A Reiver's choice of weapons, clothing
and horses allowed him to move with speed. The elements of surprise, boldness, cunning and
speed, were necessary for a successful raid. Great importance was placed on a Reiver's
mount. They chose horses for agility and stamina. The horses used were called hobblers and
were shaggy little ponies, but very sure footed and did not have to be shod. In Scotland
this pony was called a galloway and in Northumberland a nagg or a bog trotter. These
ponies did not need much care. Grooming was not something that they enjoyed.
Armor was really too cumbersome to wear.
Besides most of the men riding were poor men and their equipment had either been handed
down or stolen. Any armor worn would be back and breast plates. They preferred a jack or
jak of plaite. This was sleeveless and sometimes worn over a shirt of mail and was two or
three layers of quilted cloth with small iron plates overlapping each other stitched
between the layers of cloth. During the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 the men were clad all
alike. Since there was no way to identify the rich from the poor, many were killed instead
of being captured for ransom.
Chains were drawn 4 or 5 times around the
thighs of the horses which helped deflect spear thrusts. A scarf was wrapped around and
around the neck for protection against getting one's throat cut. There was no leg armor
but thigh-high thick leather riding boots worn with spurs. Sometimes small shields called
bucklers were carried. In the early 1500s helmets were worn for protection of the upper
part of the face and neck. In the 16th century, these were replaced with light, open
helmets called burgonets -- the steill bonnets. These provided protection without a loss
of vision. They were peaked on top with protective cheek plates and a flared rim to
protect the neck. They were padded inside with leather.
Border Laws required that all men must appear
at Muster Days with all arms and armor. The Borderer probably did not show the government
on these days all the weapons he had. The lance or the lang spear was the most common
weapon and was about 8 to 12 feet in length. Basket hilted broad swords were predominately
used among the less wealthy at the end of the 16th century. The nobility wore rapiers and
parrying daggers. Dirks, which were long narrow daggers, were carried by everyone,
including the clergy.
Longbows and arrows were used even as late as
1580. The Scots also used the bow but not as effectively as the English and preferred a
small light crossbow known as the latch.
Scots on foot carried 16 foot pikes. A
Jeddart Staff was a 4 foot blade of steel and was slim, providing a long cutting edge with
a spike at the bottom for piercing.
Pistols were carried by the Border men but
with some trepidation since these weapons were tedious to load and reload and if not in
good condition could result in losing a good hand. Also they were not particularly
accurate unless at a very close range.
Bishop Leslie writes: 'They sally out of
their own Borders in the night in troops, through unfrequented byways and many intricate
windings. All the daytime they refresh themselves and their horses in lurking places they
have pitched upon before, till they arrive in the dark at those places they have a design
upon. As soon as they have seized upon the booty, they in like manner, return home in the
night through blind ways, fetching many a compass. The more skillful any captain is to
pass through those wild deserts, crooked turnings, and deep precipices, in the thickest
mists and darkness, his reputation is the greater and he is looked upon as a man of