AC Mood Board: Medieval Clothed Horses

A tournament or tourney (derived from the Old French torneiement or tornei) was a chivalrous competition or mock fight that was organized in Europe in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period (12th to 16th centuries).


Tournaments consisted of a series of mounted or armored combats in which knights competed to see whose skills were best. The one who prevailed through the last round or who finished with the best record was declared winner of the competition and was awarded a prize or a bag of money. For the Medieval knights, tournaments were the preferred sport. Because it was seen as such, tournaments were carried with blunted swords or lances. For the most successful of the knights of various tournaments, these were opportunities to make great money as well. The champion of a tournament was also allowed to claim ownership over the armor, horse and weapons of an adversary that had fallen during the competition, which could have added to his gain.


Many times, the knights would ride on horses that were covered in beautiful covers. These were carefully decorated and featured simple, yet effective color schemes. They also featured embroideries or other decorations that completed the “look”, thus marking not only the unity between the horseman and the horse, but also displaying the values of the knight himself. As anything in the Middle Ages, the elements that composed the horse covers were often symbolic. While some symbols represented origins, others could have stood for values such as kindness or courage.


There are many manuscripts, paintings, drawings and even sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that depict the “clothing” worn by the knights and the horses as well. Many times, the opposing knights and their horses were represented in contrasting or complementary colors. Today, we see replicas or imitations of those during folk festivities and Medieval and Renaissance fairs throughout the Western world.

The aesthetic of the original horse covers was one that was extremely simple, yet effective and complex. It made use of neutrals to balance the simple color schemes, such as analog color (composed of colors that lie closely to each other on the color wheel such as red and yellow) or complementary colors (featuring colors that lie on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as orange and green) and featured simple patterns that carried strong symbolism. Sometimes, patterns were mixed and were done so masterfully. As we always say, a good pattern mix is made of two or more patterns that are different in size (thick lines go with thin lies or small dots for example). The covers of the horses matched or completed the clothes worn by the knights.

The horse covers were accessorized with elements such as tassels that added volume and dynamism to the whole ensemble and conveyed the message of the knight with simplicity, without adding too much to the clothes themselves.

Horse covers were a simple, elegant and effective way to not only protect a horse, but also to mark it and make it clear on whose “team” the horse is, but also to communicate virtues and the core values of a group of knights.




Fraquoh and Franchomme






Further reading:

AC Mood Board: Royal, military and court costumes from the Jacobean era

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5 thoughts on “AC Mood Board: Medieval Clothed Horses

  1. It is an extraordinary thought, that you can say so much using only colours and patterns! Some ideas and symbolism are carried on these days as well (e.g. white as the colour of innocence), but some have been lost in centuries of religious and cultural history. I suppose the shields and coat of arms of Renaissance knights would carry a lot of symbolism as well, so they it would always be clear to the audience, as well as the competitors, who they were looking at and dealing with.

    • Yes, people in the Middle Ages communicated very much through symbols. For them, when looking at an image was in a way what it’s like for us today to read. Some symbols have still not been decoded yet, but researchers are still working on fining out their meaning.


    • Yes, because the Middle Ages are called the “Dark Age”, which they rightfully were, the more colorful part of the time is often not seen by many.

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