Guests at the Ozark Medieval Fortress have often asked what kind of horse we use and whether it is authentic to the Middle Ages. The horse, named “Honey”, that they are referring to is a Belgian draft horse. The short answer is that this is probably the most authentic Medieval horse that we could possibly have.
Logically, the Belgian draft horse originated in Belgium. It has become the most popular breed of draft horse in the United States and their breed association credibly asserts that the Belgian is the most direct descendant of the Medieval “Great Horse” of the knights. When talking about horses of the Middle Ages, it is difficult because today we have common terms of specific breeds, but then they did not sort horses by breeds. Instead, they described different groups of horses by use or purpose. The “Great Horse” or “charger” or in the French, “destrier” was a war horse. Riding horses were called “palfreys”. They also had “cart” horses and “pack” horses.
Some historians claim that the Spanish Andalusian is more like a war horse than any other modern breed. Maybe this is true, because there are references to knights in battle remounting their horse. That would be difficult to do on a tall, Belgian draft horse, but it was an advantage in battle to be on a taller, stronger horse. Although not the fastest, the Belgian is tall and strong and we know was available to the people of the Middle Ages, whether a knight, squire to carry the knight’s gear, or a noble for transportation, agriculture or construction like at the Ozark Medieval Fortress. Remember, also, there were innovations during the Middle Ages that included the nailed horse shoe, improved saddles, stirrups and the horse collar.
At the Ozark Medieval Fortress, Honey is a part of the construction team. She hauls the sand, lime, rocks and logs to the castle. She grades the trail for the guests. She hauls the feed for the other animals. She is also part of the presentation of the historical Medieval era to the guests, who enjoy meeting her. She definitely earns her keep.