Cavalry was a stupid idea

Cavalry was a stupid idea


Using horses in warfare as cavalry is a stupid idea and that’s what I’m going to talk to you about in this video which has been sponsored by our friends at the Great Courses Plus More of them later Now, I want you to cast your mind back back to when the horse had just been domesticated. I don’t know exactly when that was and nobody else does either The figure 3000 B.C. is very often cited but 4500 to 2000 perhaps is closer to the truth. And it’s somewhere in there probably, it’s a bit vague. When exactly an animal becomes domesticated is debatable, too. A lot of people say it’s when the animal requires mankind looking after it to survive Another definition is that it’s when man is selectively breeding controlling the breeding if you like of the species and selectively breeding for those traits which suit man. So which dogs get to breed are the ones whose behaviors suit working with men And which horses who get to breed are the the type that men want rather than other horses. So somewhere in that period the horse gets domesticated. but I want you remember that your horse
was of course before that a wild animal and when it just being domesticated it’s
still fairly wild and not very different from its wild ancestors. So its instincts
are still those of a wild animal and if you’ve ever been to a rodeo you will
perhaps be well aware that even modern horses if they have not been trained are
very reluctant to have people ride them on their backs and if you try jumping on
the back of some other wild animal, jump on the back of a wild zebra or
ostrich, or buffalo or whatever and you’ll find that it really objects to
your being there quite strongly so if some smart aleck said back then “Hey I’ve got this brilliant idea why
don’t we ride these things into battle?” There are a couple of possible
reactions to that one might be the people have said “Wow, that’s a brilliant idea
why didn’t we think of ourselves, we’ve got to try it!” But I think it’s more
likely that they said, “Don’t be such an idiot.” I mean it’s ridiculous the idea that you
could ride a horse into battle. If you’re
an infantryman you got both feet on the ground you can control your movement you
can have a nice big shield, a big spear, and you know exactly when you’re going to
move and in what direction because you are in control of those movements and
you can wear lots of armor and you can if you fall over you can just get back
up again. If you’re on a horse things are completely different. How are you going to stay on that horse?
How are we going to get the horse to bear the weight of you and all the armor?
because the horses of course what much smaller than that the large things we
have today they’re ponies really and a large man in armor will be quite a
burden to such a horse. And how is he going to stay on it? I have once
been bareback riding and I can tell you, that boy you have to grip with your thighs! And the back of a horse is very
rounded and his fur is really quite skiddy. Got to remember velcro with all
the little hooks hasn’t been invented yet so you got nothing like that to hold
you on want and you wouldn’t want to tie yourself onto the horse bit of rope or
anything, because if you did fall then you’d be dragged and that would be
horrendous! Dragged and kicked and ahh, the injuries so you don’t want to do
that. You want to be able to get off the horse safely but not fall off the horse.
You want to get off when you choose So if the horses galloping along and
suddenly stops you don’t want to go sailing over its neck and head and land
on the ground in front of it in the big heap for the enemy things just go “stab.” You don’t want that. Another thing that’s really difficult
about that the horses, if you think about it back then is that they’re so
scared! Even horses today, if you’ve been riding at much at all you know that
horses spook at the most bizarre things. You could be riding down the road a car
goes “Zoom!” straight past you much too close. “Idiot!” You may shout something rude
after the driver but he won’t hear you but the horse is fine. Then a few
more yards down the road “Ahhh Crisp packet, crisp packet! The horse is panicking because it’s a crisp packet! It’s a blue one , it’s a blue one! It should be salt and
vinegar but I bet that one’s cheese and onion and that’s just so wrong! Ahh, crisp
packet! And a tractor goes thundering past, doesn’t bother the horse
at all but crisp packet! The most bizarre things will spook a horse.
They’re very timorous things and and they’re quite intolerant to pain.
They don’t like fighting and don’t like even treading on on people. If in battle their
bodies lying on the ground horses don’t want to tread on bodies,
even dead bodies. So the idea of riding one into battle would probably to the
first people who heard it sound like a really amazingly stupid idea. How are you
going to control it or put a bit in its mouth? Okay so we put a bit in his mouth
and spits it out. Okay well obviously that’s going to
require a bit more work, but you’ll think of a way maybe to control it to with
with some sort of harness that goes around its snout, perhaps with a couple of
ropes. That it won’t be that great but you’ll have some steering control. Maybe if
you spend an awful long time training this horse. But then you going to ride into
battle on your own? Because that just means you you get there before everyone
else and you’re really conspicuous and they’re going to shoot you first and your
horse is a really big vulnerable unarmored target and it’s intolerable
intolerant to pain and if anyone hits it it is going to bolt and then you’re
probably going to fall off or you’re going to go hurtling across the battlefield on
your own How is that any help to anyone? And you
could say all right what maybe if we train up loads and loads and loads of
guys we have a cavalry force then we can rumble across the plains and
scare the wits out of the enemy with thunderous hooves and shaking
of ground and so forth yeah right now I could happen then again you might just
get the ironic applause as you all then scatter across the plain and fall off
and the few of you left realize that you can’t possibly take on an infantry unit
because how do you actually fight on a horse? You ride up to infantry unit you
then got infantryman all around you very very quickly and they’ve got so much to
aim at and your angles of attack will essentially got down and that’s it. So
it’s fairly easy to work out where you have to put your shield in order to
parry, and you’re hopeless. What’s it going to achieve writing cavalry
into battle? And it seems that nobody did ride cavalry into battle for really
quite a long time after the mess the domestication of the horse but something
that they did use horses for was pulling things. Now, the horse is very good at that
you can get them to pull carts and so forth and various heavy loads and that
was something that was useful in everyday life in farming and in building and so forth and you could of
course train them to pull chariots. Chariots were used in warfare for quite
a long time before cavalry appeared we don’t know exactly when the first
chariots were, but again big round number about 2000 BC and they got more and
more prevalent it seems in certainly Middle Eastern and warfare until around
1300 BC around the battle of Kadesh for instance which we know about through
historical reports of it which involved vast numbers of chariots that seems to
be the peak. By the time Caesar invaded Britain the the Celts in Britain
were still using charities but it seems that they were the exception. The
Gauls in what is today France it seems weren’t still using chariots. The
last mention i think of warfare setting in the West was Mons Graupius I think. One reason that you would get a horse to
pull something like a chariot is because they are small. If you’ve got a very
small horse that’s not very powerful and you put a big weight on top of it such as a
guy with armor and so forth then it’s quite a burden and it’s it’s going to have
a struggle galloping along with you on its back. But, if you put your weight on
the ground via a wheel and make the ground and the chariot bear the weight
and all the horse has to do is get the wheels to turn around, then that’s different, and a couple of
horses could pull you really really fast. Chariots are going to be a lot faster
than cavalry because they’re not burdened every time they do
the “up” part of the gallop, they don’t have to lift you and your armor up each
time. Instead they can just get it forwards pulling, as long as the terrain
is course favorably flat, and pulling this this light spoke wheeled basket
behind it with you in it. Then you could go really fast and perhaps fight
from there and it seems that people did now in the works at Homer of course, we
read it loads and loads of heroes rushing around the the plains outside
Troy on their chariots and IF the Trojan War happened ,which it might not have, and if it did happen around 1250 BC, which it might not have but that’s the that’s a commonly
estimated date for the Trojan War, then there would be no cavalry, so all those
references in your translation to cavalry of Homer, are probably referring
to those parts of the army that used horses which is chariots really.
It does seem perhaps that messengers and people like that not running into battle
we used before cavalry as an arm of an army arrived. It could be that in
ancient Egypt you would have a couple of guys on horses riding to deliver
messages it’s a little bit faster but right at the enemy and fight from
horseback? That would be ridiculous! On something as timid and vulnerable
as a horse off which you can fall so easily? So how do you keep yourself on a horse?
Well, one way is to use a saddle which helps a bit, you’re not quite as skiddy as the
horses back. The first good evidence we have a saddle is around 700 BC in places
like Assyria.They may of course, be older than that, I suspect they are a
bit, but that’s the first really good evidence we have for them but the saddle
on its own is really enough to turn you into a cavalryman. And when do stirrups
arrival? The stirrups don’t arrive until quite a lot later. More recently than perhaps you realize. I’ve read about loops of rope that would go around the big toes of a rider
in India as early as the 2nd century, end of the second century BC, but that’s not
really a true stirrup as we would know If you just have straps or ropes going
to something like a loop around your toes that puts a lot of strain on in one
small part of the horses back and the horse will get sores from that. It’s not
terribly practical. To get stirrups to work properly, you have to have pretty solid
preferably framed saddle which then then translates the downward strain over a broad area
over a large bit of the horse’s back so it doesn’t get those sores. Now, when
when does the true stirrup get invented as we know it today?
Well, probably China some around 400 and something AD
seems to be the time and why? Well, some versions of history will say
that the first stirrups were used in china so that old frail people could get onto
their horse, so it was just a mounting aid and we have some reason to believe
that Sarmatians some couple hundred years later we’re getting onto their
horses perhaps when they were wearing heavy armor using one stirrup, there’s a
stirrup just on one side so they would use it to get up onto the horse and once on
the stirrups job was done. It wasn’t actually riding aid, it was just a
mounting and perhaps dismounting aid. Is there some other way you can stay on
the horse? Well, yes there is. But first I want to tell you a little bit about the
Great Courses Plus, our sponsor! So that the Great Courses Plus is an online
service to which you can subscribe, and they have loads and loads of lectures from
lecturers from around the world, though with a definite bias towards American
universities, and these lectures talk about all sorts of topics including lots
of science and history and literature and art and so forth, and you can watch these tip top lectures at any time you like day or night and there will be no exams or anything and new lectures are being added all the time. Now if you click the link in the description, it will take you to a landing page and from there you can get one month’s free trial! (My friend has the Great Courses on DVD and every time I ask to borrow them, he says he’s still using them. I think he thinks I’ll steal them, maybe I’ll give the link a try) Or you can type in: thegreatcoursesplus.com/lindybeige which is appearing on your screen So, The Great Courses Plus, why not give them a go? Now, back to saddles. So, there is another way, and it seems that this other way was developed by the Celts The Celts later got copied by the Romans And sometimes this saddle is known as a Roman saddle, and sometimes as a Celtic saddle, and sometimes a Romano-Celtic saddle, whichever you prefer. Instead of stirrups, which are sometimes described as a great revolution that made feudalism possible, Stirrups made the knight possible, the heavily armored guy who could fight from horseback possible, Really? I suspect not, because of these four pommeled saddles. There are a few versions, but by and large, what you have is a pommel in front of your right thigh, a pommel in front of your left thigh, and maybe two behind you quite close up our against your backside, or maybe a wall behind you that that keeps you firmly in place. How did these work? The idea is that as you gallop along and you see a target, ” Oh, I’m going to hit him! gallop gallop gallop” And you lean out and hit him, this is a big problem What happens next if you’re a cavalryman? How do you get back up onto the horse again? If you are riding bareback and you lean over like this and whack someone, then there goes my perishing center of gravity, goodbye everyone! You’re probably going to fall off the horse. You have to be able to force yourself up onto the horse somehow, the reigns aren’t going to help you. If you have a stirrup that’s firmly attached to a saddle, what you can do is push down on the stirrup on that side and get yourself back up on the horse. Or if you’re riding on a four pommeled saddle, you can lift your thigh on the opposite side from which you are falling, and lever yourself back up. If I’m leaning to my right, I’d bring up my left thigh against the pommel on that side and that levers me back up onto the horse. If I lean to the left, I’d bring up my right thigh and that brings me back up onto the horse with no need for stirrups And if I thrust with some weapon like a spear forwards, then the force that is translated to me in recoil along that forces me back against the rear pommels of the saddle which then keep me in place and I don’t go flying off the back of the horse. So I can lean to my right, lever myself back up. Lean to my left, lever myself back up, and thrust forwards and stay on the horse! So shock cavalry, armored cavalry with swords and spears and so forth that can go in against infantry and other cavalry and fight and stay on horseback is possible with this Celtic or Roman saddle. And that’s long before the stirrup. Now the Romans in later periods did in fact encounter enemies using stirrups and they didn’t straight away adopt the stirrup So maybe that’s because their system worked. They’d been using it for quite some while and they saw no particular reason to change it. The reconstructions of these saddles are based, so far as I know, on the first reconstruction which was by Peter Connolly and he came around to my university and lectured. He had his reconstruction saddle on a vaulting horse and he showed off by vaulting onto it landing in it. You’ve got to remember there were shorter horses so that was easier. And he then demonstrated how you can lean one way lever yourself back up, lean the other way, lever yourself back up And he had based his reconstruction on finds of the leather covers which have all their stitching and the stitching had been stretched this way and that and he looked at how it had been stitched and he worked out what shape the object used to be once when it was in use And there were also bronze or brass fittings of metal which go onto the pommels And from these clues, he constructed a wooden frame put his pommels and brass bits and leather over the top and he finally got it to work! And today there are lots of people who have made reconstructions of these pommel saddles, tried them out on horses, trained their horses to accept them, and them and at they work fine. Which of course then begs the question: Why did people start using stirrups? I don’t know, I genuinely don’t know, but I can say, that for most of the time that there have been domesticated horses, Cavalry has been a really stupid idea. Lindybeige!

100 thoughts on “Cavalry was a stupid idea

  1. retarded.
    the first horses that were used to ride on were ofcourse used for transport and it went from there…

  2. jes , hm-hahahaha !! Well this topic is much like ones bodkin arrow heads vs armour. They didn't stop making armour just because of longbows and crossbows. Instead, armour got heavier and more sophisticated as time went on. Same with the cavalry, if it were not to any use, then why would they bother raising them? Do you suggest that turks, mongols, poles, hungarians, french, russians and even native americans were blunt minded? I dont think so, did you consume some funny mushroom lately ?

  3. What about the hunns who trained to shoot from horses back with bow and arrow?
    I think that was pretty effective 😉😁

  4. Okay, I get your argument against cavalry. However, now hear me out, have you seen how dashing a Napoleonic Hussar uniform IS!? There's lace and buttons and fur for days, it's the 19th century military equivalent of the automotive expression 'sex on wheels'! Guaranteed chick magnet, and looks great in paintings and parades alike, as well as being a splendid way to dress up and die on a battlefield, enshrined in eternal glory atop your faithful steed. That offsets the cons right there!

  5. Using mounted cavalry in battle probably was seen as stupid and I imagine it developed completely by accident, like this:

    1: Mounted Messengers were used to relay information quickly over terrain unsuitable for chariots.

    2: To protect the messenger and ensure the information arrives at the desired location, mounted soldiers/bodyguards were added.

    3: Now that messengers had bodyguards, opponents were forced to create their own mounted units dedicated to protecting their own messengers and taking out the opponents.

    4: Gradual escalation leads to the official cavalry unit.

  6. I saw a horse (with rider mounted) sidestep a small pile of horse shit the other day, so I know where you are coming from regarding the being spooked by a crisp packet lol.

  7. I think war horses were ideally certain temprements of horses that were selected for their fearless nature. Imagine the calvalry of King George and Napoleon Bonaparte on the battlefield with cannon and howitzers going off, and the muskets and rifles. Those horses had to be pretty fearless to be useable.

  8. What in the world are you talking about Calvary was one of the most destructive force on the battlefield

  9. bet you dont know Sgt. reckless was a Korean war horse that delivered artillery shells to the batterys saving many men

  10. ya know… the walkers website says salt n vinegar was always green
    no…used to be blue, me the rest of the mandellas know it were blue

  11. I think the likely reaction is first see if you can just ride it from place to place and if that works then maybe try battle.

  12. I'm not sure if it's fair to talk about "fully armored" and "newly domesticated pony horses" in the same breath. Also correct me if I'm wrong but I thought prior to humans riding horses into battle there was a whole millenia or so of them being pulled I to battle a la chariot.

  13. he has a video where he just talks, no animation, film footage, graphs, and he still gets 1.1 mil views….not bad.

  14. Horse make sense to me. You can close distances really fast. But Elephants I don't get. Yes they scare people that haven't seen them but. Their massive and slow and not as strong as you think

  15. The "requires mankind to look after the [enter animal name here]" criterion doesn't work for many domestic species – ferrets might be an exception, and sheep. Horse definitely fail that criterion and would not be domesticated under its rules, nor would dogs or cats. Its arguable at least in Mexico, the US and Canada if cattle are really domesticate as well. Most beef cattle spend much of their lives as range cattle, who mostly look after themselves.

    Most horses spook as a practical joke. They get a laugh when the rider struggles or falls right off, and if the rider DOES fall off, of course the horse gets a "load off its feet" for a bit.

  16. This cannot be serious. Cavalry shaped early human warfare dramatically. Countless times were heavy horse charges into flanks detrimental armies. Adding horses to warfare completely changed the game.

  17. Go tell that to the Chingis Khan's Mongol horde. They might stop to chuckle before turning your head into a pincushion, from horseback in full gallop, and then be on their way to conquer the largest empire the world had ever seen. Hurray!

  18. I think you are forgetting something very important.

    Medieval warfare was more about raiding and slaughtering peasants and crippling supply lines.
    It wasn't as much knight-on-knight headbashing and gutstabbing as it was a bunch of people riding to the neighbor and burning down the farms. A lot like modern covert operations black ops soldiers assassinating and torturing random goatfarmers in a place without plumbing, for economical reasons nobody understands.

    Cavalry was always intended to be used to chase down fleeing, largely unarmed and defenseless people or to strafe the enemy's backside while they are busy fighting with the footmen.

    FYI, judging from all the stupid "mongolian" comments, I think you ought to have clarified the difference between cavalry and horse archers a bit more.
    Heavy armored cavalry was an exclusively western european idea, thought up by people who've never seen battles. Horse archers were basically motorbike riding snipers of the medieval age, almost unbeatable.

  19. Don't you thought Rohirrim looked cool with horses? The horsemen of Rohan were amazing. And the Glorious Charge is one of the best war charges with cavalry in all movies. Also horse are powerful animal and when someone get hit by them well its like being hit by a car. I know Horses are scared and I hate when horses die in war. Like The Last Samurai. lot of horses can be seen died. And in Return of the King lord of the rings, you can see lot of horses getting smashed by Fellbeasts and Mumakills. Tho horses maybe want to ride with its master. Maybe the horse want to help its master for its battle. Its fast, its strong and smart sometimes. Its stupid idea but sometime a nice thing to have. I mean in ww2 there were dogs running and sending messages. There is an amazing movie that's about a dog running through a terrible war battle and the dog shall send a message from the other side. The poor dog gets super dirty and almost hit by any bullets or canons. For me I was shock and so sad for that dog. In that moment I hate when humans forcing poor animals into war. Even Hitler had a dog with him on Rise of Evil. That was just horrible.

  20. If your an infantry man you can have manoeuvrability, spears, shields, lances piercing your skull, your lands conquered by mongols wait what…

  21. As a lifelong rider, I suspect the reason for the popularity of stirrups was that you can ride longer with less fatigue with them than without them, particularly at high rates of speed.

  22. You don't have to grip with your thighs when riding bareback, you not only tire yourself out pretty quickly, but if you're strong enough you just squeeze yourself up and off the horse's back.

  23. Calvary were the weapon for choice thru-out the world for centuries. One reason the Athenians got smoked in Sicily was because they had almost no calvary and their enemies had a whole boat load. Similarly the Mongolians dominated so much of Asia because they had calvary.

  24. But then again, war itself is a stupid idea. Aren't there better ways of solving disputes between countries and gaining resources than war?

  25. After you watched Game of Thrones S04E03, you made this video but Hollywood and reality are different. 🙂

  26. For such a usually smart commentator, your arguements are very lame. Mixing time periods & circumstances to create strawman arguements.

  27. I recon there was no cavalery until horse was not perfecty fited for just traveling or smth. Oh we got well behivaing horses lets go to battle on them more like this i think.

  28. >I see this video
    >I think about the mongolian archers on horses
    >Also me: Well what Lindybeige said is true but actually it's not

  29. I think the idea of using horses for war came much later than actual domestication of horses. They were used as a labor animal for a while, gradually bred bigger and stronger before somebody had an idea to ride one. At least that's how it appears to be. Once horse riding as a mode of transportation was well established – then people came up with the idea of cavalry. It sounds like a stupid idea only if you think they were trying to ride a wild horse.

  30. Re. the crisp packet colour reference, one of the most disturbing things which happened to me this month is I noticed that Aldi's own-brand versions of standard crisps have replicated the heretical use of blue for cheese and onion and green for salt and vinegar.

  31. Horses don't require man to survive. Let them go when they have access to water and grass and they thrive.

  32. Generally horse back riding was not popular for many large Civilizations (through Chariots see use) until they come into conflict with Nomadic Plains societies who incorporate horseback riding into their day to day life including transport, hunting and combat. Once they get a few good thrashings, suddenly they are rethinking things.

  33. You're a stupid idea. They probably used them for work first. Then they became bigger and more reliable. Then they decided to trample men with them. Then they chose to use them in actual battles. At what point was any of this stupid?

  34. The Assyrians were the first to use cavalry rather than chariots. They found limited success but it was a major landmark. Cavalry wasn’t truly effective until 2 major hurdles were overcome: the training of horses for warfare (mastered by the steppe nomads of Asia) and the invention of the stirrup so you can fight with both hands (bow/lance and shield)

  35. Cavalry charges are mostly Hollywood. You mention horses not wanting to step on people. I have read that they will not charge infantry formations.

    USA cavalry in the wild west era would ride to battle but dismount for fighting. Dragoons.

    All subject to corrections.

  36. It's so messed up how we just assume we are entitled to use horses, that they are here for us to use. We are even so ballsy to call free horses "wild" horses, as if they were somehow lesser in behaviour than a slave or "domesticated" horse.

  37. While it might have had difficulty. We know that Alexander used them very effectively. While Calvary might seem stupid history shows that a well trained group of horseman could run havoc on a group of soldiers.

  38. My guess is that stirrups were adopted because they were simple cheaper and easier to produce than a multi horned Romano Gaulish saddle.

  39. i think stirrups are crucial parts during fighting. they work together with pommels. imagine you sit on a stool with something supporting the lower back of your waist, you give the table in front of you a big push with your arm, and somehow you are still sitting upright on the stool? sure you can just grab the front edge of the stool, but what happens if you suddenly need to steer the horse, say, to avoid an enemy pike? only if you put your legs against the legs of the stool can you stay balanced while pushing the table. and both of your hands are free to deal damage and steer

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