Full Battle Rattle – Mounted Knights and Horse Armor

The main hall of the Arms and Armor galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY. Photo by Rhonda Lane

My travel buddy Sheryl and I went to the Arms and Armor galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The armor, at least on the first horse, was made by the noted armorer Kunz Lochner of Germany, according to The Met’s information.

Seeing armor up close made me think more about the horses – what they were like and what they were expected to do inside all that metal. To look at the form of the armor and wonder about the horse inside.

The armor on the horses suggests to me that they weren’t as big as we’d expect modern heavy horses to be.

I’m thinking that, even considering the platform, the horses may have only been about 16 hands high. If that. Because of the weight of all that steel, granted, those horses would have to be sturdy – but not Percheron or English Shire sturdy. Those medieval horses had to be smaller than modern-sized heavy horses.


The parade of knights in the central hall of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Arms and Armor exhibit. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Also note that some hindquarters plating allowed the tail freedom on some but others did not.

Leaving town for battle? Or returning all cleaned up in a victory parade? Rear view of the mounted knights display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Rhonda Lane

You probably noticed the armor on that last horse. Its hindquarters look well- protected, but also constrained. 

In the next picture, check out how the chest plates allow for animation or even climbing with the flared metal.

The armor flares in front so horses can raise their legs. Main gallery of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Rhonda Lane

In contrast, I couldn’t get a decent photo of the Turkish armor display which was behind glass in a dimly lit room. A guard had already scolded me twice for using the flash on my camera. (In my defense, I’d forgotten how to turn off the automatic flash. For the second occurrence, I’d thought I had turned it off. Oops.)

Anyway, I could tell that the horses were smaller, lighter –  well, Arabian horses. Yet they wore armor, too.

Here’s a picture from another museum and another website of Turkish armor of the same period as the European armor you see above. (You’ll have to scroll down to see it.) Notice how the armor is segmented.

Also, the chamfron – the plating covering the front of the horse’s face – has no ear protection.

Thoughts in summary

As I edited these photos, my husband was in another room watching re-runs of HBO’s fantasy series with a medieval flavor GAME OF THRONES. As I worked on these photos, I could hear the shouts of men and the ringing of drawn blades.

A premium cable drama, GAME OF THRONES and its big-budget “cousins” like THE BORGIAS and the SPARTACUS series pull no punches as to what a sharp heavy blade can do – unless the producers are minding their production budgets.

So we no longer enjoy any Robert Goulet’s CAMELOT illusions about what had to have been a dirty, brutal time for people and horses.

Granted, a lot of the armor on display is ceremonial. Or worn by someone who’d come out unscathed. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have survived to end up in a museum.

A knight had to protect his horse. A knight without a horse was a guy on foot. More than likely, a dead man walking.

More horses in the Middle Ages?

We’ve gone medieval a couple of times before here on The Horsey Set Net:







  • Stacey Adams
    April 4, 2012

    Despite your deviant ways (lol) – I truly enjoyed your photos!

    And I just wanted to add a quick note that for any folks passing through Madrid (or for that matter visiting the city), the Royal Palace has an entire wing dedicated to armor, etc. and another super opportunity to view varied equine armor up close.

    Great post! Looking forward to your thoughts on the Jousting show!

  • Rhonda Lane
    April 4, 2012

    Thank you, Stacey. I think … LOL 🙂 =:-D I do enjoy lurid “historical” drama on TV. 🙂

    Would you believe I have yet to watch the jousting show?? =:-o Another reader emailed me about the show in response to this post. I’m going to have to DVR it.

    I can’t say I’m surprised that people have embraced this “new” action sport, especially after the popularity of that Heath Ledger movie.

    Anyhoo, thanks for stopping by and saying “hi.”

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