History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

12 January 2007

The Well Dressed Horse

Bards, trappings, housings, and caparisons. All are names for the glorious coverings used to adorn the well-dressed destrier in western Europe, circa 12th and 13th century. Trappings at this time often covered the horse’s head, neck, shoulders, rump and flanks. They stopped at the horse’s hocks and knees, or extended all the way to the ground. Many covered the rider’s legs as well. A horse’s bards were often embroidered with heraldic arms and are usually depicted in brilliant colors with contrasting linings. Horses were adorned in bards for tournaments, jousts and war, and special state occasions. The luxuriant horse coverings served to identify the rider, display family pride, prowess on the battlefield, and great wealth. The functionality beyond identification of the knight is questionable . . . but hey, it’s fashion! To learn more about this topic and see some wonderful images, check out Madonna Contessa Haria Veltri degli Ansari's website.


Anonymous Mary Blayney said...

Fascinating tidbit and a great website -- it gives the impression that there were as many ways to outfit a horse as there were men riding them. Also I noticed one photo where a woman was riding a horse with a blanket like bard. I guess they wanted to show off too, or was it just for cermonial occasions...

Do you suppose they had a different set for battle and a more elaborate set for ceremony or showing off?

Not my era but fascinating. Thanks

6:13 PM  
Blogger Karin Tabke said...


8:35 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Mary, I've seen reproductions of illuminations where the noblemen were shown on horses with different trappings for each "sport" ...jousting, hunting, progress parades etc, the horses are shown with varying degrees of coverage and ornamental adornment. So, I think if they could afford a "wardrobe" for their horse, they dressed them for the occasion!

9:08 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I love barding! Some of the reenactors I know have made this kind of stuff (most notably the guys in Red Company, who do 13th century).

7:15 PM  
Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

I had lego knights and a lego castle when I was a child, and now I've got my own child it seemed like a good excuse to buy some for him. Sadly, they don't make those knights any more but I found some vintage ones on ebay with helmets that had pointed visors that moved up and down, plumes (for the top of the helmet) and barding (for the horses). I got really, really obsessed with bidding for the ones with moveable visors and barding and at last my persistence was rewarded and I am, sorry, my son, of course, ;-) is now the proud possessor of some lego horses with barding and knights dressed to match.

2:29 PM  

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