Prancing horses from the Trajan Colum

Artistic licence or trained high stepping Roman cavalry

Further to my previous blog on this mysterious exhibit at the Lunt Fort …. I was speaking recently to a visitor who happened to be a horse breeder. She was fascinated by the Hipposandal and readily agreed that it would have worked as a temporary hobbling device – but also put forward another possibility. She suggested that it may have been a TRAINING device, and felt that it would have been used to train a horse to HIGH-STEP.


That Roman cavalry mounts were able to high-step is easily supported by evidence from funeral monuments – and especially from Trajan’s Column. Three examples from the Lunt frieze are included here. They show horses high-stepping, and high-cantering. Horses need specific training to do this.
The next question is WHY? Are we dealing here with an artistic convention – or was the high-step a ceremonial ornament …… or was there a practical use in warfare for a horse able to high-step its forelegs?
More questions. However, one thing is certain – Hipposandals are never found in quantity. This would fit well with the notion of them being training devices.

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