The Medieval Warhorse & A Giveaway

The Medieval Warhorse & A Giveaway

By Debbie Lynne Costello

Thank you, Miralee for having me on your blog! I’m looking forward to chatting with your followers. I’m excited to be celebrating the new release of Sword of the Matchmaker. I’ll be giving away choice of my books including my new release on this blog and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway, too!

Because of my love of horses I thought I’d talk about the destrier, the medieval warhorse. It wasn’t an actual breed of horse, but a type of horse with certain characteristics and abilities. There seems to be some disagreements on what exactly those characteristics were—especially when talking size. You may have read they were massive animals 20-24 hands—taller than any draft horse today. But the more research I did the more I questioned if these horses were really that tall. I agree that they were as muscular as a large draft horse. They’d need to be to carry a full grown man with his one hundred pounds of armor as well as the armor the horse wore himself.

The Shire horse is considered one of the largest horses alive today.

Picture by: By Just chaos – originally posted to Flickr as Shire, CC BY 2.0,


This Shire carries the markings of the brown and white Clydesdale.

By Anthony Appleyard at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

But if one thinks about it, these men were literally carrying an extra 100 pounds. They would have to be able to lift their leg high enough to put in the stirrup and then hoist themselves and their extra weight up and into the saddle. And if they were to fall off in battle can you imagine trying to remount your 24 hand horse?  For those not familiar with horse lingo, a hand is equivalent to 4”.

By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr,

I have a 16 hand horse and my knee is nearly to my chin when I mount him and I am not short at 5’7”. Not only does the mounting of the horse cause doubt but also the agility of the horse. The larger breeds are not as quick and agile. The animals needed to be supple and move swiftly—which is not one of the characteristics of the large draft horse.

As you can see this guy is a pretty good size boy. Add 4 to 8 hands and oh my goodness!

So for that reason I tend to believe the horse was not a giant. I do believe he had a good stocky build like a Friesian or a Lipizzaner. These horses were taught how to move strictly by leg pressure and leg movement of its rider. The mounted knight needed both his hands to wield his sword and hold his shield, leaving no hands for guiding the horse with reins.

They were a highly intelligent horse trained to literally fight along with their rider. They were usually a stallion and a weapon for their rider. Stallions have a natural aggression and this bellicosity was harnessed in the heat of battle. The horses fought one another—kicking and biting. The animals were also taught to trample men on the ground. They were a fighting machine.

The Lipizzan horse in show

By NJR ZA – Own work, GFDL,
By Machoxx, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In the first book of the Winds of Change Series, Sword of Forgiveness, the hero Royce uses his trained destrier to protect his lady by whistling to the horse. It may seem far fetched but these horses really did rear up and fight the enemy.

There is one thing that most agree upon in the history of the destrier warhorse and that is it was the most expensive horse one could buy. A little before the Winds of Change time period the value of this animal had risen drastically. The price of a normal courser (a cavalry horse, much cheaper and not as well trained) was 5 to 12 livres (Parisian pounds) the price of a destrier varied between 20 to 300 livres.


By B0rder from nl, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Larissa Allen – Contact us/Photo submission, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Destriers were used not only for battles but were used for tournaments, also. Not every knight could afford a destrier. One had to be wealthy to afford such a horse, or have a generous and wealthy family member. So that left most of the knights riding the less expensive courser into battle for what good was a knight if he did not have a mount to ride into battle?







I’m giving away a copy of Sword of the Matchmaker (if you have purchased the book you can choose one of my other books). Leave a comment or answer one of the questions I’ve asked or ask me a question to be entered.

Penelope Beatty made up her mind long ago she would live and die a Scottish warrior not a wife. But when nearly all her clan is killed and she is betrayed, she loathes doing the unthinkable, but must seek the help of an Englishman who owed her father’s his life.

Thomas Godfrey never married, but when a Scottish warrior lass shows up needing his aid, he finds her both annoying and irresistible. But the last thing he wants is to marry a woman who fights alongside him. If he was going to marry—which he isn’t—it would be to a soft, submissive woman. But when the Lady Brithwin meets the Scottish lass, she’s sure she’s found the perfect match for Thomas and nothing is going to stop her from seeing a summer wedding.


Don’t forget to enter in the rafflecopter, too! There will be lots of ways to earn points. I’ll be giving away a kindle fire with Sword of the Matchmaker, $15 Amazon gift card and much more!  You can purchase my book HERE


Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s Director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland Sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband take pleasure in camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.

Debbie’s Website 
Debbie’s Blog
History Blog

Media links: Costello/e/B00TRT6RYS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1494110062&sr=8-2


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25 thoughts on “The Medieval Warhorse & A Giveaway

  1. This was such an interesting read! Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your knowledge. My boys and I have been blessed to have an opportunity to take riding lessons for a few weeks at a local stable thanks to a support group for victims of domestic violence. I cannot even imagine trying to mount a 24 hand horse standing calmly in a stable, let alone in the midst of battle! I am not sure which quesrions we are supposed to answer, so I will ask one. Do both books in this series take olace in the same time period?

    1. Hey Carrie, Thanks for stopping by and for your interest in my books. YES! Both of the stories take place in the same time period. The span is actually less than a year. And the sequel is also set at this time. There is much going on in the kingdom and the sequel will touch on the turmoil of the time period. This being a novella I didn’t put that into the story. Thanks for asking a great question!

  2. Hi Debbie, I remember going to visit Shires at a place called Shireland when i was little and I got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales a couple of times and I loved every bit of those memories.
    I had heard that they used some kind of lift to get the knights on their horses but that would stink to fall off during battle and I read somewhere once where knights on the big drafts horses were in a battle with Bedouins on little Arab’s and the Bedouins won because their horses were smaller and quicker.
    Very neat story on horses.

    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

    1. Hey Jennifer. Thanks for coming by! I love history and it is so interesting. It seems that the more we learn about history the more we realize we don’t know. My hubby and I went to see the Clydesdale also, but at a different location. Beautiful horses. I’d love to go back!

    2. Hi
      Sorry to muscle in. From what I’ve heard the Knights being lefted onto horses is a myth. It was featured in the 1940s version of Henry V starring Laurence Olivier, but its not accurate. Knights had to learn to mount the usual way in full armour.

      The only time any kind of lift would have been used was for ridiculously elaborate and decorative jousting armour, which was not used in normal battles.

      1. I read it in a horse magazine when I was a kid so I’m holding onto it for now.

  3. I never realized that the horses actually fought, too. That is really interesting.

  4. Hey Debbie Lynne! I so enjoyed this fascinating post! The last time I rode a horse was when in I lived in Colorado Springs, CO in 2007. Your horses are so beautiful!

  5. Since Rafflecopter won’t come up, if you leave your email I can enter you manually into the rafflecopter. So be sure to leave it. And if you share this link on FB or tweet let me know for another entry! Good luck!

  6. Interesting observations Debbie. I have heard before about warhorses being aggressive, which makes a lot of sense I was just thinking the other day about how unrealistic it was when movies and TV shows have people riding on warhorses all the time, even for a quite lope in the country, They were NOT suitable for day to day riding, which is why they had different types of horse for that.

    Also, I have heard (at Medieval encampments and such) that warhorses were not normally made to move faster then a canter. They did not gallop warhorses, like you see in movies, because in battle, it was important for knight to charge in a single, unbroken line moving at the same pace.

    It was said that the original Medieval Warhorses (they were different to modern shires), may have become extinct. I hope that’s not true.

    1. I read the same thing about the Shires being extinct. I thought the same thing. We keep learning more and more as technology increases and more is understood. I’ve read that they usually had 3 different types of horses. But keep in mind a horse was an expensive purchase! Not everyone could afford more than one horse and that was why many did not ride Destriers. So some probably did take their war horse for everyday rides. They had no choice. I think it is much like today. You can’t put everyone from every country, state, county, city, or even street in the same box. There are always things that influence our situations.

  7. Fascinating blog! I agree with you, I don’t think the knights rode extremely tall horses. Somewhere around 17 hands would be the max I would think. I can’t imagine trying to get on a horse wearing full body armor!

  8. I have always thought that Horses were such beautiful graceful creatures! Thanks for the interesting post in the giveaway.

  9. Taking the tour, seeing what everyone has to say about your book Debbie Lynne !
    Also means I get to visit some of my favorite authors and have some fun !!! Loving
    the book ! I have seen huge horses stand still in stables, ones that towered over me
    even as an adult !!!
    Linda Marie Finn

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