The Turcopoles were light cavalry of Byzantium and, later, the Crusader States in Palestine, with many serving in the Military Orders. They were a response to the fast hit-and-run tactics of the Muslims whereby numbers of horse archers would appear suddenly, deluge the knights with arrows then retire before they could be caught. While it seems the Turcopoles did not employ this tactic, they were very useful in deterring such a move by the enemy, and they also fulfilled other light cavalry roles such as reconnaissance. Their ethnic makeup is still much debated, but happily for us this is of no importance when assessing these small figures.
Turcopoles were well known as horse archers, but this was not their only weapon. Many would have had a light lance, and of course swords, daggers and perhaps a mace were also quite normal. Nonetheless all the poses in this set are archers, who probably did constitute the majority. All are at various stages of loosing their arrows, and all the poses are fine. The curious figure in the third row drawing his bow horizontally is perhaps waiting for the command or an opportune target before raising his bow and drawing it fully, ready to loose the arrow.
As might be expected of light cavalry these men were lightly armoured, often much in the style of their Muslim foes. Quilted armour was common although some may have had mail and many would have had a helmet. This is the kind of mix of armour to be found in this set, with one man actually bare-headed. Given the lack of uniformity in such troops all the figures here seem reasonably attired.
The horses are quite highly decorated, which does not seem unreasonable, and the saddles are OK. The usual array of good and really poor Strelets horse poses are on view, with a particular mention for the animal with all four legs completely straight, despite apparently being at the gallop.
The expected fairly chunky Strelets sculpting is in evidence here, with some rather wayward detail in places, but there is very little flash and the riders fit their mounts pretty well. Two of the figures have separate bows, which fit well enough into ring hands, and there is one separate shield which can attach either to the back of one man or the saddle of two of the horse poses.
To truly reflect the Turcopoles there should have been one or two men with lances in this set, and as so often the all-action horses are not ideal for a force that spent most of its time on guard duty and reconnaissance rather than in a full charge. This was a nice idea for a set and for the most part competently done, but after all this time the Strelets sculptors really need to study real horses in action.