Although Reiver could operate as foot louns they were more adept at working as horsemen. They were counted as some of the finest light cavalry in Europe. Henry VIII took “prickers” (as they were generally termed) as units of “Border Horse” with him on his French campaigns. James VIII sent a unit of “Border Lances”, under the command of the Bauld Bucleuch, to assist the Dutch in their struggle for freedom from the Spanish.
Reivers were admirably suited for the work of light cavalry which classically was:
1. To scout and carry out reconaisance operations
2. To harry the enemy’s lines of supply
3. To forage and bring in supplies eg beef on the hoof for the army
4. To plunder and pillage enemy countryside
5. To act as a fast-moving and mobile rearguard if the army was in retreat.
All of the above were part and parcel of the Reivers’ normal activities on the Border and were second nature to them.
The key to their success was their horses. This was a now extinct breed, variously termed “The Galloway”, “The Hobbler” or “The Nag”. The Galloway, as a breed, died out in the later years of the 19th Century, but its bloodline still survives in the Fell Pony and its near relation the Dale Pony.
This is Johnny, an archetypal Fell Pony. Note that Johnny stands at 13.2 hands which puts him in the modern day pony range. However, this would have been the average height of the Galloway, but was a fairly normal height for a horse at that time and so they were classed as small horses rather than ponies.
As you can see he has the classic build of the Fell/ Galloway - good shoulders, a short back, heavy quarters, and short canon bones (short, thick legs).
Fell ponies, and their Galloway ancestors, are amazingly sure-footed, fantastically strong, with an excellent turn of speed and with tremendous stamina.
We regularly ride them through the forests around Buittle, a ride which takes in not only the woodland paths but cross country across very broken ground up steep slopes as well. The woods behind the tower have recently been cut down and the paths are still strewn with the spoil left behind by the woodsmen; logs, branches and mud. The horses will negotiate this easier than someone on foot would do.
This is Heather carrying virtually a full load of Reiver equipment. This is detailed below, with the weight of each item. This is also a good indication of the amount of gear that had to be carried on a raid.
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Various Bags [Oats/Personal Items(spoon/plate/sewing kit/flint&steel)]
Valise/Blanket/Spare Shirt/Tether/Rope Halter/Picket Spike
Pistol Holsters/Dag/Ammo/Powder/Spanner etc
Cloak & Hay Net
Food [Bread/Cheese/Fruit] wrapped in Linen
Sword & Hanger
Bow/Linen Cover/Spare String
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