Have you ever wondered what types of horses were used in Medieval times? Was a Medieval courser horse used for battle, or on farms? Or did they have another purpose?
What Is A Courser Horse?
In Medieval times, the use of horses in battle rose in popularity. It was thought that the combination of a horse and rider could equal ten men on foot.
The name ‘Courser’ is a description of a type of horse, not a specific breed. There were two other types of horses used, the ‘Destrier’ and ‘Palfrey’. To understand what a Medieval courser horse is, it helps if we learn about all three types.
Courser-type horses were bred for speed and stamina. It is thought that they were descended from hot-blooded breeds such as the Arabian, Turkish, and Barb horses.
Many courser horses originated from the kingdom of Naples. Horses acquired from Africa were bred with European stock to create an extremely fast mount.
These horses were lean and lithe, very different from the thickset mounts that were commonly used across Europe. The courser horse quickly became very desirable, and these speedy horses were sought by kings across Europe, from as far away as England.
Due to their rarity and exotic bloodlines, courser horses were very expensive. They were owned mainly by gentry and noblemen.
The destrier was the original warhorse of Northern Europe, designed to be strong and fearless in battle. They were thought to be 14-16 hands high, similar in build to a modern-day hunting horse. This was a large and strong type of horse, with incredible agility and stamina.
Destriers were trained from a young age, and tradition dictated that they were trained by the rider who would take them into battle. They were taught to be fearless in the face of humans, creating a horse who would charge into battle.
A destrier was very expensive and highly sought after. Their sole purpose was a battle horse, and they were normally owned by the wealthiest knights.
It is believed that modern-day draft horses are from destrier bloodlines, however, they are much larger and slower than their ancestors.
The palfrey was a gaited horse, designed to be a comfortable ride over long distances. They had a peculiar four-time rhythm to their gait, which enabled them to cover ground quickly without causing discomfort to the rider.
Palfrey horses were very expensive and were generally only owned by nobility. They were highly desirable as mounts for ladies, as they were more comfortable to ride. This type of horse would not have been commonly used in battle.
The rouncy was an all-purpose horse, used for battle as well as everyday riding. These types of horses were ridden by less wealthy knights and squires, who needed a horse suitable for battle but could not afford a destrier horse.
A commoner who could afford a horse such as a rouncy would have been able to use it to work on the farm, as well as for riding. Then, if called into battle, the rouncy would have been used for a battle mount as well.
Because they did not have the intensive training of the destrier horse, the rouncy was not such a reliable or tough battle mount.
What Was The Purpose Of A Medieval Courser Horse?
So, we have the destrier horse which was designed for war, and the palfrey horse for comfort. The rouncy falls midway between the two, but what was the purpose of the courser horse?
The medieval courser horse was built for speed, able to cover ground quickly. This meant that they were highly sought after as mounts for messengers, able to rapidly carry messages between kingdoms or armies.
It is believed that some courser horses may even be the ancestors of modern-day racehorses such as Thoroughbreds.
Medieval courser horses were only owned by nobility and gentry and were highly prized possessions.
Can I Buy A Medieval Courser Horse?
The courser horse itself was not an actual breed, but a type of horse. In modern times, you will not find a horse for sale that is described as a courser horse. Thankfully, there is no need for them in modern society!
However, you could attempt to find a horse that has similar breeding to a courser horse. We know that they were normally a cross between two district breeds. So, all we need to do is track down a horse with similar bloodlines.
The first of these was a hot-blooded horse, normally an Arabian, Turkish, or Barb horse. The most common of these now is the Arabian, and they are often crossed with other breeds. This is because people desire their speed and stamina, but like to cross this with the level-headed mindset of calmer breeds.
The other half of a courser horse breeding was normally a European riding horse. At this time, most horses were descended from farm stock, used for heavy labor. This meant that they were what we describe as a cold-blooded breed.
European horses would have been well-built and strong, with a calm and placid nature. When crossed with a fiery Arabian, this would create a horse with speed and endurance, and dependable nature. In modern terms, the courser would be a warm-blooded breed of horse.
To get a similar cross, we would need to find a European horse breed similar to the ones used to create the courser. A good example would be the Friesian horse, used in Medieval times as war horses for the crusades. The Friesian breed is strong and athletic, with considerable agility and stamina.
So, as we have learned, Medieval courser horses could run very fast and were used to deliver messages during Medieval times. This was especially important during battles when information needed to be passed on quickly. It is believed that the courser horse could be the ancestors of modern-day Thoroughbreds.
We would love to hear your thoughts about courser horses – would your horse have the stamina to gallop between kingdoms? Perhaps you know some more interesting facts about Medieval battle horses? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!