Post-classical history

§ Speaking of Horses: Stout-Hearted Steeds

Speaking of horses, it must be said that there are among them, as among humans, both stout-hearted and faint-hearted specimens. Here is an example of the former:

There was a Kurdish soldier in our garrison called Kamil the Scarred, a man of courage, [97] piety and virtue (may God have mercy upon him). He had a black charger, tough like a camel. He once met a Frankish horseman in battle, and the Frank thrust his spear into the horse around the collar-area. The force of the blow caused the horse’s neck to bend to one side so that the spear came out through the base of the neck of the horse, piercing the thigh of Kamil the Scarred and emerging from the other side. Neither horse nor horseman was shaken by that blow. I often saw that wound in his thigh after it had closed up and healed, and it was the biggest scar. The horse recovered and Kamil again rode him into battle, where he encountered another Frankish horseman who thrust his spear into the forehead of the horse, making an indentation. But the horse was not shaken and survived that second blow. After the wound had closed up, if a person balled up his hand, there was enough room for him to stick it into the forehead of the horse where the indentation was.

Here’s an amusing thing that happened with regard to that horse. My brother ‘Izz al-Dawla ‘Ali (may God have mercy upon him) bought the horse from Kamil the Scarred. After it had started to slow down, he gave it away as part of the rent for a village that we leased from a Frankish knight from Kafartab. The horse remained with the knight for a year, and then died. So the knight sent a messenger to us demanding we pay its price.

We said, ‘You bought it, you rode it and it died in your care. What right do you have to demand its price?’

He replied, ‘You must have given it something to drink so that it would die after a year!’

We were stunned by his ignorance and his weak-mindedness.

Once, a horse I was riding was wounded while attacking Homs. A spear-thrust split open its heart and a number of arrows struck him. But it carried me out of battle, its two nostrils gushing blood like the mouths of open water-skins, and I sensed nothing wrong with it. After I arrived in the midst of my comrades, it died.

Another horse I was riding in the district of Shayzar during a war with Mahmud ibn Qaraja was wounded three times. And by God, there I was, fighting mounted on it, without even knowing that it had been wounded, because I sensed nothing wrong with it at all.

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