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Lauren W
04-17-2011, 06:00 PM
I have a scene in my wip progress where the horses on a Spanish galleon need to be thrown overboard while sailing. Now my question is this: How did they maneuver this? Some kind of ramp over the side? A gate-like railing that would swing open to unload? I researched this question and haven't found any details. I would appreciate any expertise or even an educated guess.

MeretSeger
04-17-2011, 07:40 PM
Not claiming expertise, but since this didn't happen as a regular course of a voyage, I doubt they had the "horse-dumping crane" installed on every ship.

This site talk about horses "put over the side" after the destruction of the Armada, maybe there are things here to help you. I get the impression they did just that, drove them over the side. http://www.britishbattles.com/spanish-war/spanish-armada.htm

Lauren W
04-17-2011, 08:01 PM
Thank you for your link, I just was looking for particulars. If they drove them over the side I wonder how they could get each horse to jump over the ship's edge into a fall like that into water? Would whipping them be enough? Would they have gone wild and ran around the ship?

frimble3
04-18-2011, 03:14 AM
First, where are the horses on the ship? If it was a warship or a long voyage, the horses would be below decks, which would imply either a sling-and-crane to move them, which would make dumping them relatively easy, or ramps, up onto the ship, down into the hold.
The horses would have to be brought up on deck and penned in. (otherwise, yeah, risk of running wildly on deck at the next step)
I don't think you'd drive them over the edge individually, too slow. And I think you'd leave the whole thing to the sailors, keep the horsemen well away if they showed any signs of sentimentality.
Because next, you arrange the barriers to funnel the horses through a gap in the ship's rails. Then, open the barrier, and yeah, shouting and whipping to get the horses to panic and run forward. Momentum should carry most of them over, and a few men with torchs can chase the rest over.
Then, keep everyone busy while the horses slowly tire and drown.
Don't know if this is exactly how it was done, but it seems the simplest plan.

MeretSeger
04-18-2011, 03:15 AM
Picturing the scene, it honestly must have been horrible. Horses would try to avoid going overboard, even trained warhorses. But if driven to a panic, they would go over, probably taking out some sailors on the way. Four legs and hooves on a deck might not be very stable.

You need someone who has dealt with panicked horses more than me. But I bet you could write this pretty dramatic. Not to mention the riders who likely worked with the horses for years, they would not handle that well.

eta: Like Frimble above said: herd instinct. getting them all going.

jclarkdawe
04-18-2011, 04:54 AM
It's actually very simple. The horses would be kept below decks in the hold usually for transport. However, even if kept on deck, the process is the same.

First off understand that if horses were being put over the side, the probability was that the wind was not blowing, although even if there was a moderate wind you could do it.

All sailing ships required numerous articles of freight to be loaded, many weighing significant amounts. For example, if a water cask contains 50 gallons of water, it weighs close to 500 pounds. A cask of salt pork would be even more. Sailors were used to working with this stuff all the time. And although loading could occur in a port, it just as likely could occur on a deserted island or the middle of the ocean.

Fortunately, wooden sailing ships have their own crane system. Their booms. You took the block and tackle at one end of the boom, counter-balanced the other end, and hoisted away. Booms were designed for swinging, and once you lifted, you'd swing the boom from where you were lifting from to over the hatch, then lower away. Simple in concept, a bit harder in practice, but a lot of practice made it easy. But loading the relatively small holds on a wooden ship took a lot of time.

To unload a horse from a sailing ship, you'd put it in a sling in the hold under the hatch, then lift away. Then swing to the side, and drop. The horse never touches the deck. Among other things, a horse with steel shoes would destroy a deck real quickly with its thrashing.

Takes a while, but you're not going anywhere. You'd end up with a trail of horses swimming behind the ship until the horses tired and drowned.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Lauren W
04-18-2011, 05:11 AM
Thank you so much frimble3 and MeretSeger. I think it must have been a horrible thing for everyone to witness and I actually wrote it like you deducted. I just wanted to be sure that it seemed plausible and what most likely happened. Great addition though to keep the horsemen away, I hadn't thought of that. I actually heard a legend that some of these horses made it to Ireland since these calvary horses were Andalusians and after this time an Andalusian mixed breed appeared on Ireland. Lets hope some of them made it.

Lauren W
04-18-2011, 05:27 AM
To unload a horse from a sailing ship, you'd put it in a sling in the hold under the hatch, then lift away. Then swing to the side, and drop. The horse never touches the deck. Among other things, a horse with steel shoes would destroy a deck real quickly with its thrashing.

Takes a while, but you're not going anywhere. You'd end up with a trail of horses swimming behind the ship until the horses tired and drowned.


I wish I could know for sure what they would have done. There ships were taking on water at this point and were in survival mode I wonder if they would have taken this time. Many men were injured and sick from battle and poor supplies, the weather had been against them, the ships were breaking apart and most men were busy at the bilge pumps or caulking the ship; I wonder if they wouldn't have just driven them over? I remember reading that had they not acted so quickly it might have been a better idea to slaughter them since the men were so short on provisions, I wonder if that meant they disposed of them quickly? But that's a great point about the shoes tearing up the deck I hadn't thought of that. I know that the horses were planned for a ground assault once they reached land, would they have taken all that time to unload each one during a battle? Oh so many questions now...

jclarkdawe
04-18-2011, 05:47 AM
Originally Posted by jclarkdawe http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6046506#post6046506)

To unload a horse from a sailing ship, you'd put it in a sling in the hold under the hatch, then lift away. Then swing to the side, and drop. The horse never touches the deck. Among other things, a horse with steel shoes would destroy a deck real quickly with its thrashing.

Takes a while, but you're not going anywhere. You'd end up with a trail of horses swimming behind the ship until the horses tired and drowned.I wish I could know for sure what they would have done. There ships were taking on water at this point and were in survival mode I wonder if they would have taken this time. Many men were injured and sick from battle and poor supplies, the weather had been against them, the ships were breaking apart and most men were busy at the bilge pumps or caulking the ship; I wonder if they wouldn't have just driven them over? I remember reading that had they not acted so quickly it might have been a better idea to slaughter them since the men were so short on provisions, I wonder if that meant they disposed of them quickly? But that's a great point about the shoes tearing up the deck I hadn't thought of that. I know that the horses were planned for a ground assault once they reached land, would they have taken all that time to unload each one during a battle? Oh so many questions now...

Rarely would horses be shipped on deck. Among other problems is it increases the chances of seasickness due to seeing the horizon. Seasickness in a horse is a fatal disease, as a horse can't vomit. Also, the sun on deck would increase the effects of dehydration on the horses, and horses drink a lot of water.

Horses were commonly shipped in the hold, with partitions between each horse. So the problem you face is getting them out of the hold. Ships that are in the process of sinking would not move horses. A horse weighs approximately a thousand pounds, and if the ship is in danger of floundering you don't want a thousand pounds loose on a ship. It can upset the center of balance. Ships have tipped over and sank from having too many passengers on one side.

There's an argument to be made that the horses were slaughtered for their meat, but there was a lot of cultural bias against horse meat. Horses did survive sinking ships, and can swim long distances and probably can smell land.

Although I say that loading freight took time, my guess is you could probably unload a horse in somewhere between two to five minutes. Once you bring the horse up out of the hold, you might just as well swing it over the side as drop it on the ship. I know there are some pictures of horses being loaded/unloaded, hanging in the air, that I have seen, but can't remember where.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Lauren W
04-18-2011, 06:01 AM
Thank you so much for all your help jclarkdawe, I really appreciate it.

Blue236
04-18-2011, 06:53 AM
I think they would have been slaughtered for supplies prior to being driven overboard. Especially as you say, supplies were running short. The sailors would have likely used everything they had on board before throwing it away into the sea. They were very inventive in using what they had. The horses would have two purposes, food and hydration. Thus, slaughter would be a more likely scenario than being driven overboard. If the ship really were sinking, they certainly wouldn't have driven them overboard.

MeretSeger
04-18-2011, 08:24 AM
It makes sense that they should be slaughtered for food, but that's apparently not what happened with the Armada. And the horses were reported seen in the water.

While on board, they were in 'comfort slings', but I can't find any loading sling references...sorry.

http://www.archive.org/stream/storyofgreatarma00haleuoft/storyofgreatarma00haleuoft_djvu.txt

(It's moment like this that I love this board. Where else can you think about everything from how to get a herd of horses off a galleon to what happens if a lion swallows a brick?!)

Lauren W
04-18-2011, 08:29 AM
(It's moment like this that I love this board. Where else can you think about everything from how to get a herd of horses off a galleon to what happens if a lion swallows a brick?!)


lol...thanks for the comfort sling reference, I hadn't come across that!

frimble3
04-18-2011, 11:54 AM
I actually heard a legend that some of these horses made it to Ireland since these calvary horses were Andalusians and after this time an Andalusian mixed breed appeared on Ireland. Lets hope some of them made it. If you look in any big book of horse breeds, you'll find stories of breed origins from all over the world that attribute the better looking horses to Arabian or Spanish horses that escaped from sinking ships. The oceans must have been full of swimming horses.

Lauren W
04-18-2011, 04:36 PM
If you look in any big book of horse breeds, you'll find stories of breed origins from all over the world that attribute the better looking horses to Arabian or Spanish horses that escaped from sinking ships. The oceans must have been full of swimming horses.

Thank you, this fact will make it much easier for me to write this horrible scene :)

jclarkdawe
04-18-2011, 11:43 PM
I knew I could find some pictures for you. Take a look at http://imagehost.vendio.com/preview/ha/haats/HW1861P328181.jpg and http://texancultures.com/publications/texansoneandall/t1_130.htm

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

MeretSeger
04-19-2011, 04:09 AM
Wow, JCD, that 16th century one rocks! Looks like there were winches in the masts and one landward side, with two ropes to steady the horse.

jclarkdawe
04-19-2011, 04:47 AM
Some of the differences are just plain development, but most of it was a vastly different approach to seamanship. The Spaniards, from many different sources, were much more conservative in their seamanship than Americans or Englishmen.

I'm not sure whether they used winches or block and tackle. My guess, however, would be block and tackle. Relying on artists for accurate rigging information is dangerous, as they tend to simplify the rigging. For example, the Spanish drawing doesn't have any standing rigging. And I can't figure out how they'd make it work without a dock, but I'm sure they could.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

frimble3
04-19-2011, 06:59 AM
Thank you, this fact will make it much easier for me to write this horrible scene :)
It's only Wikipedia, but read and be comforted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connemara_pony

Lauren W
04-19-2011, 08:52 AM
I knew I could find some pictures for you. Take a look at http://imagehost.vendio.com/preview/ha/haats/HW1861P328181.jpg and http://texancultures.com/publications/texansoneandall/t1_130.htm

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe


Wow! What terrific pictures! But I don't understand it looks like they're either putting or removing that horse from the water. Would they have the horses swim out or from the boats? I'm amazed you found these pictures!

Lauren W
04-19-2011, 08:55 AM
It's only Wikipedia, but read and be comforted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connemara_pony

Yay! Then I'm glad they didn't eat them.

jclarkdawe
04-19-2011, 03:56 PM
Wow! What terrific pictures! But I don't understand it looks like they're either putting or removing that horse from the water. Would they have the horses swim out or from the boats? I'm amazed you found these pictures!

If the ship hadn't been warped into a dock, then yes, the horses were swum to the ship and lifted right from the water. By and large, horses are good swimmers, and especially if you introduce the concept to them, they quickly master it. (By the way, cattle that were going to be butchered into beef immediately were also brought out to ships this way, and butchered right on deck.) However, I believe that picture actually shows them unloading the horses. One of the longboats in the background appears to be leading a horse towards shore.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe