The Medieval Horse. What was Life Really Like for Horses in the Medieval Times?

In medieval times, horses were a crucial part of daily life. They were used for transportation, agriculture, hunting, and warfare.

White Knight on Horseback

“In the Middle Ages, horses were crucial for transportation, agriculture, and warfare, and they played a vital role in the everyday lives of people. They were highly valued possessions and were often treated better than the people who depended on them.”

Kathryn Reyerson, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.

Horses were highly valued and were often considered a symbol of status and wealth. Here’s a closer look at what life was like for horses in the Middle Ages.

Horse Breeds in the Middle Ages

There were many different breeds of horses in the Middle Ages, each with their own unique characteristics. The most common breeds were the destrier, courser, palfrey, and rouncey.

The destrier was a large, strong horse that was primarily used for warfare. The courser was a faster and more agile horse that was used for hunting and light cavalry.

The palfrey was a small, gentle horse that was primarily used for transportation, while the rouncey was a sturdy, versatile horse that was used for both riding and carrying heavy loads.

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Destier The War Horse

Horse Care in the Middle Ages

Horses were an expensive investment, so they were treated with care and respect. They were housed in stables, which were often located near the castle or manor house.

Horses were fed a diet of hay, oats, and barley, and they were given access to clean water. Grooming was also an important part of horse care in the Middle Ages. Horses were brushed and curried regularly to keep their coats clean and shiny.


“Horses in the Middle Ages were a symbol of status and power, and the care and management of these animals were carefully regulated by social norms and laws. They were often bred for specific purposes, such as warhorses or packhorses, and their value could range from a few shillings to several hundred pounds.”

John Hine Mundy, author and historian.

Horses in Warfare

Horses played a significant role in medieval warfare. Knights would ride their destriers into battle, wearing heavy armor and carrying weapons such as lances, swords, and maces. Cavalry units were also used to charge into enemy lines, and horses were used to pull heavy siege weapons such as trebuchets and battering rams.

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Horses in Daily Life

Horses were also used for transportation in the Middle Ages. They were used to pull carts and wagons, and they were ridden by messengers and travelers. Horses were also used in agriculture, pulling plows and other farm equipment.

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Horses in Culture

Horses were often depicted in medieval art and literature. They were a symbol of strength and nobility, and were often used to represent important figures such as kings and knights. Horses were also featured in medieval tournaments, where knights would joust against each other using lances while riding on horseback.

Jousting Knights

“Medieval society was largely agricultural, and horses were essential for plowing fields, harvesting crops, and transporting goods to market. They were also used in hunting and as a means of entertainment, such as jousting and other equestrian sports.”

Richard Barber, medieval historian and author.


In conclusion, horses played a crucial role in medieval life. They were used for transportation, agriculture, hunting, and warfare, and were highly valued for their strength and versatility. Horses were treated with care and respect, and were often considered a symbol of status and wealth.