How did the medieval fight of cavalry vs infantry look like? In which ways could infantry units counter the cavalry?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that the medieval period lasted well over a thousand years, and within this time cavalry and infantry tactics varied widely from region to region, which means that there will be a number of generalizations within this explanation.
There were three main times of cavalry throughout this period; shock cavalry, scouting cavalry, and missile cavalry. Shock cavalry usually consisted of heavily armed soldiers with lances or spears that would charge into a unit of infantry in order to break their lines and cause widespread panic throughout the enemy force.
Scouting cavalry were largely used to find weaknesses and gaps in enemy lines and to flank around the enemy lines in order to harass them from the side or the rear. Missile cavalry served a similar purpose, and would never directly engage an enemy unit but would instead fire at them from a distance and then retreat when the enemy charged.
To counteract these tactics, infantry units could use a number of methods to rout or kill these cavalry troops. One of the most common tactics was to use long spears that would be held in a tightly organized fashion in order to create an impenetrable wall for the cavalry to charge into.
Another method was a formation called the “shield wall”, which consisted of soldiers holding their shields tightly together in order to make it more difficult for the cavalry to break through their lines. Finally, troops could also form a circular line of spears and shields in order to ensure that they could not be flanked or attacked from the rear.
In general, it was often difficult to defend against cavalry troops as an infantry unit, and it was only the sheer cost of maintaining cavalry troops that stopped them from becoming the main form of soldier within Medieval European armies.