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Thread: Group training and the battlefield

  1. #31
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    If the Mongols didn't care about Japan, why bother to invade them twice?

    As I thouhgt: it wasn't a "Mongol" invasion at all, it was a Chinese/Korean draftee invasion, and they couldn't use their horses. End of story.
    Earl Hartman

  2. #32
    Aaron Fields Guest

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    Wow Earl,

    I didn't know you were personally invested, if I have offended you in some way I apologize.

    As Mongol (and Eastern Central Asia) is the area of history that I work in, I have just been trying to tie up threads within responses regarding Mongols and their technology. If someone is really interested I would be happy to discuss, or suggest good materials in English.


    Qublai Khan enlisted Chinese, Turks, Koreans, Russians, etc. into his army.

    The invasions Japan had only a small % of Mongols. Though they were in positions of power. In addition the conscripts were from areas that were already under Central Asian influence. In fact, due to Mongolian personnel management methods the majority of folks involved with the Japanese invasion were Korean, Chinese, and a few Turks. There may have been a smattering of Russians according to some of the Turkish documents.

    As to why they attempted twice, well everything is relative, sure they would have taken Japan if it had worked out, but they were not willing to invest large number of Mongol soldiers, as they were needed elsewhere. They realized that Japan would be difficult to take and maintain due to its geographic conditions (many of Qublai’s Mongol advisors suggested against it from the start.) Again, Mongols were not sailors. Japan being not important is in relation to the locations on the continent they were pushing on at the same time.

    In the case of military loss, the second attempt on Japan is keeping in the Mongol mold of “if at first you succeed try and try again.”

    In addition, Qubali thought a lot of himself (he wanted very much to be as important as his much bigger grandad), and in order to maintain his position within the Mongol power structure he hated to have a defeat of any kind credited to him. (Southeast Asia also proved to be a stumbling block as well, again horse mobility is hampered by jungle.)


    End of story?

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    Aaron:

    I'm not at all offended; sorry you took it that way.

    All I am saying is that what you say bears out a thesis I've had for a while: that Mongol tactics are suited, naturally, to having a vast expanse of steppe to work with. That is only natural; they lived in such an environment and their life style was adapted to that environment. Also, vast areas of Russia, all the way up into Poland and Hungary, are perfect for cavalry, being wide open and flat. In such situations, Mongol victory is not at all surprising. Also, as I understand it, they were united under a centralized government which could thus put a very large and cohesive army into the field. The Europeans, on the other hand, were divided into small feudal states and had no central authority to compel the organization of the kind of force that would have been needed to fight the Mongols effectively. As I understand it, the Mongols only left off conquering Poland because the Khan died and they had to go back home to choose another one. From what little I have read, the Europeans never won a single battle against the Mongols.

    I figure that the main problem with Japan was just logistics. Getting an army across the sea on boats is a hell of a lot harder than riding your horse a few hundred miles. And, as you say, the Mongols were not sailors. That, combined with the lack of vast wide open spaces for cavalry, would make it hard for the Mongols to fight as they were used to doing. And, as you say, the actual number of Mongols in the force was low.

    Ifyou know of any contemporary accounts of how the Japanese actually performed in battle against the Mongols, especially how their archery stacked up, I'd be interested. I have heard that the Japanese swords, interestingly enough, had a lot of trouble with the Mongol armor.
    Earl Hartman

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    Earl --

    You're correct, those ultra-long range Turkish records involved special flight arrows.

    European armor-piercing arrowheads were often square. Indeed, the phrase "picking a quarrel" may have referred to these, as in Old French, is a quarrel describes a square-headed arrow. (Or maybe not, as the word quarrel, meaning complaint, is from Middle English querela, meaning "to complain.")

    Rates of fire with heavy pull bows were of course less than rates of fire with light pull bows. Using light bows, Native American archers employed by Bill Cody's Wild West Show could get off 4-5 shots in as many seconds. Targets were playing cards at ranges of about 25 feet, and they pinned 'em. Using the big war bows, Turks and Welsh probably did well to average as many shots per minute, but then they were shooting 300 yards, and seriously threatening unarmored body parts in the process. Meanwhile arbelests (crossbows) managed maybe 1-2 shots per minute, but shot accurately enough to around 400 yards, and could be kept loaded, meaning that they were well-suited to defending castles or wagon laagers. Therefore every weapon had its role, and the trick was to avoid making the one at hand have to do things that it wasn't well-suited to perform.

    To my knowledge, the Mamluks of Egypt were the only Western military to hand the Mongols a really decisive defeat on horse terrain. ('Ayn Jalut, Syria, 1260.) But this was still way out on the fringes of the Mongol empire, something that can also be said for Japan, Java, Burma, and Vietnam.

    During the 14th century, the Mongols and Turks themselves divided, often over religious questions (Khazars were Jews, while the Golden Horde converted to Sunni Islam), and as a result they ended up as divided as the folks they had been fighting, with predictable results. In mid-century, the Black Death hit, and of course that ruined all kinds of schemes. During the last quarter of the 14th century, Tamerlane picked up the pieces and probably could have put the old empire back together, but he was always more interested in loot than government. As a result, what he put together fell apart after his death. Tamerlane's descendant Babur, who conquered India in the early 16th century, was the last of the great Mongol ("Mughul") conquerors.

    Still, some Russian princes negotiated quite satifactory terms with the Mongols, the most notable example being Aleksandr Nevsky, who was always more interested in fighting Swedes, Poles, and Prussians than Turks and Mongols. For almost 200 years afterward the Muscovites were satraps of the Golden Horde, and it wasn't until the 18th century that this relationship was truly reversed. Unfortunately, neither the Czars nor the Communists were very nice to the conquered Uzbeks and Khazars, and this explains much of the Turkic antipathy toward the Russians during the 20th and 21st centuries...

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    I knew I could count on ya, Joe. Good stuff (some was "knew", some was new).

    A quarrel refers specifically to a crossbow bolt, I believe; and, as you say, some had square heads.

    Part of the reason the English were successful at Crecy (aside from the general Frogginess of their enemies) is becasue the English longbow outranged the crossbows available at that time; thus, the Genoese crossbow-wielding mercenaries the French hired, who were the first to engage the English, were getting shot off the field due to the longbow's superior rate of fire (about 12 shots per minute, vs. less than half that for the crossbows). They retreated in panic; the French commander, incensed at their "cowardice" ordered his cavalry to ride them down, saying famously "Slay me these rascals, they do but hinder us." Understandably miffed at being ridden down by their own allies, the Genoese turned their crossbows on the charging French cavalry with predictable results. I'm not even sure how many of them reached the English lines.

    I have also heard that at Agincourt the French were accompanied by some Scottish and Irish knights, who wanted to put the kibosh on the English, needless to say. Seeing the pathetic state of the English army and the vastly superior numbers of the French, the Scots and Irish suggested that the French simply surround the English and wait for their inevitable surrender. The French, being French, turned their noses up at this, sniffing "Where is the honor in that?" and made the decision to attack the English frontally, which meant marching massed cavalry a mile up a muddy slope directly into the teeth of about 10,000 longbowmen snugly ensconced behind hedges of sharpened stakes. The Scots and Irish shrugged, said "See ya later, maybe", and left the French to their fate. A great story, if true.

    Later crossbows, with bows made of steel or whalebone and loaded using winches, could out-distance a longbow, but by their nature they were never able to equal the longbow's rate of fire. However, they could shoot through just about anything.

    Any sources on performance specs of medieval Japanese bows? If anybody can find a link to some website on that, it will be you.

    Earl
    Earl Hartman

  6. #36
    ben johanson Guest

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    In addition to the intriguing questions Earl has posed regarding performance specs of medieval Japanese bows and how the Japanese performed in battle against the Mongols, I would also be extremely interested to know how the mounted archery tactics of the Japanese compared with those of the Mongols, Turks, Magyars and other nomadic "horse people" of the Asian steppe. Does anyone know anything about this or of resources that may deal with such a topic?

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    Earl,

    Just a quick aside, I have collected these for some of my own research and you have probably seen them already but they do pertain to Japanese Archery in some way.

    Japanses Archery Article
    An Old Book on Archery History (mentions Ainu in Chapter 7)
    Bow History
    Bow Construction through history
    Asian Traditional Archery Research Network

    I haven't fully read all of them yet but they may be of use to you or others.

    Regards

    Neil

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    Originally posted by ben johanson
    In addition to the intriguing questions Earl has posed regarding performance specs of medieval Japanese bows and how the Japanese performed in battle against the Mongols, I would also be extremely interested to know how the mounted archery tactics of the Japanese compared with those of the Mongols, Turks, Magyars and other nomadic "horse people" of the Asian steppe. Does anyone know anything about this or of resources that may deal with such a topic?
    Ah, funny you should ask . . . I did an article on the vicissitudes of mounted archery in Japan
    this last year, that addresses this topic briefly. And I'll be dealing with it in some depth in the book I'm working on now. The article was in Japanese (for those who might be interested, the citation is: "Umayumi no ayumi no ikkosatsu: chusei Nihon ni okeru kokka to bunka to gijutsu" [Tokyo daigaku shiryohensanjo kenkyu kiyo 11 [2001] pp. 21-35), but here's a quick paraphrase of the relevant section:

    Huge expanses of time and geography separate Scythians from Huns from Turks from Manchus, and gave rise to considerable diversity of technology, political organization, and military practices. Nevertheless one can, with only a moderate degree of over-simplification, identify among the range of pastoralist civilizations a characteristic pattern of tactics, one that John Keegan argues probably developed out of and was honed by the skills required for working herds of livestock. From techniques originating in the need to break flocks into smaller, more manageable parts; round up scattered animals; cut off lines of retreat by circling and flanking; compress herds into compact areas; isolate flock leaders; kill specific animals while leaving the herd inert and controllable; and dominate superior numbers by threat and intimidation; the steppe nomads developed a classic order of battle that confounded and terrified the agriculturist societies who faced them.

    Steppe warfare centered on sweeping, fluid, coordinated cavalry maneuvers that managed enemy troops like animals hunted or herded. Armies advanced in loose, far-flung crescent formations that encircled their enemy on both flanks and forced him to bunch together, where he could be harried and intimidated by volleys of arrows, launched either from long range or from close-up by waves of riders coming in at full gallop and then breaking off to regroup at the rear for another charge. When too strongly resisted, they pulled back, hoping to draw the enemy into a pursuit that would break his ranks and leave him vulnerable to further hit-and-run counter-charges. Finally, when the enemy had been thoroughly worn down and thrown into confusion, they would close and cut him down with swords and polearms.

    The weapon that made such tactics possible was the composite reflex bow, made by laminating together layers of wood, animal tendon, and horn. Bows of this sort were short-about the length of a man's torso when strung-and powerful enough to shoot accurately to 300 meters or more and to penetrate armor at up to a hundred meters. They shot light arrows (each weighing just under 30 grams), which allowed every warrior to carry as many as fifty in his quiver.

    The samurai, by contrast, wore a boxy, heavy armor, called oyoroi, made from lamellae of iron and lacquered leather. oyoroi was not perfectly symmetrical, so it was unevenly balanced between its right and left sides. And, because it fit loosely, rather than snuggly at the waist (so that it could hang over the saddle without pushing up the plates of the skirt and thereby exposing the wearer's thighs), it shifted readily from front to back and side to side, like a bell around its clapper, making it difficult for the warrior to maintain his balance in the saddle.

    Japanese ponies were comparatively weak animals, incapable of carrying more than about 90 kilograms-including rider, saddle and weapons-and unshod, so that their hooves could not take heavy pounding and they could gallop long distances only with great difficulty. They were also unruly and difficult to control-especially when both hands were occupied with a task like archery. Japanese bows, moreover, were completely different from-and distinctly inferior to-those used by horsemen on the continent.

    Without ready access to supplies of bone and horn, the Japanese fashioned their bows from plain wood or, from sometime in the Kamakura period onward, from laminates of wood and bamboo. But wood lacks the flexibility and springiness of horn and tendon: in order to achieve significant power, a simple wood bow must be a long one. And samurai bows were long--about two and a half meters, during the Heian period--which would have made them impossibly awkward to use from horseback but for their unique shape, with the grip placed a third of the way up from the bottom, rather than in the middle in the manner of European longbows.
    The combination of weak bows, sturdy armor and arrows carried in numbers too few to permit any to be wasted forced the samurai to shoot only at very close range--usually ten meters or less--and to target with precision the gaps and weak points in the armor of specific opponents. The combination of puny mounts, weighty armor and the rarity of open terrain would have precluded the sweeping charges and feigned retreats favored by the steppe warriors, even if the samurai had wished to fight that way.

    Instead therefore, Heian warriors developed a distinctive, somewhat peculiar form of light cavalry tactics that involved individuals and small groups circling and maneuvering around one another in the hopes of getting a shot at an enemy from an angle at which he could not return fire. The angle of approach was, in fact, a key consideration, because the bowman could shoot only to his left side, along an arc of roughly 45 degrees, from the ten or eleven o'clock to about the nine o'clock position. Attempting to shoot at a sharper angle to the front would result in either bumping the horse's neck with the bow or bowstring, or spooking the mount when the arrow was released and flew too close to his face. Attempting to shoot at a sharper angle to the rear would have twisted the archer right out of his saddle. And shooting the lengthy Japanese bow to the right of the horse's neck would have called for the flexibility of a contortionist.

    Accordingly, the tactics for combat between mounted samurai bore an intriguing resemblance to those of dogfighting aviators. In this sort of fighting, horsemanship often counted for as much as marksmanship, as Oba Kageyoshi's report of his encounter with Minamoto Tametomo during the H?gen Conflict (1156) illustrates:
    "Tametomo was a bowman without peer in our realm. . . . For this reason when . . . I found myself facing his left side and he attempted to draw his bow . . . I galloped around to his right side and rode past him, below his bow sights. Thus the arrow he meant for my body struck my knee instead. Had I not known this trick, I surely would have lost my life. A stalwart needs only to be expert at horsemanship."

    The political structure and the composition of armies in early medieval Japan further determined the tactical options available, making it impossible for the samurai to employ either the sophisticated mixed-forces tactics of the Chinese (and ritsury?) armies or the cavalry methods of the steppe peoples.

    Heian and Kamakura era armies were temporary, irregular assemblages, constructed through complex private military networks. Warriors knit together needed forces by calling on the members of small core bands of fighting men, subordinate allies, and (unless the conflict was a purely private affair) military officers of provincial governments. This arrangement offered commanders few, if any, opportunities to drill with their troops in large-scale, coordinated group tactics, and mitigated against fielding disciplined and well-articulated armies.

    Instead, tactical cooperation devolved to smaller units and components. The fighting men who composed these monadic organizations lived and trained in close proximity to one another, honing their skills through a variety of regimens and competitive games. Hence they were able to coordinate and cooperate on the battlefield, and to harmonize their actions to those of close associates with an impressive degree of discipline and fluidity. The result was that early medieval battles tended to be aggregates of smaller combats: melees of archery duels and brawls between small groups, punctuated by general advances and retreats, and by volleys of arrows launched by bowmen on foot, protected by portable walls of shields.


    BTW, for thems of y'all interested in the military side of the Mongol invasions of Japan, the best work to date on this topic in English is Tom Conlan's In Little Need of Divine Intervention (Cornell, 2001). Conlan demonstrates pretty conclusively that the Japanese had--or would have had--the Mongols beaten, even without the typhoons that allegedly (I say "alledgedly" because many scholars today question whether or not these were really as devastating to the Mongol fleets as traditional accounts maintain--or even whether the storms really occurred at all!) saved Japan's bacon.

    The "Mongol" forces were, of course, composed primarily of Korean and Chinese draftees (as Aaron pointed out) and were also not able to employ the tactics that made them so deadly in western Asia and eastern Europe (as Earl noted). On the other hand, they'd already proven that they could adapt very well to new circumstances--such as the terrain of southern China--when the need arose. But the Japanese had the advantage of control of terrain, better supply, and--in the long run, at least--superior numbers.
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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    Thanks Professor Friday for a very interesting and informative post!

    Brently Keen

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    Dr. Friday:

    Very informative post. Thanks. Now, the inevitable questions:

    You mention that the Japanese horses were similar in size to the Mongol horses, yet they are described as weak and hard to control. Did they have some genetic defect that made them this way, or were the Japanese just lousy horsemen and incapable of training their mounts properly? Since the Mongols were herdsmen, perhaps they were better horse trainers. Or maybe they just had better horses.

    Why did not the Japanese, who were so adept at producing weapons, tools, and artifacts of the highest quality, and are rightly renowned for their skill and ingenuity, never get around to developing a horseshoe? It seems incredible, frankly. Were the Mongol horses shod? If not, why not?

    I have heard that the Mongols were very lightly armored, sometimes wearing little more than a light helmet and a silk shirt or leather body protection. I believe that I read somewhere that the Mongol/Chinese/Korean soldiers of the invasions wore leather and felt armor that the Japanese swords of the time could not cut through readily, and that this was one of the factors that led to the later development of a shorter, heavier sword. Yet, from your desription, it sounds as though Japanese armor for horsemen was not only quite heavy relative to the strength of the horse, but extremely clumsy and poorly designed. Again, perhaps the Japnese, due to the terrain of their country, never felt the need to develop the kind of cavalry tactics in use in other places, or that such tactics would not work. Or, perhaps they just didn't have the one basic tool they needed: good strong horses. Anyway, care to comment?

    The materials for the Mongol bow came from their herds. The Japanese, however, had no access to sufficiently large numbers of cattle from which to make such bows. However, the Japanese islands are blessed with abundant supplies of hardwood and bamboo. A different bow was inevitable. While the Japanese bow may have been inferior in power to the Mongol bow, it sounds from your description that the main reason Japanese horseback archery was conducted from such a close range is that the Japanese horseman was well armored enough that arrows were useless unless they struck an unarmored area. Was this because the bows were too weak or the armor was too good? A symbiotic relationship if there ever was one, it seems to me. In Europe, one of the reasons for the development of plate armor was the English longbow, which could shoot through even the strongest mail. There are eyewitness accounts of battles from the Crusades where the Crusaders would return from battle with the Saracens shot full of arrows like pincushions, yet almost entirely uninjured. The light Saracen arrows would drive the mail into the thick padding over which it was worn, but lacked the power to penetrate all the way through. Such bows were sufficient against the light armor that was worn in hotter climates, but was hard put to it against the Crusaders. Of course, the Crusaders, being unused to such heat, often died of heat stroke, so you pays yer money and you takes yer choice, I guess. Anyway, I am still interested in finding out more about the raw firepower specs of the Japanese bow. The short distances you mention seem more related to the armor of the warriors involved as opposed to the actual strength of the bows. Just as an aside, I was talking to someone at a kyudo rank test in Japan recently, and he told me that the record for flight shooting in modern Japan is around >300 yards. I don't have any information on medieval Japan, but considering that modern kyudo archers shoot much weaker bows than those used in war, I think that it is reasonable to assume that the medieval archers could probably shoot just as far or farther.

    Anyway, good discussion.
    Earl Hartman

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    Some interesting stuff from Joe Svinth, wizard of the links:

    According to J. Chambers, The Devil's Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe (New York: Atheneum, 1979, p. 57), the Mongol bow compared favorably with its best European counterpart. The English longbow had a pull of 75 pounds and a range of 250 yards; the smaller Mongol recurved composite bow had a pull between 100 and 160 pounds and a range of 350 yards. The Mongols also practiced a technique called the Mongolian thumb lock, whereby an archer used a stone ring on the right thumb to release arrows more suddenly to increase velocity. Hildinger's review of various historical sources and modern experts (1997, pp. 20!31) suggests that the accurate range for shooting the composite bow from horseback is much shorter, between 10 and 80 yards. More inaccurate fire at greater ranges is possible against massed enemies by "shooting in arcade" (shooting at a steep angle of about 45 degrees)."

    Now, this makes a lot more sense. Volley shooting by massed archers will do a lot of damage against a massed enemy even 350 yards away; sort of like massed artillery fire or carpet bombing. However, when on a horse aiming at a specific target, the rate of accuracy naturally falls. The 10-80 yard distance given for accurate mounted archery compares to that quoted by Dr. Friday. If one had to be close enough to hit a small gap in a heavily armored enemy, one would need to get quite close; if the object was to hit a man on a horse who was wearing little or no armor, you have a bigger target and thus can be accurate at a greater range.

    From all the sources I have read, there are widely varying draw weights qoted. This article says that English longbows drew at 75 lbs., other sources say 100-120 lbs. was common. I'm sure it depended on the archer.

    Anyway, FWIW.
    Earl Hartman

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    Default Mongol Horses

    Mongol horses weren't weak, but they were very small and hard to control. Prior to the Edo period, horses in Japan were descendents of the wild Mongolian horses, which in turn were domesticated descendants of the only remaining species of wild horse (Equus equus,wild form, also now called "Przewalski's horse").

    The hardest part about riding them is that they have narrow backs, which makes it necessary to use lots of blankets and saddlery -- which adds more weight to the horse's already considerable armored and be-weaponed human burden. Considering what they had to carry, they should be given credit for their strength and speed, and their ability to keep going for miles and miles when other breeds would have dropped from exhaustion.

    It was the stamina of the Mongolian horses, along with the use of the stirrup, that allowed the Mongol hordes to cover as much territory as they did in such relatively short periods.
    Cady Goldfield

  13. #43
    Aaron Fields Guest

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    sayin bayi-no tei,

    Actually the back of the Mongol horses are size appropriate and the gear was appropriate to the horse. Mongol horses being hard to control is a matter of perspective. The hardest thing about ridding one is getting use to standing in the stirrup rather than sitting. Ther legs are relatively short so their trot is rough. As my backside can attest to. Also for the most part mogols did not armor their horses at all, or minimally. (For the weight reasons.)

    The Devil's Horseman is a good general survey, but within the Mongolist community their has been some question as to some of the specifics in the book. In particular his technology sections.

    The Empire of the Steppe by Grousset is an "oldy but goody" for a well detailed overview.

    I am working on a joint translation of a recent publication on Mongol empire period technology. It is probably several years out as the info is really technical.

    Many of the Altan Ordu became Muslim but there was still large a portion who were Buddhist or Tengri-ists.


    Armor varies, chain mesh, silk, leather, whatever was at hand. One area they armored very often was the outside of their boots as their legs were at risk of being chopped by sod kickers.


    Anyone interested in this Mongol stuff feel free to contact me directly as it is my field.

    Just call me ariag

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    Aaron, I agree that the horses' backs are proportional. Besides, Mongols and 13th-century Japanese were pretty small folk, apparently. However, these horses were grass-fed and did tend to be bony. They still are, even though they seem to get more barley nowadays. I have an antique Mongolian saddle... early 19th century... but they hadn't changed much over the centuries, which I put on my own tiny Morgan mare just for laffs, and realized that on a Mongol pony you would have to heap the blankets up just to even out the terrain.

    Actually, the worst thing about Mongol horses is that they are so small that their gaits are short and jerky. You have to stand in the stirrups to avoid hemorrhoids!

    What amazes me that Mongol warriors could maneuver on horseback with those gaits and the small, tight circles the horses wheel around in, while successfully wielding weapons. I had enough of a challenge just keeping to the gait! Those Mongol ponies don't have the extended trot of a Morgan.
    Cady Goldfield

  15. #45
    Aaron Fields Guest

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    Cady,


    Yep,

    I own several horses in Mongolia. The Stallion I won wrestling, his name is Jigig Yamaa (Dancing goat.) I not sure what you mean about blankets, as I use, and all I've ever seen used is one blanket. (Maybe I misread.) Mongols historically are not as small as they are often thought of being, or as small as East Asians due to a major difference in diet. The key to the horse and the steppe was that you switched mounts all the time.



    "Those Mongol ponies don't have the extended trot of a Morgan.

    True, but it is what you are use to. I feel like I'm not riding when I'm on a western horse these days. And for pure comfort the camel is the Cadillac of the steppe and I'll put it against the
    smoothest gated horse anyday.

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