The Armored Horse in Europe, 1480–1620

Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. LaRocca, and Dirk H. Breiding (2005)

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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (15)
The Armored Horse in Europe, 1480–1620

At its greatest point of development, from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, complete horse armor consisted of a series of custom-made steel plates, shaped to afford the horse maximum protection while still allowing for freedom of movement. The principal parts of a full horse armor are: the chanfron to protect the horse's head; the crinet, which extends from the top of the chanfron down the crest and neck to the withers; the peytral, which covers the horse's breast and shoulders; the flanchards, which guard the rib and abdomen areas below the sides of the saddle; and the crupper, which protects the rump, thighs, and hindquarters. The exhibition includes important examples of each part, so that both the development of the various forms and styles of decoration can be compared firsthand.

The horse was an integral part of medieval and Renaissance culture, not only as a beast of burden but also as a sign of rank and status. For the nobility, horsemanship was an essential skill, both socially and militarily. Horses played a pivotal role in warfare for several centuries and often wore armor as elaborate and expensive as that of their riders.