horse difficult.

( 2 ) The horse returned to Ireland in a domestic forum in the early Bronze Age. That meant that there was no such problems in trying to distinguish between the wild and domestic ones.

( 3 ) The development of the horse in Ireland paralleled with that of Britain and Europe.

Here is some edited comments from historians and scientists that will give you an idea of the environment and the type of horse used for light cavalry at that time. ....

Quote from Kevin Boylan "This list covers Irish armies in the period after the initial shock of the Anglo-Norman conquests of the late 12th and 13th Centuries had been overcome,

This was a time of recovery for the native (or Gaelic) Irish, as the introduction of new troop types and military institutions (and the general disinterest of the British monarchy) allowed them to gradually regain ground at the expense of the invaders. They were aided by the fact that most Anglo-Normans became thoroughly "gaelicized,"with the natives and adopting all of the trappings of their culture -- including an innate disdain for the remote authority of the British crown. The result was that the region within which English law held sway steadily shrank until, by the end of 15th Century, it encompassed an area barely 50 miles square centered upon Dublin. Within this Dublin 'Pale' was the 'Land of Peace' administered by the King's Justiciar or, later, Lord Lieutenant. "Beyond the Pale" lay the 'Land of War', where Irish and Anglo-Irish lords raided and battled one other in an endless series of petty wars and clan succession struggles characterized by a bewilderingly complex and constantly-shifting tangle of alliances."

Only two major external interventions in Irish affairs occurred during this entire period. The first, and best known, was the invasion of Edward Bruce (brother of Robert the Bruce), who aimed to become King of Ireland. It is unclear whether the invasion, launched in 1315, was intended primarily to rid Robert of a potential rival for the Scottish throne, or to exploit British weakness following his great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn the previous year. Edward (briefly joined by his brother in 1317) roamed at will throughout Ireland for four years and won many battles, but proved unable either to take Dublin or cement his authority over the fractious island. An assemblage of Irish and Anglo-Irish lords acclaimed him as king, but many others were no more willing to swear fealty to a Scottish king than to an English one. Edward's task was also complicated by the effects of the Great European Famine of 1315-1318, and his own foolishness in allowing his army to indiscriminately ravage the countryside. Mass starvation caused by the combination of crop failures and depredations of Edward's troops alienated many of the Gaelic Irish whom he needed to win over. As a consequence, relatively few Irishmen mourned when Edward was defeated and killed at the Battle of Faughart in September 1318(1).

"The other intervention came at the end of the 14th Century, when King Richard II personally led two military expeditions to Ireland. These were prompted by a near total collapse of English governance in the face of rebellious Irish lords, and Anglo-Irish lords whom intervened in the conflicts of their Gaelic neighbors and warred upon each other in total disobedience of the authority of the crown. The most serious threat was posed by Art MacMurrough Kavanagh, self-styled King of Leinster, who grew so bold that he even burnt the city of Carlow, which was then the seat of British administration for all Ireland. In 1394-95, Richard II campaigned at the head of 8,000 to 10,000 troops -- the largest army Ireland would see in all the Middle Ages. Richard induced MacMurrough to submit by surrounding his fastness in the Wicklow Mountains with a chain of fortified garrisons and using small bodies of mounted archers to scour and devastate the area within the encirclement. This victory, and the sheer size of Richard's army, convinced nearly all the other Irish rebels to submit in exchange for full pardon and confirmation of their ownership of lands held since the Norman Conquest."

Richard's success proved to be short-lived, since fighting resumed almost immediately after he departed Ireland, and MacMurrough was soon in open rebellion once again. In 1398, the presumptive royal heir, Roger Mortimer, was killed in battle near Carlow, prompting Richard to return Ireland the next year. However, on this occasion, fiscal difficulties prevented him from fielding an army large enough to repeat his earlier success. Instead, he chased MacMurrough into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, but the canny Irishman avoided battle and harassed the British with constant ambushes, night raids, and attacks on stragglers. Worse yet, while Richard was campaigning futilely in Ireland, his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (afterwards King Henry IV), returned from exile and rose in rebellion. Richard hastened back to England in July 1399, but was almost immediately taken prisoner and deposed. The death of Mortimer and Richard II's distraction in Ireland thereby contributed directly to the rise of the Lancastrian monarchy -- and thus, to the Wars of the Roses that would wrack England for many years to come. This ensured that Ireland would be left to its own devices throughout most of the 15th Century.

The Irish Way of War
Throughout this period, the tactics employed by the Gaelic Irish generally resembled those used by Art MacMurrough in opposing Richard II's second expedition. That is, when confronted by a superior force they would refuse to fight in the open, and instead try to ambush the enemy force while it was crossing through a forest or mountain pass. When time allowed, a ditch-and-bank fortification surmounted by a palisade would be built across the narrows of the pass, and the trees on either side would be 'plashed' (interwoven) to prevent the obstacle from being flanked. These tactics were most often used against the far better armed British and Anglo-Irish; set-piece battles between Gaelic Irish armies were much more frequent.

However, seeking and winning battles was not the principal goal of strategy in medieval Irish warfare. Rather, the most common objective was to capture and carry off the enemy's cattle. In the semi-nomadic, pastoral culture of Gaelic Ireland, cattle were the virtually the only movable commodity of value, and a lord's wealth and influence were judged by the size and quality of his herds. Cattle raiding therefore played a central role in strategies to achieve local or regional predominance. A lord whose cattle had been stolen could have most of them restored if he submitted to his rival's overlordship -- and provided hostages as surety for his new allegiance. However, cattle raiding could also be a simple exercise in grand larceny, particularly when the enemy was too powerful to be forced to submit.

If the region that was the target of a raid had sufficient warning, its people would flee, driving their cattle to a safe refuge in the mountains or forest, burning their crops, and concealing their stored grain in underground granaries. The raiders, denied both plunder and any means of sustenance, would soon be forced to retreat empty-handed. They could destroy the inhabitants' dwellings, but these were typically nothing more than thatched stone or wattle-and-daub huts that were easily rebuilt. Needless to say, these Fabian tactics were even more effective against ponderous British and Anglo-Irish armies than they were against swift-moving Irish raiders. One Anglo-Irish squire who had participated in Richard II's first expedition described the frustrations of Irish warfare to the French chronicler Jean Froissart as follows:

"...Ireland is one of the worst countries to make war in, or to conquer; for there are such impenetrable and extensive forests, lakes, and bogs, there is no knowing how to pass them, and carry on war advantageously. It is so thinly inhabited that, whenever the Irish please, they desert the towns and take refuge in the forests, and live in huts made of boughs, like wild beasts; and whenever they perceive any parties advancing with hostile dispositions, and about to enter their country, they fly to such narrow passes, it is impossible to follow them. When they find a favorable opportunity to attack their enemies to advantage, which frequently happens, from their knowledge of the country, they fail not to seize it."

Because of the prominence of cattle raiding in Irish warfare, battles most often occurred either when a raiding force was intercepted before it could escape with the plundered herds, or a fleeing populace was caught short of its mountain and forest hideaways. Yet, even in these circumstances, conventional battles rarely resulted. Instead, the retreating party would make a fighting withdrawal in order to cover the escape of its herds, so that the 'battle' would effectively consist of periods of movement punctuated by a series of ambushes and skirmishes. The centrality of these tactics in Irish warfare is revealed in the epic poem The Bruce, which was penned by John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, around 1375. Barbour describes how, on the eve of the Battle of Faughart, Edward Bruce's Irish allies tried to dissuade him from fighting until nearby reinforcements had arrived. When Edward rejected their advice, the Irish 'kings' warned him that they were not willing to participate "...for our tactics are those of this land, to pursue and fight, and to fight while retreating, and not to stand in open battle until one side is defeated."

The Irish were not alone in avoiding battle, since battle-seeking strategies were relatively rare in the medieval era. The only treatise on military strategy that was available at the time, the 4th Century De Re Militari of Vegetius, stressed the avoidance of pitched battle, with its attendant risks, at all costs. For most of the 100 Years' War, British strategy on the Continent relied primarily upon a combination of sieges and chevauchees (devastating mounted raids) to defeat the French. All three of their great battlefield triumphs at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt occurred when retreating British forces were forced to turn at bay by closely pursuing French armies. (5)
All this being said, the Gaelic Irish sometimes did fight set-piece battles -- both against each other and their 'foreign' enemies -- even though it was not their standard mode of warfare. Indeed, during the period in question, their ability to succeed in open battle increased considerably as a consequence of the introduction of better-armed troops and the development of new military institutions."

Gaelic Irish Troops

Irish armies of the later Middle Ages were composed of three distinct types of Gaelic troops: horsemen, galloglass and kern. These were sometimes augmented by Anglo-Norman men-at-arms and footmen, but the practice was a risky one because these mercenaries often used the opportunity to seize disputed lands, and were even known to turn on their erstwhile allies. Irish lords understandably came to prefer the more loyal and trustworthy Gaelic mercenaries.

The horsemen were generally nobles serving in the personal retinues of Irish lords, and would often have been drawn from their master's immediate and extended family. In other cases, personal service in these military 'households' (teaghlach or lught tighe) may have been linked to occupancy of estates granted by the overlord. In any event, nobles who owed service due to ties of blood or vassalage could be supplemented by mercenary cavalrymen and, in the event of a hosting, by the wealthier members of the Rising Out. The mercenaries may have been either the landless, junior sons of aristocratic families, or noblemen dispossessed by Anglo-Norman invaders or rivals in clan succession struggles.

Regardless of their origins, the horsemen usually wore iron helmets and chainmail, and were armed with javelins and spears wielded overarm -- instead of couched underarm like lances. They rode light, unbarded Irish horses rather than knightly destriers, and, lacking both saddles and stirrups, instead balanced themselves precariously on pillows tied across their mounts' backs. Each such cavalryman was customarily accompanied by one or more unarmored 'horseboys' (servants or squires) who rode into battle on his spare horses. Irish cavalry was consequently incapable either of charging or standing against formed foot or heavier horse, and therefore employed skirmishing tactics. However, there are several indications in contemporary sources that Irish nobles sometimes dismounted to fight on foot. On such occasions, the well-armed nobles would have made a significant addition to the unarmored footmen that formed the bulk of medieval Irish armies.

Figure Guide

Nobles: If mounted, these should be armed with spears and javelins, wearing helmets and mail, and possibly carrying small round shields, riding ponies with neither saddles nor stirrups.

Anglo-Irish Men-at-Arms: At the beginning of the period, 'degenerate' or gaelicized Anglo-Irish men-at-arms would look a great deal like late Norman knights without the kite shields (though they might be carrying smaller round or heater shields). By the late 14th Century, they would look more like their Gaelic Irish counterparts, riding without stirrups on small horses, although they would be better armored. Yet, even at the end of the period, plate armor was still quite rare in Ireland, and virtually all of the Anglo-Irish would still have been wearing mail."

More on Art Mac Murrough .... "King Richard could make little head against the harassing irregular warfare carried on by MacMurrough, and at length expressed willingness to come to terms with him, and make grants of lands in exchange for those of which he had been deprived."

"February 1395, MacMurrough, mounted on a black steed, and accompanied by his tributary chiefs, met the King's commissioners at Ballygorry, near Carlow."

"On Richard's return to England, he took with him as hostages sons of MacMurrough, and other young chiefs. It was not long, however, before MacMurrough was again engaged in hostilities. In 1397 he took Carlow; and on the 20th July, next year, at the head of a large force, defeated the Anglo-Irish army on the banks of the Nore. The Viceroy, Roger Mortimer, fell in this engagement. King Richard was again obliged to visit Ireland to assert his supremacy, and on the 23rd June 1399, with a fresh army, marched against MacMurrough, who said he "would neither submit nor obey Richard in any way, but affirmed he was the rightful king of Ireland, and that he would never cease from war and the defence of his country till his death, declaring that the wish to deprive him of his land by conquest was unlawful." With but 3,000 men he harassed Richard's large forces, and retreating before them into the fastnesses of Wicklow, reduced them to the greatest straits for provisions. Indeed the King's army would have been almost annihilated but for his timely meeting with some of the fleet at Arklow. Eventually MacMurrough consented to a parley with the Earl of Gloucester.
His appearance on the occasion is thus described by Froissart: "From a mountain between two woods, not far from the sea, I saw MacMurrough descend, accompanied by multitudes of the Irish, and mounted on a horse without saddle or saddle-bow, which cost him, it was reported, four hundred cows, so good and handsome an animal it was. This horse was fair, and in his descent from the hill to us, ran as swift as any stag, hare, or the swiftest beast I have ever seen. In his right hand he bore a long spear, which, when near the spot where he was to meet the Earl, he cast from him with much dexterity. The crowd that followed him then remained behind, while he advanced to meet the Earl near the brook. He was of large stature, wonderfully active, very fell and ferocious to the eye-a man of deed." We are told that "Gloucester and MacMurrough, meeting at a little brook, exchanged much discourse. MacMurrough declared he would have no terms but peace without reservation, free from molestation of any kind, and asserted that otherwise he would never come to a compact so long as he lived."
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Part 2

By P. W. Joyce "As soon as Mac Murrogh heard of this, far from showing any signs of fear, he swept down on New Ross, then a flourishing English settlement strongly walled, burned the town, and brought away a vast quantity of booty. And when the king and his army marched north from Waterford to Dublin, he harassed them on the way after his usual fashion, attacking them from the woods and bogs and catting off great numbers.

"But this magnificent and expensive expedition produced no useful result whatever. As for the submission and reconciliation of the Irish chiefs, it was all pure sham. They did not look upon king Richard as their lawful sovereign; and as the promises they had made had been extorted by force, they did not consider themselves bound to keep them."

"After a stay of nine months the king was obliged to return to England in 1395, leaving as his deputy his cousin young Roger Mortimer earl of March, who, as Richard had no children, was heir to the throne of England. Scarcely had he left sight of land when the chiefs one and all renounced their allegiance, and the fighting went on again; till at last, in a battle fought at Kells in Kilkenny in 1397, against the Leinster clans, amongst them a large contingent of Mac Murrogh's kern, the English suffered a great overthrow, and Mortimer was slain.

And now the king, greatly enraged, resolved on a second expedition to Ireland, in order as he said, to avenge the death of his cousin, and especially to chastise Mac Murrogh. Another army was got together quite as numerous as the former. In the middle of May 1399 the king landed with his army at Waterford, and after a short time he marched to Kilkenny on his way to Dublin. But instead of continuing on the open level country, he turned to the right towards the Wicklow highlands to attack Mac Murrogh: and here his troubles began.
Making their way slowly and toilsomely through the hills, they at length descried the Leinster army under Mac Murrogh, about 3,000 in number, high up on a mountain side, coolly looking down on them, with dense woods between. The king having forced 2,500 of the peasantry, whose houses he had burned, to cut a way for his army through the woods, pushed on, determined to overwhelm the little body of mountaineers. But he was soon beset with difficulties of all kinds, bogs, fallen trees, hidden gullies, and quagmires in which the soldiers sank up to their middle. At the same time the Irish continually attacked him and killed great numbers of his men. They could get little or no provisions, and hundreds perished of hunger and fatigue.
In this dire strait the army made their way across hill, moor, and valley, men and horses starving, and perishing with rain and storm; till at the end of eleven days of toil and suffering, they came in sight of the sea, somewhere on the south part of the Wicklow coast. Here they found three ships laden with provisions, which saved the army from destruction. Next day they resumed march, moving now along the coast towards Dublin; while Mac Murrogh's flying parties hung on their rear and harassed their retreat, never giving them an hour's rest."

Quote "The English in Ireland" written c.1394-95. In it, Froissart recounts the tale told to him by Henry Crystede, the King's esquire. (Henry Kyrkestede) It seems that Crystede had been captured in combat by the Irish, and held captive for seven years. Crystede recounts the great courage and equestrian skills of the "barbaric" Irish.

"No mounted man at arms, however good his horse, can ride so fast they cannot catch him."

This was the European horse at that time. They were like peas in a pod, just known by different names in each country. In Ireland they were known as a Hobby. In France they were known as Haubini. In England they were known as Palfreys. And in Spain they were known as Jennets.
Quote "The Irish Hobby is an extinct breed of horse developed in Ireland prior to the 13th Century.
The breed was mentioned in 1375 by the poet John Barbour, who called them hobynis in his poem, The Bruce. He also mentioned them in his work Reliquiae Antiquae, noting their speed.[3]
And one amang, an Iyrysch man,
Uppone his hoby swyftly ran...

There is a great deal of evidence that the Irish Hobby was imported to England and Scotland for various activities, including racing, "...they be so light and swift."

This quick and agile horse was also popular for skirmishing, and was often ridden by light cavalry known as Hobelars. Hobbies were used successfully by both sides during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Edward I of England trying to gain advantage by preventing Irishexports of the horses to Scotland. Robert Bruce employed the hobby for his guerrilla warfare and mounted raids, covering up to 70 miles ( 110 km ) a day."

Edited Quote "The Hobby Horse and the Black Douglas

The Black Douglas. The very name evokes images of dread. He is said to have had thick black hair and a thick, black beard, but to the English, the name referred strictly to his deeds. Starting immediately after Bannockburn, when Edward II refused to grant recognition to the Scots as an independent nation, James Douglas embarked on a series of border raids, plundering, pillaging, and burning much of the north of England. So dreaded was his name that a rhyme sprang up about him:

Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye,

Hush ye, hush ye, do not fret ye,

The Black Douglas shall not get ye.

One famous story tells of a mother consoling her child with the rhyme above. At the final words, a voice behind her said, “At least not tonight.” The Black Douglas had stood behind her in silence, listening to her sing. (To the best of my knowledge, Douglas did neither her nor her child any harm.)

It is hard to imagine that a child’s hobby horse could have any relation to medieval warfare, or a man of such fierce reputation. And yet, it is from the horses ridden by Robert Bruce and the Black Douglas and their men that we get the name hobby horse.

The Irish Hobby is the official name of the breed, developed before the 13th century, and now extinct, though it was used to develop many current breeds, including the Connemara and the Irish Draught. They were smaller horses, sometimes described as more like ponies, whose strength was in being light, agile, and swift. The name, in fact, is believed to come from the French hobin, which is said to come in turn from the Gaelic obann, meaning swift.

The hobbin’s speed came, in part, from being well suited to the bogs, forests, and hills of Ireland and Scotland. Being light and agile allowed it to move easily through such places, where the large English warhorse was at a disadvantage. Even in such rough conditions, hobelars–the men who rode the hobbins–could cover an astonishing ( up ) to 70 miles a day, allowing them to make the lightning strike-and-retreat raids across the English border for which James Douglas was especially famed.

Unlike the warhorse, trained for battle, the hobbin was essentially a mode of transport. The Scots typically rode in fast, dismounted to fight on foot, and rode out again. The humble hobbin, however, might claim some credit for the Scots frequent ability to outfight much larger armies."

"War ruined many ancient noble houses; it was the true making of the house of Douglas. The tactics used by Douglas were simple but effective: his men rode into battle – or retreated as the occasion demanded – on small ponies known as hobbins, giving the name of 'hobelar' to both horse and rider."
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Part 3

Quote Finbar McCormick "The horse in early Ireland"

BRONZE AGE (C. 2300-500 B.C.) "The possible late survival of wild horse in Britain makes the identification of any early domesticated horse problematic.
This problem does not arise in Ireland and all early prehistoric equid remains can reliably be accepted as domesticated. The earliest evidence for the presence of domesticated horse is from Early Bronze Age contexts at Newgrange, Co. Meath dating to about 2,400 B.C. (Van Wijngaarden-Bakker"

"The arrival of metal and the horse must have precipitated a social and economic revolution comparable to the arrival of the same commodities to the Amerindians" (Anthony) remarks that in that case “trade and exchange systems extended further, became socially more complex, and carried a higher volume of goods than would have been possible with pedestrian transport”. Most importantly, those in possession of horses had a clear military advantage over neighboring peoples and the political basis of the Amerindians
was totally changed by the advent of the horse. It is likely that the numbers of horse present in Early Bronze Age Ireland would have been low so their military potential is likely to have been limited. This rarity, however, would have heightened their prestige and emphasised the social standing of their owners."

"The Newgrange horses were rather small and slender (Table 1). Two complete bones allowed shoulder heights of 111 cm and 120 cm to be estimated (Van Wijngaarden-Bakker)."

"Horse remains are extremely scarce throughout the Bronze Age in Ireland, rarely comprising more than 1.5% of the mammal bone totals found."

IRON AGE (C. 500 B.C. – AD500) "The metrical data available for the Iron Age is extremely limited but there is a pronounced increase in size compared with the Bronze Age material." (122 to 130 cm)

EARLY MEDIEVAL PERIOD (C. AD 500-1170) "The early Irish sources make a clear distinction between horses used for riding and those used for working."

"indicates that the riding of horses was the prerogative of the nobility and well-off free farmer class. The higher one’s status the more horses one was expected to own. Thus, a typical lord would be expected to own one riding horse and four others for lesser tasks. The law tracts indicate that horses were regarded as being of much greater value than milk cows despite the fact that this was a society where the possession of cows comprised the basis of one’s wealth. Women rarely rode a horse but were instead transported in chariots. The law tracts make it clear that roads were maintained with chariots in mind. A route way which could boast the title “highway” was wide enough to allow two chariots to pass each other while a “road” could accommodate one chariot and two horsemen passing. Horse were also used for sport, with both horse and chariot racing being mentioned to in the early texts. The work horse in the early sources is often referred to a gerrán, a term that gave rise to “garran” in later sources. Generally, horses carried loads on their back either in the form of bags that hung on both sides or were balanced on some form of pack-saddle (srathar)

The documentary and iconographic evidence indicates that the early medieval Irish did not use a stirrup or saddle. The texts refer only to a horse cloth which was positioned under the rider. (Kelly)."

"Saddles seem to have been a Norse introduction as the Irish for saddle “sandal” is derived from old Norse (ibid.). Some wooden objects convincingly identified as saddle arches were found in Viking contexts in Dublin (Kavanagh)"

"It seems that the Irish regarded saddles as “alien” objects. A native text describing the sack by the Irish of the Viking town of Limerick in AD 968 lists amongst the booty taken “their saddles beautiful and foreign” (Todd)"

The use of the saddle and stirrup allowed mounted warriors to be used much more effectively in battle, allowing the rider to stand and turn in combat. The Irish, however, seem not to have adopted these innovations despite their obvious advantages (see below). The early laws describe at length the desirable features of horses. The ideal horse for buying should be “large, healthy, young and docile” and be “neither too tall or too small, and should be broad chested and narrow legged” (Kelly)."

This comment on size is especially interesting because it indicates that there was no desire to breed larger horses at this time. The relatively moderate size of the horse was judged adequate for the roles desired of it. The early sources refer to a variety of colours of horse. Kelly finds references to white, black, grey, dark grey, dun and orange. Combinations of colours were also known.

It is clear that horses were being imported into Ireland during the early medieval period. The laws mention the presence of British horses (ibid.:) , the annals of Ulster in 1029 mention Welsh horses, while the Book of Rights mentions Scottish horses (Dillon). At the same time, Anglo-Saxon records indicate that horses were being imported from France into England (Hyland). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also indicates that Viking forces were “horsed” when they arrived in England. The fact that the Vikings made deep incursions into Ireland away from navigable rivers suggests strongly that they brought their horses with them.

A large quantity of metrical data is available from the Early Medieval period. The range of size is much greater than the Iron Age with peak occurring in horse of 130-134 cm. While the Vikings appear to be responsible for the advances in horse technology, there is no evidence that they increased the size of horses present. Indeed, Figure 2 shows that the horses from Viking Dublin did not attain the large size of horses noted on many rural sites. The average horse shoulder height in Viking Dublin is 129.6 cm compared with 130.7 cm in rural Ireland.

LATER MEDIEVAL PERIOD (POST. CIRCA 1170) As late as 1399, Irish kings chose not to use the saddle despite the inferences of the earlier Book of Rights (Fig. 4). When Art MacMurrough met the Duke of Gloucester in that year he was described in an account by French historian Jean Creton as follows: “he had a horse without housing or saddle which was so fine and good, that it had cost him, they said, four hundred cows […] in coming down he galloped so hard that in my opinion I never saw hare, deer, sheep or any other animal, I declare to you with certainty, with such speed, as it did” (Webb)."

A contemporary illustration of this encounter shows that MacMurrough was also without stirrup or spur. It seems likely that MacMurrough and accompanying soldiers were mounted infantry. Irish mounted infantry on fast, light horses were highly effective in medieval warfare and it may well be that the Irish never utilised cavalry to any great extent. Irish infantry mounted on small horses, “hobbies”, were known to be extremely effective at harassing heavily armored knights to such an extent that these horses were being hired by the English King Edward I for his campaigns (Davis).

The first reference to the use of these “hobbler” infantry was in 1200's when Edward imported 150 of them to help in his war against the Scots with larger numbers of them being imported into Britain for different campaigns during the succeeding decades (Lydon).

While the absence of saddles, stirrups and spurs might imply military disadvantage, the Irish evidence clearly shows that this was not the case.
Indeed the light Irish mounted infantry on their relatively small hobbies played an important role in the demise of the use of heavily armored cavalry in medieval warfare (ibid.). By the end of the medieval period the Irish had adopted some, but not all, of the innovations that they had eschewed for so long. A contemporary illustration of a battle between the English and Irish in 1581 indicates that while the Irish by then had adopted the saddle and spur, they had yet to adopt the stirrup (McGrath).

The arrival of the Anglo-Normans must have greatly increased the numbers and range of horses being imported into Ireland. They were obsessive horse-breeders especially of war horses. The horses brought into Ireland were probably of mixed bloodstock and it may have been the Normans who introduced Arab strains into Ireland for the first time. The French and English aristocracy imported large quantities of horses from Spain many of which would have been seized in wars against the Moors (Hyland).

Irish horses too were also in great demand. In the year 1171, it is recorded that 100 horses were sent in a single shipment from Ireland to England (Sweetman).

Some horses went further afield. In 1330, Irish horses were being sent to royal studs in France, and during the latter half of the fifteenth century Irish horses were ending up in the studs of the Gonzagas of Mantua in Italy (Hyland).

The accepted belief is that the Anglo-Normans bred larger horses because of the use of heavily armored mounted troops. The zooarcheaological evidence is equivocal. The largest sample of horse material from the early centuries of the AngloNorman period is from urban Waterford. A slight increase is recorded in the largest horses with horses of up to 147.2 cm being recorded compared with a maximum of 144.8 cm in Early Medieval Ireland. The average size of 12-13th century horses are also larger with a mean height of 134.8 cm compared with 130.7 cm in Early Medieval rural Ireland."

What do you think of all of this so far ? The Anglo Normans with their big awkward horses were no match for the native Irish who ran rings around them bare back on their incredibly tough little Hobby horses as their own Anglo Norman history has documented that fact.

Now read this, a recent discovery .... "HOBBYS AND HOBELARS AT A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE IN CO. KILDARE
Rubicon Heritage’s Faunal Specialist Claudia Tommasino Suarez describes work she has been carrying out on a highly significant horse assemblage from Mullamast, Co. Kildare, which may provide evidence for the breeding of the animals that gave rise to the Hobelar cavalry of the medieval period.

From the 13th century onwards Ireland made an important contribution to medieval warfare, particularly in the conflicts in and between England, Scotland and Wales. However this contribution was not typical- it came in the form of a small, light, swift and maneuverable horse: the hobby or hobin.

The secret of this four-legged warrior’s success was determined by its performance in difficult terrain. The animal’s attributes led to the rise of a form of light-mounted soldier known as a ‘hobelar.’ These troops became proficient at roles such as scouting and patrolling in environments like mountains, bogs and woodlands, where heavier armoured knights mounted on destriers struggled to operate.

The hobby or hobin was a native horse (or pony) species from Ireland that were first encountered by the English during the Anglo-Norman invasion. The Normans later decided to incorporate the animal into their own forces; James Lydon in his Irish Sword paper noted that they provided a middle ground between mounted archers and armoured knights.

Lyons has found references in the 14th century for up to 500 hobelars being transported from Ireland to take part in military campaigns.

Given the historical references to these horses it is clear they were of significant military value, and the English administration must have endeavored to insure their continuing availability. But where were these horses acquired? Could there be archaeological evidence of such demand? Excavations carried out by Rubicon Heritage Services at the deserted medieval village of Mullamast, Co. Kildare might provide such evidence. Excavated on behalf of Kildare County Council and the National Roads Authority, the site’s faunal assemblage was dominated by one species of animal: small horses.

Zooarchaeological assemblages from medieval excavations in Ireland usually produce very small quantities of horse bones, often not exceeding 1% of the total number of bones. However, at Mullamast a staggering 28% of the animal assemblage could be identified as horse. Coupled with this, the Mullamast horses were small individuals. The adult specimens did not exceeding 130cms (12.8 hands), measurements that would correspond to hobins or hobbys. The evidence suggested that they were bred on the site, an interpretation confirmed by the presence of neonatal and infant specimens in the record. These animals were not being consumed, though some of them were used for ploughing or other activities which could cause serious injuries to their bones.

It is not possible for us to conclusively state that the inhabitants of Mullamast raised these horses to satisfy the military demand. Even if this was one reason for their breeding, it is clear from the evidence that the horses were being exploited for local labour activities. However, the sheer number of animals suggests that the Mullamast site may well have been an important breeding centre, where hobbys were produced in a well-controlled region to provide not only for the agricultural needs of the Anglo-Norman colony in Ireland, but also its ever-increasing military requirements."

Even the Anglo Normans reverted back to breeding the age old small European horse type. It is no wonder that they did. These small horses could cover up to 70 miles of mountainous hilly terrain along with rough boggy and wooded ground in a day. Beautifully proportioned with a refined head and incredibly sound feet, a short strong back with light very strong dense bone even though they were smaller than many ponies they were a true horse in type.

This is the type of horses that the Conquistadors brought to America. There were small horses of this type in Europe until Henry the 8th called for an increase in the height of horses. This encouraged others over on the European Continent to do the same. As a result the old European small horse type became hybridised out of existence in Europe.

But horses of this type continued to survive in America for centuries after that. Even in the North East of America small light horses of this type were still known as late as about 1750. They continued in some Southern States for decades after that. However it was in the Spanish speaking South West that they survived until not so long ago. It seems that the ranchers finished what Henry the 8th started before them. If someone thinks that modern horses are an "improvement" on the ones of centuries ago then they are very much mistaken!

Irish Eddie
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post #4 of 9 Old 06-29-2013, 03:19 PM
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You didn't really expect me to read all of that did you? -.-
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-02-2013, 04:05 PM
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woah that is long.....
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post #6 of 9 Old 07-02-2013, 04:25 PM
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I read the first few paragraphs and then scrolled down looking for

The blood runs hot in the Thoroughbred and the courage runs deep. In the best of them, pride is limitless. This is their heritage and they carry it like a banner. What they have, they use. - C.W. Anderson
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-02-2013, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Basically the Spanish Mustang when brought to the Americas was an amazing Equine that back in it's native Europe could and did cover up to 70 miles of the most varied and difficult ground imaginable with a big strapping man on it's back. This small light horse breed was from only about 121 to 134 cm. That is from about 12 hands to about 13 hands only. Some Americans would tell you that they still have them and show you a horse 14 to 15 hands
Even if they were the right size many would fail as a lookalike. Buyer beware
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-03-2013, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Terrier Man View Post
Basically the Spanish Mustang when brought to the Americas was an amazing Equine that back in it's native Europe could and did cover up to 70 miles of the most varied and difficult ground imaginable with a big strapping man on it's back. This small light horse breed was from only about 121 to 134 cm. That is from about 12 hands to about 13 hands only. Some Americans would tell you that they still have them and show you a horse 14 to 15 hands
Even if they were the right size many would fail as a lookalike. Buyer beware
Those Anglo-Normans were not Shaquile O'Neal, either....or however he spells his name.

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post #9 of 9 Old 07-13-2013, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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The Normans were Vikings that settled in Northern France. Big strong muscular men.
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