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Horse Archers/ Missile Cavalry in Westeros

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Throughout history, missile cavalry has been shown to be an effective component in many armies. It is, in my opinion,  one of the most complex tactics to defend against in any engagement; missile cavalry has been shown, when used correctly, as highly effective against superior armored units and vastly larger armies, often harassing their flanks and overwhelming the opposition with their hit and run tactics.

As far back to the Hellenistic period, we know that the Persians equipped bows from horseback and the Greeks seem to effectively use javelins as well. Then, ofcourse, we had the Huns, using horse archers to deadly effect. The Huns seemed to devastate enemy armies with their hit and run tactics and this is whom we see the Dothraki parallel in Essos; a nomadic tribe-like people with a strong horse-based culture.

Then in the Middle Ages, we see horse archers used in Turk armies such as the Cumans. In The Battle on the Marchfeld, the Cumans seem to hold the strongest contingent in the Habsburg army, contributing heavily to the Bohemian defeat. It was said that the Cuman horse archers, some 5000, harassed and wore down the heavily armored knights of the Bohemian army leading to their left flank collapsing and eventual(or unintentional) rout and defeat. I’m sure there are a few others I’m leaving out here so feel free to contribute and broaden my historical knowledge on the topic...any other Middle Ages horse archers that come to mind?

And in the books, apart from the Dothraki, who else do we know or presume to use horse archers in ASOIAF? 

Dorne maybe? They’re the only Westerosi candidate I put forth for this topic...They seem to prefer short, recurve bows...isn’t that the ticket here, we see it used for all of history’s famed horse archer cav.

Any feedback is appreciated, thank you!

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I don't think Horse Archers are a big thing in Westeros since the knights and lords all train with melee weapons like swords and warhammers. It seems to be quite an uncommon thing for nobles to take up the bow or crossbow. Peasants are also not going to be rich enough to afford a good war horse. So it seems quite unlikely that any Kingdom even Dorne would employ them much. Also Horse Archers are quite difficult to train. Learning to ride a charging horse well can take a long time. Learning to shoot accurately can also take a lot of time and practice. But doing both at the same time is even more difficult. The Dothraki can do it because they are born and brought up in the saddle and it is all they do. 

I hope that was helpful


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Horse archers were historically not effective in western europe at least partly due to climate.  The composite shortbows used by all those steppe tribes generally fall apart in the more humid conditions that are commen in western europe.   Additionally they require vast open plains to feed their horse based armies, or excessive amounts of fodder.  

Dothraki do not appear to compare exactly to mongols.  They seem to lack the mongol heavy cavalry, and are more primatively armed.   They do not appear to have the same levels of discipline either that mongol armies exhibited.  Dothraki successes appear more a result of how pathetic and disunited their opposition is in Essos.  And even the mongols faired poorly against strong fortifications when far from their subject nations (who provided most of the infantry and siege engineers). 

Anyway, I dissagree with show Robert.  Hiding in castles is exactly the thing Westeros would want to do against a Dothraki horde.  Hoard all the food in your castles, burn everything, and wait for all the dothraki to starve to death.  Then ride out and destroy them.  It worked for the hungarians.   They defeated the second mongol invasion using primarily strong fortifications and better heavy cavalry than the mongols could field.  The Dothraki (who are all light cavalry) would not fare well.

This math changes if Viserys or Daenerys is with the Dothraki and giving the various Lords an alternative to just Dothraki conquest.  Then you'd see some lords decide to break from Robert.  And obviously Dragons are a game changer. 

But the Dothraki alone would not do well in an even halfway prepared Westeros.

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