Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preparing for Lysts 2012 -- Jousting Practice January 22

On Sunday, January 22, SH hosted the third jousting practice aimed at preparing for "Lysts on the Lake 2012". My husband Foxfire attended and brought both of our horses. My husband's horse Ziggy is getting old, so Foxfire has started training my horse Shadowfax to joust. Shadowfax did well at the first jousting practice two weeks ago, but then he came up dead lame with abscesses in both front hooves. A small easy to treat abscess in his front right, but a nasty deep abscess in his front left.

We had the farrier out to check on the abscesses and we'd been soaking his hooves with epsom salts, treating the abscesses with ichthammol and keeping his feet clean and wrapped as best we could. He rapidly improved, but was no where near ready to be ridden by the time of the second practice for Lysts down in Katy, Texas, so Foxfire helped SH train DA's horse Moose instead. By the day of the third practice, Shadowfax looked sound walking around in the pasture, so we decided to take him to DASH's and see if he was sound in the arena. We brought Ziggy along in case Shadow wasn't quite ready to be ridden yet.

Sure enough when we trotted Shadowfax around in hand, you could tell he was still a little off, not much, but enough that you wouldn't want him to do any work. So poor Shadowfax got to stay in the arena's paddock throughout the practice. He was not happy about this.

He certainly didn't seem lame the way he was acting up!

He really wanted to be out "playing" with all the other horses.

Hey Buddy! Think you can break a fellow out of here?

Since Foxfire ended up working with Ziggy, he mainly worked on rating Ziggy during the canter and getting him to stop cleanly at the end of the list.

Foxfire on Ziggy, SH on Lucky, and Gideon on Saga practicing riding their horses up and down the list in various pieces of armor and chain, with and without lances.

Gideon's horse Saga, although an experienced jumping horse, is still very inexperienced when it comes to jousting. Gideon seemed to mainly work on desensitizing Saga to the sounds that the armor and chain maille make when worn by the person in the saddle. He also managed to get a little practice in against the quintain.

Gideon on Saga makes a pass against the quintain.

After working with his horse, Lucky, for a while, SH switched to his other horse Tinkerbell. SH rode Tinkerbell for the Joust a'Plaisance portion of Lysts 2011, but according to SH, she can still be a little spooky about the noises armor and maille make. However, she seemed pretty blase' about all the noises associated with jousting on that particular day. During practice, SH, among other things, rode her against the quintain a few times. The following two pictures demonstrate why it is very important to keep going once you hit the shield portion of the quintain.

SH on Tinkerbell strikes the quintain...

...and the quintain tries to strike SH back.

NJ, who is still a very new jouster, seemed to spend most of the practice learning how to carry and control a lance on horseback. It's harder than it looks. Lances may vary a bit, but the ones we use are 11' long and weigh about 6 pounds, so carrying one really changes your center of balance. NJ doesn't have a horse of his own, so Gideon was nice enough to loan him Red, a very experienced jousting horse, to practice with.

Practicing carrying a lance while on horseback.

There were a number of people out to watch the others practice and to act as ground crew. Having ground crew is vitally important to jousting. It simply couldn't be done without the support of those on the ground.

The people on the horses depend on the people on the ground for all sorts of help.

And of course, SH's dog Archie supervised everyone to make sure they were doing it right.

From my gimpy perspective (I am currently trying to heal from a broken kneecap and some soft tissue damage in my leg), it seemed like a successful practice. Everything didn't go perfectly, but progress was made and everyone seemed satisfied.

You can see more pictures from the practice on my "A Jouster's Wife" Photobucket account in the album "Lysts Practice Jan 23 2012" (I know I got the date wrong, but I'm not going to change it now.)

Could a Jousting Accident Have Been the Reason That Henry VIII Became Such A Tyrant?

In a joust that may have changed history, on January 24, 1536, 44 year old King Henry VIII was unhorsed by his opponent during a jousting tournament at Greenwich Palace. It is believed that his armored horse actually fell on the downed monarch as well. But whatever the details of the accident may be, all accounts of the event agree that the king was knocked unconscious for two hours.

This was actually his second notable jousting accident. In 1524, he failed to lower his visor before entering the list and was struck by his opponent's lance just above his right eye. After this incident, he began to suffer from constant migraines.

This second jousting accident in 1536 may have had even more serious repercussions. Not only did it exacerbate existing leg injuries, it may have also caused permanent brain damage. Even by today's medical standards, being knocked unconscious for more than five minutes is serious cause for concern. According to records, Henry VIII was unconscious for two hours and was unable to speak for a while even after he regained consciousness. Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces, believes that damage to the frontal lobe of his brain as a result of this trauma "provides the explanation for his personality change from sporty, promising, generous young prince, to cruel, paranoid and vicious tyrant."

Jousting is a dangerous sport. Even modern jousters, whether performers, re-enactors or competitive jousters, know that they are risking injury and possible death every time they participate in this historic activity. So, why do they do it? You'd have to ask a jouster.

As the wife of a jouster, I do worry about him every time he takes the field. I know that he has practiced to the best of his ability; that his armor is as safe as it can be made; that his horse is well trained and will not create any more danger than is usual in any equestrian activity. I know that everyone involved is aware of the danger and will do their best to compete cleanly and honourably. No one wants to get hurt, and I like to believe that -- no matter the trash talk -- no one really wants to hurt anyone else.

But I still know that jousting is a dangerous sport. That's part of the excitement -- the risk of injury. However, injuries themselves are not exciting, at least not for those involved. So although I enjoy watching jousting tournaments and watching my husband compete, there is always a part of me that is a little scared, not just for my husband, but for all of my friends and even those I don't know very well who risk themselves in order to demonstrate their skills in this extremely difficult sport.

Federico Serna gets hit by the lance during Lysts on the Lake 2011(Photo AzulOx)

So to all the jousters out there, have fun, compete to the best of your abilities, and "don't be a dick". But also remember... you are carrying the hearts of your loved ones with you onto the list field, try not to damage them.

Informative Links


Books that mention the jousting accident

1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII by Retha M. Warnicke


Monday, January 23, 2012

Preparing for Lysts on the Lake 2012

Well, it's getting to be that time again. Time to start preparing for "Lysts on the Lake 2012". This year Lysts will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 4,5 & 6, 2012. There are rumors that there will be a Chivalric Martial Arts International (CMAI) Syposium the week before "Lysts on the Lake" where experienced competitors can hone their skills, and those with little to no experience can learn the basics and compete against each other in a mini-tournament.

Since I am wife to one of the jousters who will be competing and am good friends with many of the other jousters, ground crew and participants, I can't help but become involved with it all. Not that I mind. I love the all the excitement and spectacle of contemporary competitive jousting. I feel honored to play my own small part in the largest competitive jousting tournament in the modern world.

Preparation has actually been going on for some time now. Planning for and participating in an annual event of this sort usually begins as soon as one finishes recovering from last year's event. Jousting, like many sports is not an on again, off again sport. You pretty much have to practice it year round. However, our group of friends began jousting practices specifically aimed at preparing for competing in Lysts 2012 a little over two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, two days before that first jousting practice, I tripped and fell while trying to move around some welded wire fence panels and broke my knee. Just a hairline fracture, but it's still causing me problems. I also did an unknown amount of damage to the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) in my leg. So, although I attended that first practice at DASH's arena on January 8, I really wasn't paying much attention to what anyone was doing, and I did not get any pictures.

I did notice that my horse, Shadowfax, despite having not been seriously ridden in over a year, did pretty well. Hubby's horse, Ziggy, is 25 years old and although he is still very healthy in most ways, he's just getting a little too old for all the rigors of a competitive jousting tournament, so hubby has decided to see if he can train Shadowfax to joust. After this first practice, things seem promising.

Fortunately, JJ and her husband were at this joust practice. They took pictures and JJ wrote up a nice account of the practice on her blog, Wyvern Oaks: "A Fabulous Weekend of Riding" The first part of the post talks about a jumping lesson, but the latter part of the post discusses the jousting practice.

SG on Saga makes a pass at the quintain.(Thanks to JJ for the picture)

The next weekend, Jan 15, some other friends held a jousting practice to prepare for Lysts in Katy, Texas. I didn't make it to that one in any way shape or form. However, my hubby Foxfire drove down with SH in order to participate. Because Shadowfax had developed abscesses in both front feet, hubby decided not to take him, and instead helped SH train DA's horse Moose. You can see pictures of that practice in Fred Facker's Zenfolio album "Jousting Practice".

My next post will deal with the jousting practice on January 22 at DASH's arena.