Society Equestrian Marshal

Rossfechten (Mounted Combat with Special Simulators) Program

Updated December 2017

PDF version of the Rossfechten Experimental program details.
To take part in the program, please contact Lord David Straker via email

A. Purpose

1. The SCA is devoted to the study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and armoured knights fighting from horseback is an excellent example of the combat conducted in the Middle Ages. The experimental Rossfechten program, which is mounted combat with special simulators/weapons, extends the SCA's entry level mounted combat activities into advanced levels, and provides an opportunity for SCA members to more accurately re-enact medieval combat and the techniques described in period fighting manuals.
2. Current SCA mounted combat rules permit the use of simulators/weapons constructed with foam rubber over a rattan or PEX core. These simulators allow for a fairly accurate simulation of medieval tourney batons (i.e. wooden clubs), but for a number of reasons-- shape, balance, lack of edges, and the give of foam rubber-- they do a poor job of simulating mounted sword use. Different simulators are needed if we wish to have a moderate amount of verisimilitude when re-enacting mounted sword tournaments or in exploring mounted combat techniques contained in period manuals such as the Fiore de Liberi and Ringeck manuscripts. The Rossfechten program allows these different weapon simulators
3. Program Weapon Simulators: There are two types of weapon simulators with an established record of safety, notably in programs that require minimal armor. We already have extensive amounts of data and reports on these simulators. Importantly for the purpose of this program, they also provide a reasonably accurate simulation of the various swords used on horseback in period.
  1. The Rawlings style plastic simulators approved for use in the Caid Unarmored Combat program
  2. Metal cut and thrust blades approved for use in the SCA Rapier Cut and Thrust program
4. The potential risk is not inconsequential, and there are some potential concerns:
  1. Experience with mounted combat has demonstrated that the vast majority of strikes are conducted at relatively matched speeds as the riders maneuver to gain advantage on each other, usually at a walk or trot and rarely faster than a collected canter. That said, blows thrown during a head-to-head pass have the potential for being somewhat stronger than a blow thrown by a combatant on foot, due to the higher relative velocities and mass of the horses. Experience with the jousting program has demonstrated that experienced and controlled riders can exchange blows safely in a head-to-head pass, but the point remains that this scenario needs to be approached with caution. Initial participants in this program should avoid strikes at higher speeds until such a time as all riders and horses are completely comfortable with strikes thrown at a walk or when standing.
  2. As noted above, the proposed simulators have been proven to be safe when used in conjunction with relatively minimal armor. Current mounted combat armor requirements meet or exceed those of the Unarmored Combat and Cut and Thrust programs for the most part. The one significant point of difference is with head/eye protection, due to the narrower profile of the Rawlings and cut and thrust blades. Helmets for use in this program will have to meet the eyeslot requirements identified below.
  3. While certainly safe, the proposed simulators lack the padding of current mounted combat weapons. While not an issue for an armored human, full armor for horses is less practical. The proposed simulators have been tested with participants wearing nothing more than abrasion resistant clothing in non-vulnerable areas. As with the riders, the required horse armor is designed to protect the vulnerable areas of the horse, notably eye and head protection. Furthermore, wooden, metal and even sharp weapons are routinely and safely used in mounted games already, and have always carried the risk of horse strikes. It is presumed that all participants in this program will spend the necessary time with their horses desensitizing them to possibility of incidental contact with weapons, as they should with all horses engaged in mounted games of any sort. Riders may want to consider additional armor for their horses beyond just the mandatory minimums (see below).
  4. While thrusting is a large part of both the Unarmored Combat and Cut and Thrust forms, thrusting is NOT currently approved for mounted combat. Accordingly, thrusting is currently prohibited within this experimental combat program. In the event that this prohibition changes for the regular mounted combat, this rule set will be subject to review, but the prohibition will remain in place until a formal revision is published.

B. Society Administration

1. The Experimental Rossfechten Combat program will be centrally administered by the Program Administrator but de-centrally managed by the KEOs.
2. Kingdoms may choose to participate, but the KEO must notify both the SEO and the Program Administrator of the kingdom's intention to participate.
3. KEOs must report to the Program Administrator at the end of the first month (of the kingdom's participation in the program) and every 3 months following (during Phase One).
4. The list of authorized participants in the program shall be maintained by the Program Administrator, who shall inform the SEO of additions and removals. The SEO shall maintain a list of authorized participants and marshals on the SEO's webpage under the Experimental Rossfechten program.

C. Equipment Requirements

1. Armor must meet normal mounted combat standards as defined in the Society Equestrian Handbook with the additional requirements below:
  1. Helmets for riders must meet normal mounted combat standards. In addition, the eye aperture must be covered with perforated metal. Such metal must not have holes larger than 1/8" (3 mm) in diameter, with a minimum offset of 3/16" (5 mm) and shall also meet the definition of rigid material. Alternatively, 12 kilogram mesh (i.e. standard fencing mask mesh) is sufficient for face protection, so long as the remainder of the head is covered with rigid material (see Head and Neck requirements for heavy rapier and cut and thrust rapier as outlined in the Protective Gear section of the SCA Rapier Marshal Handbook).
  2. Neck protection for riders must also meet the normal mounted combat standards in the Society Equestrian Handbook or the Head and Neck requirements for heavy rapier and cut and thrust rapier as outlined in the Protective Gear section of the SCA Rapier Marshal Handbook
  3. The back of the fingers, thumb and the back of the hand require reinforced padding or rigid material. Examples include but are not limited to demi-gauntlets (paired with a guard that covers the hand), Revival sparring gloves, or a standard metal gauntlet. The weapon or parrying device may provide some of the protection.
  4. Rigid protection is required to cover all three points of the elbows
  5. Rigid Material: puncture-resistant material that will not significantly flex, spread apart, or deform under pressure of 12 Kg applied by a standard fencing mask tester, repeatedly to any single point. Examples of rigid material are: 22 gauge stainless steel (0.8 mm), 20 gauge mild steel (1.0 mm), 16 gauge aluminum, copper, or brass (1.6 mm), one layer of hardened heavy leather (8 ounce, 3.18 mm) Equivalent materials may also be used, at the discretion of the KEO and Program Administrator. Chainmail over a padded gambeson or arming cote has been established as equivalent.
2. Armor Requirements - Horses
  1. Equine Eye protection must meet the standards established for Mounted Combat as defined in the Society Equestrian Handbook. In addition, it must meet the eye aperture requirements as established in part C.1.a of this program. Note that these requirements are subject to change, and it is anticipated that part of the experimental program will involve stress testing horse eye protection.
  2. The use of a chamfron or face protector and poll protection is highly recommended and may be a requirement in the final version of these rules, pending experimentation. Furthermore, a full caparison can help avoid abrasion from metal weapons. As always, it is expected that riders take full responsibility for the health and well-being of both themselves and their mounts.
3. Weapon Guidelines
  1. Cut and Thrust style blades: Any currently approved blade in the SCA Rapier Cut and Thrust program is allowable for this program. Additional equivalent blades can be authorized at the discretion of the SEO and Program Administrator. As thrusting is currently prohibited in this program, thrusting tips are not required, but the blade can have no sharp protrusions or corners (tip, quillons, etc)
  2. Rawlings Synthetic blades: All Rawlings synthetic blades that reproduce period swords are acceptable. This currently includes their longsword, "short sword" (i.e, arming sword) and basket hilt sword.

D. Participation

1. Sessions must be supervised by an authorized equestrian marshal approved by the Program Administrator and KEO. The marshal must be mounted combat authorized. Armor and weapons must be inspected prior to each session. This inspection must be performed by a marshal who is a participant in the program.
2. All participants must be approved by the Program Administrator and KEO. The participant must be mounted combat authorized.
3. A list of authorized participants in the program shall be maintained by the Program Administrator, who shall inform the SEO of additions and removals.
4. Kingdoms have the discretion to allow the activity in their kingdom. Experimental sessions are not allowed at events or practices in kingdoms that are not specifically participating in the experimental program. KEOs shall notify the SEO and Program Administrator if their kingdom chooses to participate in the program, and shall inform the Program Administrator and SEO of those authorized to participate within their kingdom.

E. Combat Conventions

1. Individual kingdoms may impose additional restrictions and guidelines. For example, kingdoms may choose to restrict allowable simulators, or increase (but not decrease) armor standards. Any such additional restrictions shall be submitted to the Program Administrator and SEO.
2. Unless otherwise stated, all current guidelines for mounted combat apply.
3. Any blow that if missed would contact the horse must be discontinued. For example, if a rider's arm is next to the neck of the horse, striking at that arm is prohibited. Riders should not use this rule to their advantage by using their horse as a shield.
4. If a strike carries through to the horse, a hold will be called. Riders should debrief the occurrence before recommencing the session.
5. As a general guideline, engagements will be conducted until the first good blow or an agreed upon number of counted blows, at which point combatants are expected to cease combat until the next engagement is commenced. Blows will be called by the struck combatant.
6. Blow calibration has not yet been established, but current mounted combat calibration levels will be used as a starting level. Incidental conduct will not count as a blow. At the other extreme, a fully focused blow such as seen in armored foot combat would be excessive for the current armor requirements and are not allowed. In general, an unobstructed blow thrown at speed with "intent" would meet the envisioned calibration for this program. Participants should keep in mind that occasional minor injuries such as bruises and abrasions are almost inevitable, particularly if only minimal armor is worn.
7. Thrusting is not currently allowed.
8. Rossfechten combat can only be conducted using matched simulators. In other words, plastic swords can only be used against plastic, foam covered simulators against foam simulators, and metal swords against metal swords.

F. Experimental Program Outline

1. PHASE ONE. Phase One will last for a minimum of twelve months, beginning 1 October 2017. Subsequent phases will be scheduled based on test results. During Phase 1:
  1. Participating riders should report their experiences to their Kingdom Equestrian Officer, and KEOs should provide a report to the Program Administrator at the end of the first month and then at three and six months using the Rossfechten Evaluation Report below. Any potential hazards or injuries will be reported immediately.
  2. The Rossfechten special weapons will only be used at equestrian practices or in individual challenge matches at events. They are not allowed in tournaments.
  3. Any potentially hazardous issues will be reported to the Earl Marshal, the KEO, and the program administrator as soon as possible.
  4. At the end of twelve months (end of Phase 1):
    (1) Each kingdom participating in the experiment will provide a report to the Program Administrator and will include number of events and practices at which Rossfechten was done, the number of Rossfechten participants at within the kingdom, and the overall view of the kingdom on whether Rossfechten is a good program or not (for that specific kingdom)
    (2) The Program Administrator will consolidate the kingdom reports and make a report to the Society Equestrian Officer on the outcome and forward all Test evaluation reports.
    (3) If the majority of the fighters conducting the test, the kingdom Earl Marshals, the Society Equestrian Officer, and the Society Earl Marshal approve, the testing will proceed to Phase II.
    (4) If either the SEO or a majority of riders are opposed to moving to Phase II, at the SEO's discretion Phase I will be extended for six months or the test will be ended.
  1. The experimental weapons may be used by any appropriately authorized mounted combatant. Depending on input during Phase One, this may become a separate authorization from normal mounted combat.
  2. The experimental weapons may be used in tournament with the approval of both combatants and the marshals.
  3. Riders and marshals will be solicited for commentary on the weapons.
  1. If the testing warrants, a complete test report will be submitted to the kingdom and Society marshals to peruse legalization as standard weapon types allowed in mounted combat.



List of events / practices at which Rossfechten was done:

Number of participants at each event/practice:

What different activities/scenarios were conducted at each event/practice?

Top 3 Weapon lengths:     __________     __________     __________

Top 3 Weapon types:

Material/Brands of top 3 weapons:

Armor Worn____________

Typical weapon striking power as compared with rattan/foam:

Typical weapon durability as compared to rattan/foam:

Feel of the weapon as compared to rattan/foam:

Comments & Recommendations:


Unfortunately, period discussions of horseback sword work are not as plentiful as, for example, longsword work on foot. However, there are certainly enough to give us a basic understanding of the principles involved. The Fiore and Ringeck manuscripts have been extensively studied and utilized by members of the SCA and Historical Martial Arts groups, so they can provide us with a good starting point. While there are some obvious differences between foot and mounted work, with a basic understanding of their respective systems we can explore and extrapolate from the mounted plays we do have.

Fiore de Liberi (circa 1400)

In the horseback section of his manual, Fiore specifies nine specific plays, all starting from Coda Lunga, with the blade held down and back on the left.

The J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles, CA, has an online version of the manual, with the horseback section being at the very end.

Note -- sword types are not specified, but it can be assumed from the illustrations as well as the rest of the Fiore manuscript that the riders in these plays are equipped with what we would call a longsword. The illustrated sword looks no different in length than the typically two handed sword we are familiar with for ground plays, but in these plays it is used one handed.

Ringeck Manuscript (circa 1420-1440)
The Ringeck manuscript is well known for its treatment of 15th century German Longsword technique. It also includes a short section on mounted combat. While lacking the beautiful illustrations of the Fiore manuscript, it lists multiple guards and a few plays.

Many of Ringeck's plays involve finishing with a thrust to the face or a wrestling take down, both understandable moves if one is facing an armored opponent. Since this is an experimental program with no thrusting and no wrestling take downs, any discussion of Ringeck's moves including wrestling or thrusts is strictly for historical interest. There is a translation and commentary provided by Christian Tobler in his book German Medieval Swordsmanship (Chivalry Bookshelf, 2001)