This post is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt, author of DawnSinger.
Liquid-eyed creatures with flowing manes that move like poetry itself, horses have long fascinated me. Not surprisingly, equines feature in my medieval fantasy novels. Combining my love of horses with another fascination (flying) produced the winged horses in DawnSinger, book one of my Tales of Faeraven epic fantasy series.
Medieval horses were ranked less by breed and more by quality and intended use, with the best reserved for nobility.
These powerful horses were usually taller, of a solid color, and highly trained for battle, making owning one a sought-after privilege. Because of their natural aggression, stallions were often used as destriers. Another name for a destrier was a great horse.
The horse used in daily activities by knights was shorter and longer than a destrier and valued for its smooth gait. Knights of moderate wealth rode palfreys into battle. Finely-bred mules often ridden by ladies or the clergy were also referred to as palfreys.
In the Middle Ages, fast, agile horses with stamina were needed to carry messages and to shorten travel for the nobility. Coursers were not usually well trained, but they were less costly than destriers and palfreys, making them the most common type of horse ridden into battle.
The lower classes used rouncy horses for work and riding. These horses were not usually well-bred. Their heaviness gave them endurance to help in the fields, carry loads, and for long journeys. Rouncies were also called Hackneys or Hack Horses.
End of an Era
The appearance of the long bow and of gunpowder ushered in a new era in which the medieval war horse went the way of the knight, disappearing forever.
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