Taking Inventory: Horse Armor

Why the long face?

You know the feeling. You’ve portalled through to the Nether, scouted for a Fortress for hours, finally located one across a huge, bubbling, lava lake, painstakingly navigated your way there with a succession of one-block-wide cobble bridges, and carved a brutal path through the blazes and wither skeletons that inhabit it.

Finally, in a dark red corridor with the shrieks of ghasts ringing in your ears, you see a chest. You walk up to it. Another wither skeleton attacks, and you fight it off. You open the chest, and see what’s inside. Some diamonds - meh, you’ve got loads of those. A flint and steel – might be useful to re-light a portal. A dusty saddle? You’ve already ridden a pig off a cliff. But then your eyes light up – at the very bottom of the chest, you find the prize you’ve been seeking. It’s our item of the week – horse armor.

Horse armor is armor that only horses can wear. It won’t fit on donkeys, mules, undead horses, or anything other than a proper pedigree stallion. I tried to put some on myself once and it was very uncomfortable. I don’t recommend it. Horse armour can be equipped either by opening the horse’s inventory and putting it into the relevant slot, or just by giving the horse the ol’ right-click.

Horse armor was added to Minecraft in version 1.6.1, and comes in four different varieties. Diamond is the best and offers five and a half breastplates worth of protection. Gold offers three and a half. Iron two and a half, and leather horse armour – which was added in version 1.14 – just one and a half.

You’ll notice a few differences between horse and human armour - the first is that gold horse armour actually offers more protection than iron horse armour. This is because horses look better in gold than humans do. Second, there’s no such thing as chainmail horse armour. This is because horses get annoyed by the clinking of the chainmail rings.

The final difference is that you can only craft one type of horse armor – leather – which is done by putting seven bits of leather in a crafting grid in an “H” shape. H for horse. See what we did there? Other horse armours can be found in chests in strongholds, villages, dungeons, desert temples, jungle temples, end cities and nether fortresses.

In the real world, horse armour has a fancy name. It’s called barding, and seems to have originated in the ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms of Parthia and Pahlava, who deployed fearsome armoured cavalry. It made its way into Europe after the conquests of Alexander the Great, and by the 16th century it was commonly used in most European armies.

Different segments of horse armour have different exotic names. The headpiece is known as the “chanfron”, the neckpiece is the “criniere”, the chest covering is the “peytral”,  the flanks are covered by the “flanchards” and the all-important butt armour is known as the “croupiere”. Sometimes, European knights covered their horse armor with cloth, known as “caparison”.

There are plenty of examples of medieval horse armour still around, but relatively few from before that. So next time you’re exploring an ancient desert or jungle temple in Minecraft, treasure the horse armour that you find – it’s probably an archeological treasure.

Written by
Duncan Geere
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