Two Feet vs Four: Facing the Mounted Opponent.

Red Spur Swordplay from the Ground

The first section of the Red Spur Mounted Combat Skills section is Swordplay from the Ground.  Your first checkbox is:

Demonstrate five plays from the ground against a mounted opponent.

Facing the Mounted Opponent from the Ground

To a foot soldier, I can imagine very few more frightening sights than that of a fully armoured horse and riding bearing down upon you.  Not only is the horse heavier and faster, the rider has the advantage of height.  If you have a pike or long spear you can brace against the ground, and similarly armed compatriots on either side you stand a better chance.  But what if you are armed only with a sword?  This situation is likely if you were mounted and have become unhorsed, a common enough occurrence in battle.

The Ground Advantage

Although the rider has the benefits of size listed above, the unhorsed combatant has other advantages she can take utilize.

  • Turning radius. A human can spin in place much faster than a large, four-footed animal.
  • Greater Agility.  On foot, your entire body can move in many directions: ducking, bending, reaching, and evading.  When mounted your lower body is limited by the agility of your mount.
  • Two hands on the weapon.  Although a rider can drop the reins and use the sword two-handed, for the most part, a rider has one hand on the sword, while the footling has two.  This is a significant advantage when exchanging the thrust or expelling the weapon.
  • Full use of body mechanics.  On the ground you are able to align your body to fully support your weapon, channelling resistance from the ground, through the legs, torso and arms in a direct line.  On horseback, the force of your blow is often (by necessity) disconnected from your lower body.

Techniques to Improve your Chances

  • Couch your thrust. Guards such as posta breve, posta frontale, and posta finestra which allow you to lock your arms and brace your weapon are much stronger than extended guards such posta longa or the extended version of finestra. It is often worth sacrificing reach for strength and stability when facing the momentum of the horse.
  • Cutting ahead.  Completing your cut ahead of the movement of your feet allows you to brace at the end of the cut, which can help take the rider off of her horse.  If you don't brace, you risk being taken backward by the horse's momentum, regardless of how well aim your cut was.
  • Cutting as the rider passes. Use your greater agility to turn and attack the rear as the rider passes.  Even a horse that is extremely good at turns on the haunches will not be able to turn as fast as you.  This offers you a tempo in which the rider's back is exposed.
  • Seek to control on the outside. You never want to be stuck between the horse and the sword.  Even if you manage to control your opponent's sword on the inside she can yield and riposte easily.  However, if you suppress her sword on the outside line, her ability to yield is limited by her horse's neck.  With this in mind, practise side-stepping away from the horse to cover the outside.
  • Use hanging guards for defence.  Allowing the point to drop in finestra and finestra sinestra is an excellent defence against downward blows and allows you to redirect the rider's blade while keeping you safe.
  • Seek the left side Right-handed riders are always looking to engage on the right side of their mounts.  If you are on the ground and can gain access to the opponent's left side, they are at a considerable disadvantage, while you are able to use your sword as easily as you can on the other side.

Next week, we'll look at plays that will help you use these techniques and advantages and help you survive a cavalry attack with nothing but your own feet under you.

Upcoming Classes

By coincidence (or is it conspiracy?) the focus of this month's Mounted Combat Mastery classes is ground vs mounted combat.  If you are on a tuition program you can use your credit to drop into these classes, every Sunday from noon - 2pm.  Don't know how to ride?  No problem.  Classes can be taken from the ground as well as from horseback, and this month, in particular, we need an assortment of students in both categories.

Mounted Combat Mastery
Sundays noon - 2pm
Instructor: Jennifer Landels
cost: 2-hour tuition or punch card credit

Also, don't forget that the new cycles of Riding, Horsemanship, and Mounted Combat Fundamentals classes start this Sunday, January 21st!

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

Before you get on a horse with a sword in your hand, it is essential to have good fundamental swordplay skills from the ground. This six-week course covers the basic Mounted Combat skills needed for your Green Spur. Students who have achieved these skills along with Riding and Horsemanship Level 1 will be eligible to participate in Mounted Combat classes on horseback.

Sundays 21 January – 25 February, 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Cost: $135 + gst, or bundle with Riding & Horsemanship for $99
Instructor: Ben Davis
Prerequisites: none

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

his six-class course is designed to help the beginning rider achieve Horsemanship and Riding Level 1.  In addition to your weekly riding lesson, you will learn: safe horse-handling techniques, how to groom and tack up a horse, basic horse identification terminology, and basic feeding and stabling. The cost of the course includes one free riding or horsemanship assessment. Students can expect to be ready to assess Horsemanship Level 1 at the end of the six classes. Readiness for Riding Level 1 typically takes two iterations of the course.

Sundays 21 January – 25 February, 11:00am – 1:00pm
Cost: $300 + gst
Instructor: Stephanie Laversin
Prerequisites: none

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2

This six-class course is designed to help the riders achieve Horsemanship and Riding Level 2.  The cost of the course includes one free riding or horsemanship assessment. Students can expect to be ready to assess Horsemanship Level 2 at the end of the six classes. Readiness for Riding Level 2 typically takes two iterations of the course.

Sundays 21 January – 25 February, 10:00am – noon
Cost: $300 + gst
Instructor: Stephanie Laversin
Prerequisites: Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

Riding Level 3+, Flat

A six-class series for riders working on Level 3 or higher with an emphasis on flat-work and lower level dressage. Some ground poles and cavaletti may be included. (Note: Riding Level 3, Jumping will begin in March).

Sundays 21 January – 25 February, 10:00am – 11:00am
Cost: $200 + gst
single classes: $45 each if space available
Instructor: Stephanie Laversin
Prerequisites: Riding Level 2

Youth Riding & Horsemanship

This course for kids aged 6-13 will introduce your child to ponies and horses in safe, fun, and friendly series of six classes taught by Pony Club qualified instructors. Each class contains a riding lesson as well as a horsemanship lesson where students will learn to handle, groom, and care for ponies and horses. Curriculum follows the Canadian Pony Club D level lessons and will prepare students for testing Academie Duello Mounted Combat Riding 1 or Pony Club D Level.

Thursdays 1 February – 8 March, 4:00pm – 6:00pm
Cost: $300 + gst
Instructor: Kate Landels
Prerequisites: none


To register see the Workshops Calendar or call the front desk at 604 568 9907.




Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.