Although the cavalry was becoming dominant on the battlefields of Western Europe by the latter years of the 11th century (when Rodrigo del Bivar or 'El Cid' walked the Earth), in the Iberian peninsula the field armies of the Muslim states which between them made up al Andalus usually contained far more infantry than horsemen, with any light cavalry taking position on the flanks of the battle line as well as performing all the usual tasks such as reconnaissance and skirmishing. However much of the warfare conducted in the 11th century in this area was fast-moving raids into enemy territory, for which cavalry was well suited, and such raiding parties were often all-mounted. The Muslims were generally regarded as very fine horsemen, mounted on light and speedy Arab horses, and their skills would sometimes be used by Christian lords in the ever-changing pattern of alliances that was a feature of 11th century Spain.
As can be seen the four poses in this set are divided equally between those armed with a javelin and those with a bow - both classic light cavalry weapons. Both archers look like they are beginning to draw, and are reasonable poses. One man holds his javelin in the air, perhaps a sign of bravado, while the other holds his aloft but with the business end pointing down, as if it is ready to use. The weapon is not facing directly forward however, which means it can be sculpted as one with the figure rather than having a ring hand.
The costume of these men is the usual loose robes that all Muslim men would wear as everyday dress, including different styles of turbans, and everything looks fine. The weapons too look fine, and while shields were probably not carried by many light cavalry it is good to see two of the poses in this set with the usual round version. Three of the figures also have a sword, and all would probably have a dagger as well, although this is hidden under their robes.
While Christian knights were increasingly using high-pommeled saddles to help keep them in the saddle in all their armour, many (but not all) Muslim cavalry preferred the lower pommel saddle, which in this case is understandable as no one has any armour of course. The saddles in this set are something of a compromise in this respect, partly because they are also used in the other sets of al Andalus cavalry made by HaT, but this is not noticeable. Saddles and other horse equipment look authentic, including the saddle-cloth extending over the whole of the back of the animal, as well as the throat-lashes and ornamented breast-straps. The poses of all the animals are also pretty good.
Sculpting is OK, with a reasonably good feel to the fall of the clothing, and while there is no real call for detail here the faces are quite good. We felt the proportions of the horses left something to be desired, however, although the men sit comfortably on them. However there is very little flash and with no assembly required these are ready to paint or deploy straight out of the box.
Light Muslim cavalry such as this was a very important element of the military picture during the lifetime of 'El Cid' and beyond, and indeed these figures should be suitable for a very wide period of time, which is always a bonus. This is a pretty reasonable set, although of course we would have liked to have seen more poses, but the variety in both the men’s clothing and the horse equipment is a particular strong point of this very useful collection of figures.