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Horse-Barding-art - 6/29/09


"Introduction to Horse Barding" by Lady Lyonet Lamoureux.


NOTE: See also the files: Int-Equestran-art, horses-msg, Horse-n-t-MA-art, horses-bib, horses-lnks, p-horses-bib, saddles-msg, Stirrups-Hist-art, warhorse-size-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article is part of a series of articles originally written for "The Avantgarde", the newsletter for the Principality of Avacal in the Kingdom of An Tir.


All the rules quoted here are based on the "An Tir Book of the Horse", which is the handbook of equestrian rules for the Kingdom of An Tir. Much of it is common in other kingdoms, but you should check your local rules and regulations before starting any equestrian activities.


Introduction to Horse Barding

by Lady Lyonet Lamoureux.


Greetings once again to the Populace of Avacal.


In honour of the Avangarde's theme of heraldry this month, I have decided to skip ahead and touch on the subject of barding, the most colourful and often the most flavourful part of an equestrian event.


Spectators are the best way to attract new people to an activity.  When people see something that interests them, they're more likely to get involved.  Hearing about something that happened will often elicit a response of "Equestrian? Cool, I'll have to check that out sometime", and then it's quickly forgotten.  Wouldn't you rather have that person be able to get involved right away?  THAT will get them hooked.  Participation is the key to the survival of an SCA activity and Avacal's equestrian is no exception.  In fact, it is even more so with the activity being in its infancy.


But how to get people out to the field?  Due to the nature and space requirements of the activity, tourneys will often be held far from the beaten path, or even off site.  How to get the people to make that trek out to see you?  Horses and riders performing routines in competition is interesting for horse enthusiasts and first timers, but you likely won't get more than that for spectators.  


The answer is in words like; Fun, Schtick and Flash.  Fun and schtick are the primary responsibility of the event planners and individuals can add to it with their own performance, attitude and flourishes.  The one we are going to look at today is flash.  


People are drawn to colour and shine.  When that colour and shine is also period, now that's impressive.  Have you ever been stopped short by a beaded Elizabethan gown?  How about a velvet circle cloak trimmed in fur or an engraved brass gorget?  Well made garb always strikes a cord with viewers.


As an equestrian you have the same chance to impress, but you also have the opportunity to go one step further.  Garb your horse as well.  Since man and horse first became partners, man has added flash to their mounts, from colourful animal pelts as oversized saddle blankets in ancient Rome and Greece to the flowing cloth and jewels seen in the 16th century and later, to impress wealth, station or just for fun.


Barding can be elaborate or basic.  It can be expensive to make, but it need not be. There were many time periods where the barding horses wore was quite simple. Barding can also give you opportunity to touch base with the A&S crowd and get them involved as well.  


What is barding?  Well simply put it is armour and clothes for horses.  If you think of the saddle and bridle as the underwear, barding is the cocktail dress or the three piece suit.  Here are some terms describing different types of armour barding;


Champron (chanfron, chamfrein, shaffron):  Protection for the horse's face.  Originally crafted from boiled leather, it was crafted from metal beginning in the twelfth century and often had a decorative rondel with a small spike in the center of the front plate, which originated in ancient Greece, but became common once metal replaced leather. The basic design remained unchanged throughout the middle ages.  It extended from ears to muzzle.  Flanges covering the eyes and hinged extensions to protect the cheeks were in use mostly for jousting tournaments. It was often highly decorated with elaborate engraving.


A set of armour clearly showing a criniere (protecting neck), peytral (protecting chest) and the croupiere (protecting hind quarters).  Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.Criniere (manefaire, crinet):  Set of plates to protect the neck.  In full barding it consists of two sections of articulated plates (lamŽs) that pivot on rivets. One set covers the upper side of the neck (mane) and the other covers the lower side (throat & neck). They are attached to the peytral and the champron.  Light barding used only the upper lames. Three straps held the criniere in place around the neck.  It is assumed that thin metal (22 gauge) was used for these plates. Chainmail was often added by wrapping it about the horse's neck for extra protection.


Croupiere (crupiere bacul, crupper):  Protected the horse's hind quarters. It was made from any combination of leather, chain or plate, often dependant on the strength of the horse and the anticipated tactics, for example; battles requiring quick movement and/or agile maneuvers would require lighter armour.


Flanchard: Used to protect the flank.  They were attached to the side of the saddle, then around the front or rear of the horse and back to the saddle again. These appear to have been metal plates riveted to leather.  They sometimes had openings designed to allow the rider to use spurs.


Peytral: Protection for the chest. It often extended as far back as the saddle.  It was commonly made from the same materials and under the same parameters as the croupiere.


Other pieces:  Cutting the reins was an effective way to disable the knight's control of his mount, making him less effective in battle.  As a result, another common form of barding was protection for the reins, often fabricated as metal plates riveted to the leather rein, or even chainmail linked around them.


            In addition to armour horses were often embellished with cloth drapes called caparisons.  These coverings would sometimes cover the entire horse from nose to tail and extend to the ground.   They also often covered on parts of the horse.  It is unclear from period illustrations how much metal defensive covering was used in conjunction. These textile covers may also be called barding.


There are essentially 4 types of barding or caparaisons other than armour:  Full, Open, Saddle Blanket and Other.  Let us visit these types.

Closed Type:  This type of caparaison was most popular from the mid 1200s to the 1400s in western and central Europe, and continued to be used throughout the middle ages.  These coverings would cover the chest and hind quarters of the horse and would often be long enough to brush the ground. Added hoods covering head and neck were also used.   These drapes, while not very practical for battle, were more popular for tournament and processions. The colours and patterns used commonly reflected the knights' heraldry or the arms and colours of their liege.


These bards require the most fabric and are quite impressive, yet, they are actually rather simple to make.  You can apply basic cloak-making principles to good effect.  The addition of buckles to attach to existing loops and tabs on your saddle, breast plate, etc. makes them simple to equip as well.  


Remember to measure the horse and allow extra cloth so the horse can move and measure for height to be sure the animal won't trip on them.  Keep in mind the wear and tear these bards will take when selecting fabric.  


Concern should also be paid to the well being of the horse.  Heavy wool fabrics and hot summer days are not a good combination.  Also worth noting is the fact that some horses can also have allergies to certain fabrics.  Always test them before buying.


Open Type:  This type of bard is typically a cover for the chest and/or hind quarters of the horse, and does not provide complete cover of the particular area.  There is much debate as to the practicality of these trappings, but there is no doubt that most paintings show them to be highly decorated.  


There are many different designs for open bards.   Research into your particular time period and the nationality of your persona will provide guidelines to the type of open bards you may want to use.  Paintings are one great source for research, as texts did not often elaborate upon a horse's trappings, such as the photo to the right.


Crafting open bards is more difficult than the closed bards above.  The same considerations must be made regarding fabric, lining and visual appeal, however, the proper sizing is far more important.  Special care must be taken when measuring your horse for open bards to ensure that the cloth hangs correctly.  You also need to be sure that the various straps and such do not rub or pinch your horse or impede his movement.


Don't hold back with this type of covering either.  Embroidery, beads, jewelsÉanything goes!


Saddle Blanket Type:  This type describes the barding in itself.  Saddle blanket type is the use of elaborate saddle blankets such as the one pictured here.  They were crafted to be long on the sides, extend farther back on the horse, or both.  Fanciful edging was common as was trim.  Unlike closed or open bards, saddle blankets were often designed to match clothing or the colouration of the horse more often than being matched to heraldry.  Elaborate blankets were often used in combination with closed or open bards.


Saddle Blanket Type blankets are by far the easiest form of caparaisons to craft.  You can start with the dimensions of your existing saddle blanket or pad and craft a drape to place between it and the saddle.  Alternately, you could craft one with a saddle pad built in, or just make an extension to attach to your existing saddle pad.  If you are crafting one that will rest directly upon the horse, remember to take care in selecting your fabrics.

Other Barding:  The last type is the category of Other.  This category includes all forms of equine embellishment not previously discussed, including no barding at all.  


For example:

Some hussars (Polish, Hungarian, etc. cavalry) would paint their mounts from their hooves up to their chests.


Middle Eastern cultures included one very large tassel tied to the throat of the horse, it is believed, to denote rank.  It is also common to see horses from these cultures with a collection of cords knotted and tasseled draped over their hind quarters.


Use of metal ornaments, jewels and elaborate embroidery was a common way for horse owners to show off their wealth.  If they could afford to use such flamboyance to adorn their horses, they were rich men indeed.


Much of this information was found online.  Significant sources are given credit below.  I have also included a list of websites that anyone interested in barding should check out.  These sites also include bibliographies and additional reading for those who want in depth research.


The essential element to remember is to have fun.  Equestrian should be enjoyable for both you and your horse.  And if you are having fun, others will want to have fun too.



- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunsthistorisches_Museum" title="Kunsthistorisches Museum">Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

- Miniature from an Address by the town of Prato to Robert of Anjou, Italy, c.1335-1340, British Museum

- Saint George and the Dragon by Freidrich Herlin, c.1460

- Detail from The Journey of the Maji, by Gentile da Fabriano, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

- Polish Winged Hussar detail, Wedding Procession of Constance of Austria and Sigimund III into Cracow. The Stockholm Roll after 1605


Credit to

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barding), (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horses_in_the_Middle_Ages),

Madonna Contessa Ilaria Veltri degli Ansari

Viscountess Kassandra Tenebrosa


Websites of Note:

- http://ilaria.veltri.tripod.com/overviewbards.html

- http://ilaria.veltri.tripod.com/makingbards.html

- http://www.havenonline.com/moas/northstar/vol1no1/HorseCostume.htm


Copyright 2007 by Lya Lamoureux. <lyalamoureux at gmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org