The oldest known manual on training horses for chariot warfare was written c. 1350 BC by the Hittie horsemaster, Kikkuli. An ancient manual on the subject of training riding horses, particularly for the Greek Cavalry is Hippike (on horse man ship) written about 360 BC by the Greek cavalry officer Xenophon.. and another early text was that of Kautilya,( Chanakya) written about 323 BC.
Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, to be ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also learned to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried.
In most cultures, a war horse used as a riding animal was trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse became accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, and learned to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial. The origins of the discipline of dressage came from the need to train horses to be both obedient and manoeuvrable.
Horses used for chariots warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but because many chariots were pulled by a team of two to four horses, they also had to learn to work together with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions.
Among the earliest evidence of chariot use are the burials of horse and chariot remains by the Andronovo (Sintashta-Petrovka ) culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan , dated to approximately 2000 BC. The oldest documentary evidence of what was probably chariot warfare in the Ancient Near East is the Old Hittite Anita text, of the 18th century BC, which mentioned 40 teams of horses at the siege of Salatiwara. The Hitties became well known throughout the ancient world for their prowess with the chariot. Widespread use of the chariot in warfare across most of Eurasia coincides approximately with the development of the composite bow known from c. 1600 BC. Further improvements in wheels and axles, as well as innovations in weaponry, soon resulted in chariots being driven in battle by Bronze age societies from China to Egypt.
The Hyksos invaders brought the chariot to Ancient Egypt in the 16th century BC and the Egyptians adopted its use from that time forward. The oldest preserved text related to the handling of war horses in the ancient world is the Hittite manual of Kikkuli, which dates to about 1350 BC, and describes the conditioning of chariot horses.
Chariots existed in the Minoan Civilization, as they were inventoried on storage lists from Knossos in Crete, dating to around 1450 BC. Chariots were also used in China as far back as the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1050 BC), where they appear in burials. The high point of chariot use in China was in the Spring and autumn period (770–476 BC), although they continued in use up until the 2nd century BC.
Some of the earliest examples of horses being ridden in warfare were horse mounted archers, or javelin-throwers, dating to the reigns of the Assryian rulers Ashurinspal and Shalmaneser . However, these riders sat far back on their horses, a precarious position for moving quickly, and the horses were held by a handler on the ground, keeping the archer free to use the bow. Thus, these archers were more a type of mounted infantry than true cavalry . The Assyrians developed cavalry in response to invasions by nomadic people from the north, such as the Cimmerians , who entered Asia minor in the 8th century BC and took over parts of Urartu during the reign of Sargon , approximately 721 BC. Mounted warriors such as the Scynthians also had an influence on the region in the 7th century BC. By the reign of Ashrubanipal in 669 BC, the Assyrians had learned to sit forward on their horses in the classic riding position still seen today and could be said to be true light cavalry. The ancient Greeks used both light horse scouts and heavy cavalry,although not extensively, possibly due to the cost of keeping horses.
Heavy Cavalry was believed to have been developed by the Ancient Persians although others argue for the Sarmatians. By the time of Darius (558–486 BC), Persian military tactics required horses and riders that were completely armoured, and selectively bred a heavier, more muscled horse to carry the additional weight. The cataphract was a type of heavily armoured cavalry with distinct tactics, armour, and weaponry used from the time of the Persians up until the Middle Ages.
In Ancient Greece , Phillip of Macedon is credited with developing tactics allowing massed cavalry charges. The most famous Greek heavy cavalry units were the companion cavalry of Alexander. The Chinese of the 4th century BC during the warring states period. (403–221 BC) began to use cavalry against rival states. To fight nomadic raiders from the north and west, the Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) developed effective mounted units. Cavalry was not used extensively by the Romans during the Roman Republic period, but by the time of the Roman Empire they made use of heavy cavalry. However, the backbone of the Roman army was the infantry.