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Basic Information

Barding is armour designed to protect a mount and thus, historically, almost always horse armour (although there are existing suits of what might as well be called "elephant barding"). Given that armour for humans was not all that widespread, barding is not at all common stuff, and its rarity is further increased by the fact that a horse carrying an armed and armoured rider is pretty heavily loaded already and is likely to struggle under the added weight (and heat) of a suit of armour of its own. Only the heaviest of heavy cavalry fitted this to their mounts historically - although there was always the option of partial sets - but when fitted, it did provide the expensive and fragile horse a valuable degree of protection. Part of the appeal of the destrier class of horses was their ability to move and fight whilst barded.

A set of barding could be made of almost anything - the names given in the list below treat it as being made of plate armour, but boiled leather was also common historically, and classical cataphracts were also known to protect their mounts with barding of mail, lamellar or scale armour. Cloth was also used extensively, either as protection, or as a cover.

An indicative list of bardings would include:

  • Chamfron: Protected the horse's head - a sort of "horse helmet".
  • Crinnet: Protected the horse's neck.
  • Peytral: A form of breastplate for the horse.
  • Flanchard: Flank protection, often attaching to the saddle.
  • Crupper: Armour for the horse's hindquarters.
  • Caparison: A cloth cover, possibly stretching as far as the ground and incorporating a hood, covering the entire horse. This would also seem to be a logical name for the classical "horse hauberks" of mail, scale and the like. May also be called a trapper.

Caparisons in particular might well be done in the owner's armorial colours and/or display his coat of arms. Note that, with the possible exception of a full length caparison, there is nothing in the way of leg protection - not least because it would intefere with the horse's movement too much (and very few horses would stand for having things tied to their legs).

Some degree of barding can still be seen on horses ridden by modern day police - especially the chamfron - so it appears that even horses can draw riot armour. Historically, barding, especially flanchards, could also be fitted when hunting: boar in particular have a tendency to try to eviscerate horses with their tusks if given the chance.

Historically very similar kit could also be issued to dogs, especially for boar hunting but potentially for other uses as well - modern police and military support dogs are sometimes issued ballistic vests for their protection in combat and/or protective boots for operations in sharp, hot or contaminated terrain. The most famous form of dog armour is probably the heavy, spiked collar designed to protect them from neck-bites from other dogs.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Barding, or an armourer who specialises in barding, might be a logical source of armour for a character of roughly horse size - it's not hard to imagine an ogre (for example) wearing a mail caparison as a hauberk with only limited modifications.
  • This stuff will not be cheap, nor useful for most forms of PC activity, given that a horse is going to tire, founder and gall if ridden too fast or too far in it.
  • Horses need to be trained to barding - trying to fit it to a horse that isn't used to it could invite serious injury.
  • Failing an appropriate skill roll when fitting it could also injure the horse, no matter how accustomed it is to wearing armour.
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