To the joust

We got an invitation, from the SCA Equestrian email list, to visit the jousters at their private training session near Sydney. Jousting is banned within the the SCA rules, but overseas there are active SCA groups doing equestrian games like tilting against a quintain. (A quintain is a swinging target on a pole, and if you exit too slowly the other end can come around and smack you.)

There are non-medieval groups doing much the same thing, including in Australia, as a fun sport.

I went along for a look, along with wwoofers Pat and Silvan, and my son Owen.

They made us very welcome, and it was interesting to see how they do what they do. They weren’t actually jousting on Sunday, just drills and quintain practice. And some mounted archery, which was rather neat.

They were using basically ordinary horses, many of them rescued from the knackery. They don’t use any particular training method, just gentling them and working with them. I was impressed with their horsemanship.

For my part, I prefer the heavy horse look, with feathered feet. These would be more expensive to feed and transport for a commercial jousting venture, but it’s my idea of a knight’s horse.

The historical evidence is mixed. I don’t think that the real knight’s horses were as heavy as the Shire horse breed, because these were bred in later times especially for heavier ploughs, but they would have been along those lines. There was a time when Arabian blood (the Barb breed) were really popular, because of their speed and flexibility, but then armour got heavier later in period and I have no doubt that heavier horses were required.

My brood mare Domino is half-Clydesdale, muscular without being all that tall. She is due to have a foal in a month, from a black Clydesdale stallion. I plan to ride the foal when it’s old enough.

Silvan has been working with Domino, using the clicker training method. She’s not terribly interested, being heavily pregnant, but it’s good for her to get used to the idea. Domino has been badly abused at some stage in the past, and doesn’t let anyone near her mouth. Silvan has a colourful drink bottle on a stick, as a clicker training ‘target’, but Domino’s obviously worried about being hit with it. So we’re winning her over slowly. As far as we know, she’s never been successfully ridden, though she will lead if you could ever get a halter on her.

Silvan has also been working with Rav, a 2yo gelding, who is just a visitor to our place. Rav has I think been a bit bored, so he loves it when Silvan comes to play with him. Rav is due to leave us in a month, and if he can be led quietly onto the float then this will have been a very useful exercise, and a good basis for his further training.

SCA equestrian activities are close to dead in Australia, though there is a little bit happening in New Zealand. One of the problems is lack of insurance coverage, which apparently is nearly solved. I’m working to organise a small equestrian event on our farm, next May. Hopefully it will become an annual event and build from there.

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