The Iron Steeds of Medieval Warfare: A Fascinating Look at Warhorses in Battle

In medieval times, the success of a battle often relied on the strength and training of the horses used.

Warhorses, as they were called, were specially trained to withstand the chaos of battle and carry armored knights into combat. In this article, we will explore how warhorses were trained and used in medieval battles.

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“The mounted knight was only as good as his warhorse, and the best knights knew how to train and condition their mounts for battle.”

Richard W. Kaeuper, Professor of History at the University of Rochester

Choosing the Right Breed

The first step in training a warhorse was selecting the right breed. Horses were chosen for their size, strength, and temperament.

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The most common breeds used in medieval warfare were the destrier, courser, and rouncey. These breeds were known for their speed, agility, and power.

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Training the Warhorse

Once the horse was selected, the training process began. The horse would first be desensitized to loud noises and sudden movements. This was important, as the horse would be exposed to these things in battle.

Then, the horse was trained to move in unison with the rider. This involved teaching the horse to respond to subtle cues from the rider, such as pressure from the legs or reins.


As the horse’s training progressed, it was introduced to armor. The armor would be gradually added in pieces, allowing the horse to adjust to the added weight and restricted movement. Eventually, the horse would be fully armored, able to withstand blows from weapons and carry the weight of the knight.

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“The warhorse was not just a tool of the knight, but a symbol of his power and prestige on the battlefield.” – John France, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at Swansea University

Kelly DeVries, Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland

Warhorses in Battle

In battle, the warhorse was used primarily for charging the enemy lines. The horse and rider would build up speed, then crash into the enemy, causing chaos and disruption. The horse’s armor protected it from enemy attacks, and its size and strength were used to knock down enemy soldiers.

Battle of Castillon
The Battle of Castillon was an important battle in the 100 years war between England and France

“The warhorse was a valuable asset for the medieval knight, and its training and care were essential to his success in battle.”

Kelly DeVries, Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland

Warhorses were also trained to perform specific maneuvers in battle, such as the “passage.” This involved the horse moving laterally, allowing the knight to strike enemies on either side of the horse.

It’s important to note that warhorses were not invincible. They were still susceptible to injury and fatigue, and many horses did not survive the rigors of battle. Despite this, warhorses were a vital part of medieval warfare, and their training and use played a significant role in the outcome of battles.


In conclusion, the training and use of warhorses in medieval battles was a complex and fascinating process. From selecting the right breed to gradually introducing armor, warhorses were trained to withstand the chaos of battle and carry knights into combat.

Their size, strength, and agility were used to charge enemy lines and perform specific maneuvers. While warhorses were not invincible, they were a vital part of medieval warfare and helped to shape the outcome of battles.

“The bond between knight and warhorse was one of mutual trust and respect, developed through hours of training and shared experiences on the battlefield.”

Matthew Strickland, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow