The Practice of Barding Horses in the History of Armouring

In history, horses were also provided with protection against enemies’ weapons. “By the [mid-fifteenth century], armorers had devised a near-complete set of armour to protect the steed in battle. Together these formed a bard”. Although it was mostly developed in the European Middle Ages, such a body armour for war horses had been already well known in antiquity. It was either made of the hardened leather cover, or of  chainmail and riveted metal plates, or larger steel plates composed of various parts.

Among the most important elements of the barding is the chanfron, designed to protect the horse’s head from the ears to the nostrils, sometimes including hinged cheek plates. “Flanges often covered the steed’s eyes. [There were also] hinged extensions to cover the [horse’s] jowls” (“Barding” 2021). Other essential elements included the criniere (crinet), a set of segmented plates protecting the horse’s neck, the peytral protecting chest, and finally the croupiere (crupper) protecting the horse’s hind quarters with a part called the tail-guard and sides around to the saddle. The legs were not covered with any armour for the horse’s easy movement.

The barding equipment equally includes the so-called “flanchards, used to protect the flank, 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 or in some cases cuir bouilli armour (which is boiled or treated leather sealed with beeswax or the like). They sometimes had openings designed to allow the rider to use spurs” (“Barding” 2021).

A set of armour with a criniere (protecting neck), peytral (protecting chest) and the croupiere (protecting hind quarters). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. Photo by David Monniaux (2005). CC BY-SA 3.0. Colours intensified. Photo source: “Barding” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

It happened that the barding was enriched with decorative features, typical of chanfrons, such as “a rondel with a small spike [between the horse’s eyes or horns an other symbolic objects surmounting the steed’s heads]. Barding was often used in conjunction with cloth covers known as caparisons. These [colourful and richly decorated textile covers sometimes shielded] the entire horse from nose to tail and extended to the ground” (“Barding” 2021).

Featured image: This fifteenth-century depiction of a tournament shows fully caparisoned horses. René d’Anjou Livre des tournois France Provence XVe siècle. Image attributed to Barthélémy d’Eyck (1460). Public domain. Colours intensified. Photo source: “Barding” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.


“Barding” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed on 18th February, 2021].

PWN (2007). Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, p. 451. Kubalska-Sulkiewicz K., Bielska-Łach M., Manteuffel-Szarota A. eds. Wydanie piąte. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

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