Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – 1st scholar of grappling

Folio 45 r. b


This is a grappling play. That is, a play of unarmed combat, and it is done in this way. When someone flees from you and his left side is near, with the right hand you grab him by the cheekplate of the helmet, or if he is disarmed by the neck, or by the right arm behind his shoulders. In that way you will make him fall to the ground.


In this play you are moving in behind someone and pulling them backwards off their horse. They may have disengaged from a bout and you have managed to come around behind them. They may be fleeing the field and you are running them down.

The basic idea is to grab the upper right quadrant of their body and pull down to the lower left, causing them to twist away from you and fall off their horse.

There is more movement and speed here than the picture suggests. Lean forward and reach out for your opponent. Your forward motion will impel your horse to pick up speed, allowing you to catch them.

Fiore gives a number of different suggestions as to what to grab. It really comes down to anything you can get a good grip on. Bear in mind that the twist is the crux of the technique, which is why the cheek plate of the helmet is the best available option. Reaching around behind your opponent and grabbing the front of the helmet will cause them to turn their head and body fully to the right, so their back is towards you. This will disengage their hips from their horse, and start to roll their left hip up and out of the saddle. It will also cause their horse to veer off to the right.

Having taken hold of your opponent, sink your weight back into the saddle and pull your right arm back in close to your body. This will cause your own horse to slow down or possibly stop altogether. Your opponents sudden instability will cause their horse to speed up, running off at an angle. You are less pulling your opponent from their horse, as you are holding them still and directing their horse out from under them. They will roll backwards, falling onto their head or shoulders.

Throughout this whole process, use your left hand to hold firmly but gently onto your own saddles pommel. If your opponents horse kicks out, it might hit either you or your horse. As your opponent falls, your horse will either trample on or jump over them. The moment after the grab will not be the smoothest of rides, and you need to be sure you do not lose your own seat in all the excitement.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – Counter to the 1st scholar of grappling

Folio 45 r. c


This is the counter to the previous play and it goes like this. Use this counter with such a hold as soon as you are grabbed from behind. You must immediately switch hands on the reins, and take him with your left arm in this way.


The 1st scholar of horsback grappling has come from behind and is attempting to pull you back and to your left off the horse.

As you notice them approach, use your right hand to simultaneously hold the reins and take a firm grip on the pommel. Timing is important here. You want to catch your opponent just as they are fully stretched reaching out, but before they have taken a good grip.

Turn quickly to the left. lifting your elbow as high as possible and moving back in a circle. You are aiming to pin your opponents hand against your back to act as the fulcrum of a third class lever. Ideally, you want to catch their arm at or above their elbow. The higher up their arm you can apply pressure, the greater your chances of success.

With your left arm, grab onto your saddles pommel, your belt, or anything you can use to lock your arm tight against your body. Turn your body and horse to the right as you do so. If your horses rump pushes into the shoulder of your opponents horse, all the better.

You are levering your opponent out of their saddle forward and to the right. Be sure to keep in front of them at all times and keep your arm locked tightly to your body. This will prevent them twisting out of your hold. With the massive force that horses provide, you will shatter your opponents elbow as you drag them from their horse.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – 2nd scholar of grappling

Folio 45 r. d


This scholar wants to throw the player from his horse by grabbing the stirrup and lifting up. If he does not fall to the ground, he will surely be in the air. Unless he is tied to the horse, this play cannot fail. And if he does not set his foot in the stirrup, grab him by the ankle, which works just as well in the same manner as I just described.


For this play to work, there needs to be relatively little movement between the horses. When the direction of the horses are opposed to each other, as drawn, the context would most reasonably be the crush of a melee where the horses are wheeling around each other.

It is worth noting that neither combatant is armed in the picture. If you try this against an armed opponent, they will need to be highly distracted, as your head and back will be fully exposed at the crucial point of the play. While holding the reins and stabilising yourself by holding onto the saddle with your left hand, reach down with your right hand to grab your opponents ankle or stirrup. Due to your exposure, this is the hardest and most dangerous part of the play. Keep your eye on your opponent at all times.

As you sit up, you will be able to lift your opponents foot over the horses withers. Your opponent will roll back in the saddle causing them to fall to the opposite side of their horse. If you attempt to pull the foot behind your opponent, the throw will not work.

As a slight variant on this play, it is also possible to perform this play when both horses are moving in the same direction. You will need to be moving slightly faster than your opponent so as to able to lift the leg forward.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – Counter to the 2nd scholar of grappling

Folio 45 v. a


This is the counter to the previous play. If someone takes you by the stirrup or the foot, quickly throw your arm around his neck, and in this way you can unhorse him. If you do this he goes to the ground without fail.


The 2nd scholar of grappling from horseback is attempting to throw you off your horse by grabbing your foot or strirrup and lifting it up. Although this is an effective method of throwing someone from their horse, it leaves the person making the throw exposed at their mechanically weakest moment. This is the moment you are taking advantage of when making the counter.

The lower your opponent can grab you, the more leverage they get for their throw, but the more exposed they are to a counter. As they go to grab, they will be leaning right forward and possibly a little out to the side. You are aiming to extend this movement beyond their tipping point.

Reach across with your right hand and grab on to the back of your opponents neck as shown. Try to catch their momentum as they are reaching out. Keep pushing their head down. It will help if you can move your own horse off to the side slightly. If you push straight down past the shoulder of their horse, they will be able to hold onto the saddle. If you pull them out to the side, they will have no support.

As with all throws, you will need to be quick and smooth, so as to keep your opponent off balance. Once past the tipping point, they will topple onto their head between the horses, to be trampled underfoot.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback – 3rd scholar of grappling

Folio 45 v. b


This is a way to throw someone to the ground with their horse. To throw both horse and rider to the ground is done in this way. When you fight on horseback, ride on his right side. Throw your right arm over the neck of his horse, and take the bridle by the bit which is in the horses mouth, and forcefully pull it up and over. Let the chest of your horse push through the rump of his horse. And in this way he will fall to the ground along with his horse.


When fighting against a mounted opponent, one of the options available to you is to take out your opponents horse. This has already been explored by the 1st counter to the 5th master of horse and the counter to the 6th master of horse. In this play you are unarmed, so here you throw both horse and rider to the ground.

For the purposes of explaining what is happening here, this play does not in any way take into account what your opponent is doing. Unless they are highly distracted, such as from dealing with another combatant, they wil be trying to fight you off. You will have to make this play in whatever space you can find while fending off their attacks. Given that there is just too much randomness going on there, it is described as used against a fairly passive opponent. Also, although there is a degree of movement between the horses, they are not moving at nearly the speed used in other plays from horseback.

Reach over the opponents horses head and grab the bit right at the mouth. Lift up and over the horses head, pulling back towards your self as shown. This gives an axial twist down the horses neck and into the shoulders, destabilising them.

Keep your own horse moving forward, pushing against the rump of your opponents horse. This causes it to move the back legs, pivoting on its already unsteady front legs. As you do so, push your right hand forward and down as if trying to touch your opponents saddle.

By adding a lateral twist to the axial twist you have aleady put on the neck, while disrupting its rear legs, the horse will be left trying to pivot with all its weight on its front left foot while you push against it. An impossible task, it will fall away from you, hopefully injuring the rider as it does so.

The horse will be angry, scared and probably in a degree of pain, but essentially uninjured. It will thrash around quite wildly as it gets back to its feet and runs off. Bear in mind that its feet will be facing you as it does this. Keep well clear of it while it does this before either making your escape or riding down your opponent down.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback grappling – Counter to the 3rd scholar

Folio 45 v. c


This is the counter to the previous play which wants to throw the player on the ground along with the horse. It is a simple thing to know that when the scholar throws his arm over the neck of the horse to take the bridle, immediately the player throws his arm around the scholars neck, and forces him to drop it, as you see drawn here.


Here, your opponent has reached across your horses head, and is trying to twist both it and you to the ground. To get a good grip on your horses bridle, they need to extend themselves quite a bit. This provides your opportunity for a counter.

In order to throw the horse, your opponent is trying to twist its head not just axially, but also in an arc out to your left, and back across the horses withers.

Form your right arm into a smooth curve. You want the points from your fingertips, wrist, elbow, right shoulder, left shoulder to make the arc of a circle. There is the sensation of flaring out the elbow and leading with the top of the thumb.

Keeping your core attached to the saddle, extend you arm, curving it around your opponents neck, as shown in the picture. Slide your arm along the neck. You are aiming to get  their head resting in the hollow of your right shoulder. The twist your opponent has given to your horse will cause it to turn slightly to the left. If your opponent does not let go and immediately try to regain their balance, they will be peeled from the saddle, falling backwards by the front right foot of your horse.

The distance of your opponent, and the fact that your hips are bound to the horse means that you will not be able to perform this technique as smoothly as it appears in other plays. Despite this, you can see what is conceptually the same throw in the following plays.

Grappling, Horseback - Grappling plays

Horseback grappling – 4th scholar

Folio 45 v. d


This is a play of taking the reins of the horse from the hands of the player as you see drawn here. The scholar, when he closes with another horseman, rides to the right side and throws his right arm over the horse’s neck, takes the reins on the players left side with his overturned hand, and lifts the reins over the horses head. This play is safer in armour than unarmoured.


Here, you are not trying to injure your opponent, but capture their horse and lead them away. This is more for a melee situation where you will have a group of friends nearby, ready to subdue the rider. The horses will need to be moving slowly relative to each other for this to work.

As you approach each other, reach over the head of your opponents horse. As much as possible, keep your elbow in so as not to overstretch and unbalance yourself. You will need to lift the reins reasonably high so as to clear the horses head. The whole movement will need to be done smoothly and quickly so as to snatch the reins from your opponents grasp.

Turning your horse to the left, move off at speed as soon as the reins are clear. As you lead your opponent away, you do not want them to catch up to you. If they do, you will be at risk of them using the 1st scholar of horseback grappling against you. As you have one hand controlling your own horse, and the other controlling your opponents horse, you are in a potentially vulnerable position. For this reason, the play is safer to do when wearing armour.