Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kluszyn or Klushino AD 1610

Little change of time and subject - Polish winged hussars against the Western and Muscovite armies during the early summer of 1610. This was the most glorious Polish Commonwealth victory ever accomplished against the Muscovy ( Tsar(emperor) ruled State of Muscovy later to be named Russia ).

In my opinion (and many others) from the position of the cavalryman and cavalry historian the most interesting part here was the apparent necessity to charge and destroy wooden fences separating the opposing armies, the destroying being done by the horses themselves, using their hooves and breasts/chests.

Pleas note that I am not going to write the story of this battle - Wikipedia has the intro to this Polish-Muscovite war that is not too bad and an entry on the battle itself but numbers are wrong etc, yet it is not my desire to write about the numbers but about the cavalrymen and their horses

Some say there was a redoubt between the armies - actually during the battle of Klushino there was no Swedish-Muscovite redoubt - this 17th century map of the battlefield gives the best impression how this theatrum might have looked
As you can see from this map the problem facing the Polish army (and the winged hussars) had to do with the wooden fence or line of wooden fences smack in the middle of the field between the two armies, and these fences actually prevented the planned surprise that had been attempted by the early morning Polish attack.

There were gaps within this line of fences (10-15meters) and according to numerous relations about the battle some of the Polish hussars had to use their horses' breasts to break these fences in order to get to the enemy behind them.
Apparently the fences on the left wing of Muscovite side - Polish right wing - were smaller and with more gaps in-between or were torn down early in the battle as the chroniclers did not write about them, although they are visible on the map and in this painting by a Polish painter Boguszewicz who painted this canvas at the order of the m,ain actor of this battle, Stanislaw Zolkiewski.
The Swedish pike-and-musket infantry stood behind these fences (with their cavalry behind them) on the Muscovite right wing while masses (thousands) of Muscovite infantry and Muscovite cavalry stood on the Muscovite army left wing (Polish right wing).
Hussars charged these western infantry regiments via the fences, not once but at least 3 times, and then Polish haiduks (Hungarian-style Polish infantry) with 2 small falconets (it happened to have been the entire artillery of the Polish army) came and broke down the wooden fences and reduced the fighting spirit of the Westerner infantry mercenaries causing them to move rather quickly (not to say they 'run like frightened rabbits') toward their camp, although still leaving their cavalry in the field.

Therefore, Polish hetman (field marshal) Zolkiewski had to resolve this dangerous problem by clearing the Western cavalry off of the field and destroying the right wing of the Muscovite army. Consequently the Western cavalry regiments became objects of another great cavalry charge. At first, our Polish hussar banners (companies) carried out the frontal attack on the Swedish-English-Flemish reiter and arquebusier cavalry regiments, in their pursuit to destroy the remainder of the Muscovite army's right wing. The hussars' frontal charges were not successful (perhaps the great disparity of numbers and densisty of the Western cavalry formations) until the Muscovite infantry protecting their (Western cavalry) left flank had been removed (see below) and then another, final charge was made that was carried in a form of a pincer movement - at the front and at the left flank of the enemy cavalry, by some 1200-1400 hussars (1/4 of the entire Polish army on the battlefield), some with lances, the rest with tucks (pantzerstrecher, 'Turkish spear' or koncerz) and pallashes. They charged these Westerners an this time were successful. This final hussar charge against their western opponents broke the cohesive formations of the enemy and thus hussars were able to overrun the Western cavalry and destroyed its fighting ability for the remainder of the battle.

Following behind and finally passing over their heavy cavalry's tired horses the several banners of Polish lighter cavalry went after the Muscovite westerners in their pursuit for glory and loot.

On their right wing our Poles, charging repetitiously - as many as 8-9 times (but whether they charged only infantry or both the infantry and cavalry is unknown from the sources)- hussars' choragwie (companies) could not break the Muscovite infantry due to their numerical strength, density and truly amazing 'stubbornness' until several cornets of German Muscovite reiters ( Baltic German units in Muscovite service since mid 1500s) attempted to charge the already tired Poles (ridding their tired horses). These brave but rather foolish Germans, however, were beaten back and completely routed in turn, and ridding in panic, back to the safety of their camp, these German-Muscovite reiters smashed into their own Muscovite infantry regiments, causing them to be disrupted. This disruption was big enough that when our Polish lancers, charging for the 10th time and hot on the Germans' backs, closed in with the Muscovite infantry the infantrymen broke ranks and fled ( classical example of successful cavalry charge against otherwise unbreakable infantry ). Thus exploring this sudden opening our pursuing hussars rode inside the walled (kobylice protected) Russian camp and broke the very will to fight of this many times more numerous Russian army whose escaping infantrymen, eager to put plenty of space between themselves and then mercilessly pursing Polish lancers, broke down the kobylice protections in their own camp's rear and fled into the surrounding woods, in search of safety and respite.

Finally, the previously mentioned Swedish mercenary infantry retreated from the field to their camp in search of refugium and found itself to be quite alone, for their cavalry was defeated and escaped into the woods and fields desirous to save their heads; and it was at this moment when the hussar rota (company) of Andrzej Firlej ( their towarzysze and pacholiks still armed with their lances unbroken ) attacked this mercenary camp. With their charge they first broke through the kobylice barrier surrounding the Swedish camp and then in a direct, frontal charge broke through the Swedish pikemen formation - an incredible feat of military skill and prowess displayed by these horsemen and their horses.

Thus these mentioned numerous charges had more to do with the strategy of hetman Zolkiewski - and he actually wrote about this in his relation in his work titled
"The Beginning and Progress of the Muscovy War."- who wanted to keep constant pressure on the very numerous and very resilient Muscovites, and to create impression that his army was more numerical than actually presented on the battlefield. This stratagem worked very well and resulted in a stunning victory for small army against the giant Muscovite_Western behemoth.
It was the skill, the horsemanship, bravery, and superior morale of Polish lancers, endurance and patient training of their horses, and finally the tactics and strategy of the Polish commander, Stanislaw Zolkiewski that carried the day into history books :)
hope you will enjoy this little post
more to follow
many thanks to Radek :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


 Ushta Te,

   I have read this interesting article on Buskashi and Polo written by dr Pita Kelekna, anthropologist and author of the forthcoming book 'The Horse in Human History.'
In the article, which is a part of series of articles on the horse theme & the forthcoming book  presented as a series of blog entries (quite clever and nicely introducing her book to the wider world), dr Pita writes about  the two other most ancient equestrian games Buzkashi and polo, since the first and foremost horse 'games' were obviously: horse racing, horse breaking, target shooting from horseback, and communal hunting.
Mounted warfare was the culminating and glorious end-result of all these games.

Today I just wanted to post some information about the ancient history of the Iranian game of Polo.

Actually, 'Gu-u-Chogan' is the Iranian name for Polo, while name 'polo' is a Tibetan name for a polo ball made from a willow root. 'Gu' means a ball and 'Chogan' means a stick, so it is a game of ball and stick played while ridding a horse  that after all is a player too :)
Polo is as Iranian (whether Persian o North-Iranian - Scythian and Sarmatian - is unknown) as a Persian carpet, or a Kantus (Median cloak that had become nomad attire for thousands of years, and in the 16th century ended up in Poland as a part of national costume known as Kontusz)) or a meydan (polo field).

Actually, the first accounts of the existence of chogan or the stick and ball game came from the time of Achaemenid Shah (king) Darius (Darayavaush) the Great (522- 486 B.C.).
And 2 centuries later his namesake & of the same dynasty, Darius III  sent Alexander of Macedon a polo mallet (chogan) and a ball (gu) with an invitation to play polo match instead of fighting battles. As we have learned in 5th grade (at least in the Polish elementary schools' history class) this particular handsome & chivalrous  invitation did not work and Alexander took his lance and galloped on ( a Thracian, Tessalian or Nissean stallion Bucephallas, as seen in this image from the Naples Museum in Italy) across the Achamenid Empire and eventually did conquer the whole Achaemenid world and beyond. As result the Greeks and Hellenic culture spread as far east as northern India and Afghanistan while eastern (Buddhism etc) influences filtered west into the Hellenic thought and culture.
I will write some day on Eummenes of Bactria, Ghandara, Indo-Sakas, Kushans and other equestrian rulers of that part of the ancient world.

Ad rem, there are other numerous mentions of the chogan/polo in the ancient Sassanian Persia, starting with the reign of Ardeshir, the first of Sassanian kings.
The slayer of Romans and builder of cities shah Shapur I (r. AD 226–241 and I will write about him soon, there are images of him ridding his stallions, he was a dashing warrior) when a young boy, he  was tested whether he was the real son of the already mentioned king Ardashir by use of his daring and courage during a game of polo.
Shah Shapur II (AD 309 to 379), another Sassanian ruler of Persia, learned to play the game of polo at the age of seven.
Finally, at the Sassanian courts the noble women played polo in the 'meydan' as well. The most famous of these aristocratic women was beautiful princes Shireen who played many a prince.
Also, the ancient Pehlevi text and later Persian chronicler al-Tabari confirm that when the future hunter-king Bahram V Gur( r.421–438)
was growing up he received three tutors in the arts of: reading, hunting, and polo along with skills of weapons.

So going forward just a little bit we end up with the most masterful Persian epic Shahnameh that was composed in the late 10th century.  The native Persian court poet Ferdowsi wrote into the Shahnameh plenty of references about the chogan game, by then played already in the courts of imperial China, Japan, Central Asia courts, and the Arab caliphate etc but we should remember that he wrote his epic 1500 years after the first mention of the game, as I have shown above.
Along this little introduction of the ancient polo, I am adding my own 'tracing' of one of the prime examples of the Sassanian sumptuous art - in form of metal plates with etchings or etchings and relief inside the metal plate - this website has many of them I am going to do a separate post about this plate and many others, God willing.
But note this king rides a stallion, the horse's mane has been crenelated in a manner most ancient to the Iranian nomads, his tail tied and adorned with ribbons (swallow tail shape, perhaps to represent the swiftness of that bird to  give a horse more swiftness as in the American Indian belief), there is an early curb-bit along with a metal cavesson muzzle and no forehead strap or nose band (cavesson replaced it), but there is a strap under the mandible in the same fashion as seen on the Persepolis relieves(5th century BC) . The cinch seems to be of some fabric and not of leather. Discs adorn breastplate and crouper, similar to the Roman and later Hunnish horse harness styles. There may be a tamga - horse owner mark - on this stallion chest. I did not concentrate on the rider so he is rendered rather elementarily.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I was going to publish another of my drawings today but instead would like to mention several blogs that I have been following as of lately. Nevertheless I am going to attach one already on the net.
My biggest discovery this so is this blog . Girasol (Sunflower) is the author of that blog and I must say it is a wonderful resource center for Latin American and American horses and horsemanship.
also there you can learn about horse publications and other horse related items.
Another blog I just discovered, well actually she discovered me first - thanks, is this blog on the Native American (Indian) beadwork and its historical reconstitution and reproduction . The author is this amazingly talented and devilishly or divinely :) blessed with tremendous patience and ability to reconstruct ancient beadwork Washington state artist and scholar named Angela Swedberg. I love her work while especially I look after the photos of the old American Indian horse tack and horses themselves.
Another site that I follow because I use it to learn how to paint with GIMP is where author, another Washingtonian named Xia, shows his artistic talents and teaches us, the web students, how to operate and use computer graphic programs to create images from start to finish, in Photoshop and Gimp.
I have another passion, miniature military sculpting - websites like or Polish forum One of the people engaged in this passionate artistic discipline and whom I admire a lot is this Atlanta based miniature sculptor and Renaissance armor and weapons scholar Agustín 'Augie' J. Rodríguez and his blog is where he show his research and works in progress.
Saddly one of my favorite horse sites - is no longer working, too bad for that site's author, often harsh and strong-worded, is so knowledgeable about horses in the old, pre-1960s way ;).
Another author, dr Deb Bennett, is also big on my list of sites to visit

Finally, my most favorite American Indian site is which has the authentic Plains warriors drawings made around the time of the Plains Indian Wars (post 1860s), and these drawings must be the primary sources on the subject how the 19th century Plains warriors and their horses, how they rode, fought. loved and looked, and not the paintings by the Euro-American artists like Remington or Russell.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Old Polish stirrups

today another little image in the theme of the Old Polish horse tack.
This time the stirrups - this particular set comes to us from Russia where they've been preserved ever since one of the the Polish Royal Envoys left them there, with many other gifts including horses, saddles, arms, silverware and textiles, during the frequent diplomatic exchanges of the first quarter of the 17th century, between the Polish Kings and the many Tsars of that time period.

These stirrups, along with 4 other pairs indentyfied as 17th century Polish, are housed at the Kremlin's Armory - Оружейная палата Oruzhenaya Palata.

They are made out of cast iron, then they were covered in gold (gilded) and small turquoise stones were set in the three-leaves structures, decorating them as if flower cups. They are 15cm high and they were originally attached to a Polish or oriental saddle, although they cannot by connected to any particular saddle at this time. They appeared first time in the Kremlin inventory in AD 1647.

I used the Wacom tablet and GIMP to 'paint' this image.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I would like to show today, on this very nice Spring day, a watercolor of a member of the Cheyenne Mahohewa Warrior Society. Cheyennes are my most favorite caballeros of the Great Plains, right behind them are their cousins the Blackfeet, then Crow, Kiowa-Comanche, Lakota etc. Mahohewas or Red Shields or Red Shield owners were a military society found amongst the two divisions of the Cheyenne tribe. They were famous for their buffalo(bison) horns headdresses and red-painted shields with the bison tail attached. They were also know as Buffalo-bull warriors - and this name speaks for itself, as buffalo bull was considered the bravest and most dangerous of all the animals on the Great Plains.
If I were to paint this one again I would have added a headmask for his horse - I have been doing some reading and nothing struck me as so important in my studies on the Plains warriors and their ways as the recent book on the horse masks by Mike Cowdrey and Ned & Jody Martin - I should also mention Bill Holm and his book 'Sun Dogs and Eagle Down,' wonderful reconstructions of the tribal people of North America where I saw horse mask in the painting titled 'Parade' dedicated to the reconstrction of the Nez Perce man and woman on horseback.

I did this watercolor long time ago (1990s), upon reading several books: the Rev. Thomas Mails' books 'Mystic Warrior of the Plains' and 'Dog Soldiers, Bear Men, Buffalo Women' and 'Fighting Cheyennes' by Bird Grinnell. I was very impressed with Rev. Mails work, although this impression as far as his scholarship has worn off a bit, but I am still a great admirer of his art, especially the ink drawings and many of the paintings. Unfortunately don Thomas passed on in 2001 and probably can be found now with his heroes in the Everlasting Hunting Grounds.
Bird Grinnell or more properly George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) was an early American anthropologist who started studying the Plains Indian cultures when the 'Indian wars' of the Great Plains were still raging on, the conflicts between the aboriginal peoples and the Old Uncle Sam's Army. During his distinguished career Grinnell wrote many books and I think his most important ones are the ones dedicated to the Cheyennes, although he also studied the Pawnee and Blackfeet. I was very very curious how he acquired his first-hand information from the Cheyenne informants, and for many years I was unaware that he actually had used the most important (in my opinion) man in the history of the survival and preservation of the old Cheyenne ways - George Bent, a metis (his father was William Bent, a famous Indian trader, and his mother was Owl Woman, a Cheyenne woman of a very important family) , one-time Confederate soldier and Cheyenne warrior.
It was George Bent who while living in Oklahoma, supplied all the informants, Bent did all the translations and who sent his own notes from his own examinations and interviews with old 'hostiles' and their wives, the traditionalists etc. Many of these old-timers were about to depart from this world, as the early 20th century was the hardest for the Indian tribes of the Great Plains, and Bent sensing the urgency of his mission to collect as much information as possible was often perplexed when Grinnell would not show proper respect to the old warriors and their wifes, nor did Grinnell seemed to share the same feeling that the world of traditional Cheyennes was slipping away because the traditionalists, often more than 90 years old were withering away. Bent was not a saint himself, but this is another story, already told by George E. Hyde (another assistant to Bird Grinnell) using Bent's letters and recently by Haalas and Masich (2004).
But Birdy Grinnell 'forgot' about George Bent and gave him no credit for all his field work. Nevertheless, thanks to the cooperation of these two individuals we can read and learn about the Old Cheyenne ways. Obviously there were other early scholars who studied the Cheyennes, amongst them George Dorsey and James Mooney, but first two Georges cleared the way, so to speak.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Old Polish saddle tree 2

this saddle or rather its tree with some metal (gilded) ornaments and its ebbing covered with leather is stored in the storage room of the Polish Amry Museum in Warsaw.

Normally such saddle tree would have been covered with an expensive fabric and fabric-covered leather skirts would have been attached to it with the leather thongs partially visible here. Note the slots for the cinch and the stirrup leathers.
This was not a winged hussar saddle as it has rather small and narrow cantle and pommel, and it  is rather narrow... armoured lancers needed more room so to speak
there are two other examples of the old Polish saddles, two different types, all of them used in the late 16th and then 17-18th centuries.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

old Polish saddle tree, version1

today I am going to show my own sketch of one of many versions of the Old Polish saddle trees. As far as I know nobody makes saddle trees like that in Poland anymore...
The basic design is Mongol or Mongol-Turkish and goes back to the saddles invented somewhere in the eastern Central Asian steppes 1500 years ago.

I am also attaching my own photo of a Polish Army Museum parade saddle, dated to the 17th century.

    Please forgive the poor quality of the photo and do note the ring curb-bit shown in the right side of my photo, the same design as the so called morisco curb bit of the colonial Spanish America.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Serbian Hussars

the very beginning of Polish Hussaria   belongs entirely to the  Balkan Serbian warriors already known as hussars (for almost a hundred years prior to their coming to Poland).
They came to the Polish  Kingdom, at the end of the 15th century,   in search of military employment and probably somewhat of a easier life,  and our Polish Kingdom did  offer these noble refugees from the Turkish-Hungarian-Habsburg wars of the 15th century plenty of  religious freedom  and economic  prosperity...
They carried 3 meters long, light lances with small pennons, Balkan shields, oriental and Hungarian sabres, and presumably war axes and 'klevets' or war hammers. They used light Balkan, Turkish and Hungarian saddles,  peculiar round stirrups, curb bits and long 'czaprak'  (large and often richly decorated  textile horse blanket or 'shabraque') to cover their horse back, sides, and  hindquarters.
 Polish-Serbian hussars can be seen in action  circa AD 1514  in this  very large 1530s painting from the Polish National Museum in Warsaw, you can take at look at the painting here 
The painting depicts the first Polish-Lithuanian victory over a huge Muscovite army near Orsha on the Dniepr River (now Bielarus), one of three battles that took place at Orsha  in the first half of the 16th century.
During the next 50-70 years hussars acquired  full armor, larger horses, longer and heavier lances, shishak (Turkish style) helmets,  leopard, bear, wolf and lion pelts to cover themselves and their horses, and plenty of eagle, ostrich, falcon etc  feathers.

another Old Polish horse

This time I found this image of Old Polish horse on the cover of a book of gouaches painted either by or for baron d'Eisenberg, master rider, ecuyer and one of the foremost specialist in the art of the manege or 'dresser de cheval' of the 18th centuries, his opus magnum was 'l’Art de monter à cheval'(1759).
 He wrote and illustrated his own books. eg look at these prints
The book shown here can be bought from and quite cheaply. It contains 55 color paintings of horses, many types of horses and breeds that could be found in Europe circa AD 1759.
The interesting thing here is that our good baron showed and proved though his work that any type or breed of horses can be 'dressed/schooled' to perform high school airs, it was the ecuyer who made this happen and not the particular breed of horse. This is quite contrary to Cavendish or de la Gueriniere writings.

   Anyway, this horse is performing a croupade. His name is 'Botte' and was bred in the estates of Prince Lubomirski who in turn gave him as a gift to the Prince de Craon at Luneville, where baron d'Eisenberg schooled this horse. Pleas note his small head and pinto coloring. He is ridden in a caveson and curb bit, double reins etc.

Some new, GIMP-manipulated, ink drawings of the Winged Polish-Lithuanian Hussars. They are not finished, not yet...

Equus polonicus

Finally I found a good copy of Ridiger's Equus polonicus or our good Old Polish Horse, etching made for the album of some 30plus etching of the mid-18th century horses of Europe and Middle east (Persian, Turkish, Arabian, Barb etc., horses) .
Johann elias Ridinger (b.Ulm 1698 – d. Augsburg 1767) was a German artist and printmaker who devoted his life to the art of printmaking and specialised in equine, wildlife and hunting themes. He was often employed by His Majesty King f Poland and Prince of Saxony Augustus III, and we even have a print of him showing our king, not the best one we had, riding one of his horses. Interestingly Saxony was importing Polish horses all the way up to the end of the 18th century for the Saxon 'chevau legers' of the royal guard, where general Jan Henryk Dabrowski's father was an officer. See the print attached here too.
see this website dedicated to his art and the art of printmaking in general

Please note that our horse is a pinto, with a really small head and very nice muscular body and dry, strong legs. While Herr Ridinger might have exaggerated the small size of his head, nevertheless this lightly roman-nosed head does conform to the 16-18th (or even early 19th century) century preferences our ancestors had for their horses' heads, i.e., small, dry and noble