Practical Chivalry: The Training of Horses for Tournaments and Warfare
By Carroll Gillmor
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, Vol.13 (1992)
Introduction: Inventions harness the physical environment for human needs, and sometimes become potent symbols. A classic symbol of restraint has been the bridle bit of the horse. Indeed, the prospect of putting a bit into the pernicious mouth of Catiline seemed as appropriate an image to Cicero as to those medieval iconographers who placed bits into the mouth of the Virtue Temperance. Later,the symbolic association of the horse with aristocratic status emerged from the perception of the mounted knight as the cornerstone of tactical decisiveness in medieval battles.
Scholarship of the last twenty years has largely disproven the central role of mounted shock combat in medieval warfare, but has also increased our understanding of the basic ecological, veterinary, and biological factors that both enhanced and limited the military uses of horses in the Middle Ages.