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This is a screenshot from The Return of the King taken at 2:26:19 in the Director's Cut, right before the Battle of the Black Gate.

Return of the King (Extended Edition), 2:26:19

Right after this shot, the movie cuts to Frodo and Sam, and then returns to a wide shot of the army surrounded.

Return of the King (Extended Edition), 2:27:20

The next time we see Aragorn, he and his companions are no longer on horses.

Return of the King (Extended Edition), 2:30:12

Finally, at 2:30:40, he charges the army of Mordor on foot.

Return of the King (Extended Edition), 2:30:40

Why would Aragorn and his companions choose to dismount before charging, and why is there no sign of horses in the ensuing battle?

  • 3
    Obvious answer - because it looks cool. But I can think of two possible in-universe answers: (1) they wanted to fight alongside their men, and so chose to fight on foot (2) they thought it was a suicide mission, and sent the horses away since they would not be needed anymore – The Fallen Jul 31 '13 at 2:35
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    Possibly (3) they thought it might give them a brief psychological advantage - who expects a couple of men/elves/hobbits/dwarves to charge a huge army? – The Fallen Jul 31 '13 at 2:36
  • 3
    Likely a continuity error. – Andres F. Jul 31 '13 at 2:41
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    Am I the only one who thinks the good guy's army looks like the yolk of a giant egg in the second picture? – Mary ML May 19 '15 at 4:42
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That's actually the Battle of the Black Gate, for the record.

At any rate, the LOTR wiki states that, in the book, there we're indeed horseback cavalry, about 1000 of them. They staved off Harad archers, while foot soldiers from Gondor battled the orcs and trolls.

From the wiki;

Against the Host of the West was arrayed all of Sauron's hordes of orcs, Trolls, and barbarian Mannish allies such as the Easterlings and Southrons (Haradrim). An exact count is not given of the number of Sauron's forces, but it is said that they were "ten times and more than ten times" greater than the Host of the West, making it a force of at least 60,000. Sauron's forces surrounded the Armies of the West on three sides, with the Easterlings on the left flank, the Orcs held the center, and the Haradrim on the right. The Armies of the West always had cohesive stability within their center and kept the Enemy from breaking through by force of numbers. The solid infantry squares of Gondor infantry beat off their inferior Orcish opponents while the Rohirrim cavalrymen staved off the archers of the Harad. The small force of Easterlings launched a quick attack before being repulsed by the armies of Gondor and Rohirrim while the larger Haradrim force slowly retreated to the hills. By now, pressure had eased off of the flanks of the Armies of the West, who smashed into the lines of the Orc-host, slowly beating them off and forcing a retreat back through the Black Gate (though not without suffering sizable losses of their own).

In the movie, it really isn't explained why they aren't present in the battle. From reading other forums, most people say that Aragorn (and the others) sent the horses to a side, to protect them from combat. Fighting from horseback is a difficult feat, and, most of the time, cavalry forces in the medieval ages would only engage the enemy for a few seconds before pulling back, to avoid being pulled off their horse by enemy infantry, having the horse fall on the rider in the event that the horse is stabbed by a spear, etc.

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