Medieval combat largely revolved around mounted engagements, with cavalry playing a crucial role in the majority of battles. Keeping horses alive and in good condition was therefore imperative to success, with arrows, spears and swords often targeting the animal over the rider due to the knight’s extensive armour.
As such, armour for horses (known as barding) became increasingly prevalent through the 14th and 15th centuries and grew in both stature and complexity until horses were equipped with a variety of battle gear.
Armour plates included: a champron – a type of helmet worn to protect the horse’s head; a crinière, which was a series of armour plates that encircled the animal’s neck; and a breastplate called a peytral. It would also have a pair of flanchards, which were two armoured panels that sat either side of the knight’s saddle as well as a croupiere – a large plate or chain dome that shielded the horse’s hindquarters.
Combined, these pieces of armour left very little of the horse’s body exposed, allowing it to charge through volleys of arrows without being compromised. It was only vulnerable to well-placed spear or sword incisions, which were incredibly difficult to achieve if you were being charged down at speed!