A Destrier was a war horse which were used by Knights in the Middle Ages. It was brought to England by William the Conqueror following his victoy at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
A horse played an extremely important part in the life of a knight. A knight would own several horses which were built for different duties. These knights horses ranged in various sizes starting with a palfrey, or an ambler for general travelling purposes. Bigger and stronger horses were required as warhorses. The Courser was the most sought after and expensive warhorse, owned by the most wealthy knights. The more common warhorses were like modern hunters, known in the Middle Ages as a Destrier.
Description of a Destrier
The Destrier war horse had a dense rounded body with a broad back, strong loins, powerful hind-quarters, and long legs with dense bones. The colors of a destrier ranged from black, brown, bay, or gray. It sometimes had long silky hair (often white) on the lower parts of its legs. It was a massive animal measuring in excess of 24 hands tall.
Destrier War Horse
The Destrier was a type of war horse specially trained for use in battle or individual combat at jousting tournaments. A destrier war horse needed the strength and stamina to carry both a knight and his heavy armor into battle during the Middle Ages. The Destrier was also trained to become a battle horse - able to inflict injury on the enemy. A destrier war horse had to undergo significant training. It was trained to:
- Carry a knight and respond to a Knight's commands from leg pressure rather than reins. A knight needed his hands to weald his weapons and hold his shield
- A war horse was trained to trample the bodies of fallen enemies
- The massive war-horse was trained to bite and kick on command
Destrier Horse Armor - Barding
Destrier war horses were protected by rigid pieces of plate armor made of both of leather and steel. Horse armor was called 'barding'. A full dressed Destrier would be armored on the head, neck, body and chest. The rear of the war horse would be covered with a padded cloth. Stirrups were added later. The head armor was often highly decorated and spike horns were added to the mask armor thus resembling the look of a legendary unicorn. An ornamented cloth covering for a war horse was called a trapper.
Original Destrier breed is now extinct
The original destrier breed of horse is now extinct, but recently horses have been bred from Clydesdales and Quarterhorses to reproduce a type similar to the Destrier. They are the largest breed of horse, standing from 20 to 24 hands tall, with a thicker build than Clydesdales with less fur.
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