Joust the job: UK to host US in tilting competition

  • The UK’s first cross-Atlantic tilting contest is to be held in Scotland next month.

    The sport — which is known as “ring jousting” in America — involves using a lance to spear a ring suspended from a gallows, while riding at the trot or canter.

    The East Lothian tilting club will be hosting the event at Rockrose Equestrian Sports Centre in October, where they will compete against six ring-jousters who are flying over from Maryland, US.

    East Lothian club chairman Jan Simpson — who runs the Elvingston Stud and more usually competes at dressage — established the group in August 2016, having been “accidentally” introduced to the sport.

    “I was visiting my trainer in Selkirk where she runs a trekking centre, and the Danish had come over to do some tilting and were using her horses,” she said. “A horse on the yard went down with colic, and she asked me if I could deal with them while she dealt with the horse. I found it was quite addictive when you got into it!”

    While the sport is very popular in some locations — including Denmark and a handful of US states — the UK has just the two clubs, East Lothian and Borders.

    Jan is hoping the sport could expand across the country and has already had interest in “taster days” from riding clubs and Pony Club branches.

    “In Denmark it is massively popular, and they have events with more than 900 riders,” she said. “Everyone who tries it loves it. It’s something anyone can do, you don’t need to be able to piaffe or jump.

    “For youngsters it’s great as it’s all repetitive straight lines, so it’s good for training straightness and for confidence. For older horses it’s not too strenuous and if you’re unable to canter, you can do it in trot.”

    The rules can vary in different localities — in the US, the height of the ring is fixed at 6’9”, while in the UK it is adjusted to suit the horse and rider combination. While the ring measures a standard 24mm, it can be made smaller to require more accuracy, which can be employed in a “ride-off”.

    “It can go as small as 4mm, although I’ve never managed to get that one!” Jan said. “In the US a lot of the horses are of similar sizes and types, so they have opted for a fixed height, but we’ve had everything from Clydesdales to Shetlands.”

    Jan added that all the horses the club has used for tilting have taken to it well, and that accustoming them to the lance is generally straightforward.

    “We use a broom handle to begin with, which the rider carries round like a schooling whip, touching the horse with it, and then we move on to a practice lance which has a pointed tip. We get them used to that first and to going through the gallows,” she said.

    “Some don’t like noise of metal ring when you touch it with the lance but after they watch other horses go through and do it themselves a few times, they’re fine. We’ve never had anything we’ve not been able to tilt with as it’s too spooky.”

    Jan hopes the club’s alliance with the Maryland jousting tournament association will continue, with each club visiting the other on home turf once a year. The East Lothian members are scheduled to visit the States to compete in the Shawan Valley Joust in May 2018.

    “We’ve also made contact with some clubs in Australia,” she said. “There are many clubs in the Maryland and Pennsylvania areas in the US, so there’s the potential to roll this exchange out to more clubs all over the UK.”

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