The Jousting Life

Monday, December 22, 2014

Favorite Moments From 2014: Part Seven

And now, the last in our series of favorite moments from 2014...

... from Jan Gradon of Poland:

In 2014, I was not very active in jousting like in previous years, but still have very good memories and fantastic experiences. First of all, I again co-organized the Tournament of King John III in Castle Gniew.

Jan Gradon, acting as Knight Marshal at the Tournament of King John III, keeps a close eye on jousters Steve Mallet and Jeffrey Hedgecock (Photo by Studio A)

This year was a new experience for me as I was asked to marshal the tournament. I got to know that the job is really tough and a heavy responsibility. Sometimes we, jousters, do not recognize how difficult is the judging, both for the scoring judges and the Knight Marshal, and that the decisions are difficult to make. Especially when you are friends with most of the competitors.

Jan Gradon, holding the baton of the Knight Marshal at the Tournament of King John III,
Gniew Castle (Photo by Marta Kitta)

Besides jousting, we had a very good time, and it seems that all the competitors enjoyed their time spent in Gniew, which is most important for me, because, as I have said a number of times, tournaments should be social events. I'm glad that jousters like Gniew and want to return to our tilt yard and party hall.

The second great experience was the Arundel International Tournament. It was my second appearance on the grounds of this beautiful Castle. Last year I was asked by Andreas Wenzel to be his team mate in the Holy Roman Empire Team. This year I was asked to form my own team and joust under the banner of my home country. When we arrived at the castle, I saw two huge banners with my photo from last year hanging on the castle walls and the same photo on the leaflets. This was so cool!

Jan Gradon, in front of Arundel Castle and the banner featuring his image
from the previous year's tournament (photo by Stephen Moss)

I came together with my friend and fellow Polish jouster Jarek Struczynski, with whom I made a team that we called the 'Joust Brothers'.

The Joust Brothers, Jan Gradon and Jarek Struczynski, Arundel 2014 (Yes, they are wearing sunglasses inside their helms) (photo by Stephen Moss)

For me it was very touching to follow a banner with Polish White Eagle, and be encouraged by Polish visitors too.

The Polish banner along with banners from the other teams in front of Arundel Castle, 2014
(photo by Stephen Moss)

I am also happy that I won the Mounted Skill at Arms competition and got a beautiful hunting horn made by Matt Bayley.

Jan Gradon holding the Hunting Horn awarded as the prize for the Mounted Skill at Arms competition, Arundel 2014 (photo by Stephen Moss)

Jousting in Arundel is always great, due to the fantastic set of people and horses, this year thanks to Mark Atkinson and Nicky Willis. Arundel was also great this year, because I was given a chance to bring my family.

Polish jouster Jan Gradon with his wife and daughters, Arundel Castle, 2014
(photo by Stephen Moss)

We all really enjoyed the fact that we could spend a week in the castle together, and it gave me a lot of strength when being watched and cheered for by my wife and daughters. The best session of the whole week was the one on Friday, during a storm and rain! Thunderstruck!

Jan Gradon jousts Phillip Leitch during a storm at Arundel 2014 (photo by Stephen Moss)

... from Arne Koets, born in the Netherlands, but living in Germany:

In front of the Riding hall at Bolsover Castle, the residence of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle, author of a famous riding treatise of the 17th century, I joust for my long standing and good friend Dominic Sewell and against my even longer standing and very dear friend Joram van Essen.

Arne Koets jousts Joram van Essen, Bolsover Castle 2014 (photo by Stephen Moss)

But this is not the most amazing thing I did this year. My actual best moment is this...

Arne Koets beats Wouter Nicolai(with a little help from Tournament Master Wolfgang Krischke) during one of the crest tournaments at Schaffhausen 2014 (video by Felix Walder)

The very end of one of the 'Nachturnier' at Schaffhausen, where (after having fought three 'charges' of the Kolbenturnier) the crests become the target. The riders were very tired by this point, but I am quite proud of my horse Maximilian in this clip.

... from Magnus Andersen of Sweden:

The height of happiness is probably the small moments when you become one with the horse. No knight is better than his horse. When it works, it's fantastic. One of the highlights this year was Rikstorneringen 2014 (Swedish Jousting Championship), another was the Mounted Skills at Arms races at Falsterbo Horse Show. Rikstorneringen was incredibly fun, many knights and amazing friends – a competition but also a willingness to help each other to perform at their best and have fun.

Magnus Andersen on his AQH gelding Teals Jayjay, Rikstornering 2014
(photo by Pella Photo)

When you start, and the crowd shouts, then you live. Forgetting all the training in bad weather, early mornings and late evenings. One forgets the time, becomes one with the horse and focuses forward – speed and precision, trying to win, to maintain the feeling forever.

Magnus Andersen, jumping his AQH gelding Teals Jayjay, Rikstornering 2014
(photo by Pella Photo)

Afterward, a relaxation, satisfaction and gratitude to the horse you love.

Magnus Andersen, tent-pegging with his AQH gelding Teals Jayjay, Rikstornering 2014
(photo by Pella Photo)

Afterward, a relaxation, satisfaction and gratitude to the horse you love.

Many thanks to all the jousters, ground crew and photographers who shared their favorite memories of the 2014 jousting season!

Do you have a favorite moment from 2014? Please share it in the comments.

Related articles:
Favorite Moments from 2014: Part One

Favorite Moments from 2014: Part Two

Favorite Moments From 2014: Photographers Andrew Wickens and Hanno van Harten

Favorite Moments from 2010: The Accidental International Jouster's Tale

Favorite Moments from 2014: Part Five

Favorite Moments From 2014: Epic Moment at Brooks Medieval Faire

Friday, December 19, 2014

Favorite Moments From 2014: Epic Moment at Brooks Medieval Faire

American jouster, Stacy Wasson, shares a lovely and informative essay about her favorite experience of 2014:

Epic Moment at Brooks Medieval Faire
By Stacy Wasson

Stacy Wasson at Brooks 2014
(photo by Grant Zelych)
Last winter in a rare and fortuitous evening of bumming around on Facebook, I was contacted by someone I’d always wanted to meet – none other than Radar Goddard. Although there are countless ladies riding successfully at Renaissance Faires across the U.S. doing various types of theatrical jousting at a multitude of venues, there are relatively few women doing competitive balsa jousting internationally. Of these women, before this summer, I’d only had the pleasure of meeting and riding with Sarah Hay of Australia and one other young Norwegian woman, a protégé of Petter Ellingsen, Lisa Holar. I had heard Radar’s name and seen photos of her on many occasions and wondered what she was like, if we’d have anything in common, would she give me the time of day?

Imagine my surprise when she asked if Jeff and I would like to come to Canada that summer and joust in an international tournament. I had to pinch myself. “Really?” I’d asked her, “You wouldn't tease me would you?” Instant messaging can be a wonderful thing, and Radar was both charming and witty as she put me at ease and told me that she’d always wanted to meet Jeff and I. Arrangements were made, and the wait and wondering began. We had never been to Western Canada before and although most of the competitors were known to us, most of them we had never actually met.

When the appointed time came, we were met at the airport by a vanguard of cheerful Canadians waving heraldic plaques with our devices at the arrivals gate. Radar herself proved to be every bit as funny, friendly and knowledgeable as she’d come across the internet. Over the next few days she introduced us to her little corner of Canada, amazed, we couldn't help but smile at the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the people who surrounded her. Radar had managed to round up eleven experienced jousters.

Stacy Wasson(left), Nicolo Corrarello(center) and Sarah Hay(right), Brooks 2014
(photo by Grant Zelych)

Besides myself, of the internationals there was my ever stalwart and talented husband Jeffrey Wasson, Sarah Hay of Australia, Nicola Corrarello of Italy and Ole Nielsen from Denmark. For her Canadian compatriots, Radar had mustered Alison Mercer, Dale Gienow, Jean-Francois Drapeau, Jean-Sebastian Drapeau and Marc Hamel. Keeping us all in line and presiding over the officiation was the formidable Fred Piraux, while the ever clever Jordan Heron was Master of Ceremonies.

It was a brilliant combination of talent, good humor and cooperation. Preparing for the tourney and getting to know each other better was a real treat, I could go on and on about the skills and superlatives of each and every one of the jousters, as well as the folks on the ground. Included in that number I would be remiss not to mention our own daughter Emma. Emma is not only a talented rider, but after being raised in the shadow of the list like it or not, she has become an outstanding squire.

Emma Wasson hands a lance up to a jouster at Brooks 2014 (photo by Paul Keely)

The tournament was awesome, the heat, the horses, the wildly enthusiastic Canadian crowd. It was a weekend to remember, but for me, the most glorious moment came at the final tourney of the weekend during my match with Alison Mercer. All of the matches consisted of four passes, Alison and I had started our match earlier in the tournament but after two successful breaks, we’d had to stop due to equipment failure. Alison had a strap blow on her ecranche and had gone off to replace it with another. As the other matches continued, I waited and gathered calm about me. I was concerned. These next two passes would be my last for the tournament, the way everyone involved would remember me perhaps forever. Who knew when I might see some of these stellar competitors again?

To truly appreciate the moment, you must understand that before this particular tournament, I was almost sick with concern over the lances. Go into a room with 5 jousters and you’ll likely get 5 different opinions as to how to design the perfect lance. For those of you who are not familiar – the ideal form for execution of a jousting pass is called “the levade”. It's the slow graceful lowering of the lance, perfectly timed to meet your opponents shield as you cross in the center of the list. After engaging your opponent, with your lance broken or not, you proceed to just as elegantly raise it so that it is in an upright position when you reach the end of the list and hand it neatly to your awaiting, able-bodied squire.

For me at 5’5” and roughly 120 pounds (a featherweight in the world wide jousting line-up) the crux of the lance issue is this, that the fore end of the lance must not be so tip heavy that it plummets forward in the first stages of the levade. Remember that room of jousters? Most if not all of them will be strong men who don’t give a fig that the lance they designed may be tip heavy, they are able to muscle it in place easily and it doesn't concern them. There are ways of designing a lance that create a better balance hence making it more manageable for a variety of riders, but most of these guys aren't engineers and as I said before, it’s not their issue.

So for me, there is always that big question mark when packing for a trip. Who designed the lances? What type of tips are being used, will we get to practice with them? The implications are grave, for someone who does not handle their lance well, the results may be injury to themselves, their opponents or the unthinkable – the horses. Even in the most ideal circumstances, accidents can happen. No packing job is complete without a few roles of chewable antacids and a box of Zantac for good measure.

I won't lie, with their frangible pine tips, the Brooks lances had been on the heavy side for me, I’d been managing but it had not been easy. The heat had been oppressive and keeping hydrated had been a challenge for all of us. Every knowledgeable athlete knows that dehydration is the thief of strength. I took a few deep breaths and visualized a mantle of calm over myself and Willow my young inexperienced mount.

Stacy Wasson on the horse Willow. It was Willow's first jousting tournament
(photo by Twyla Brower Wehnes)

Finally, Jordan called Alison and I to our respective ends of the list. He reminded the crowd of our two successful passes earlier in the tournament and wittily remarked that “Here in Alberta when we say Hit Like A Girl it means Really Hard!” (I thought this was hilarious, even better when Jordan explained to me later it was a reference to a women’s hockey ad campaign – a joke that was obvious to all the Canadians.) At my end of the list, I steadied Willow and received my lance – the salute and take-off was a blur. Willow is small and quick, and so is Alison’s horse Siggy. My target, Alison’s black and gold ecranche approached rapidly and the impact was, as the Canadians are fond of saying “Epic”.

The frangible pine tips had been proving to pack a wallop, and good contact had been having a field day with our knuckles. Somewhere in the back of my mind it registered that my knuckles had been abused, but I was too pumped up to worry about it. Something was very odd about the weight of the lance, but it took a few moments for the primitive-lizard part of my brain to sort all this out as Willow and I came to a halt. Honestly, I don’t know if the crowd was going wild, I just remember the moment I realized that I might have broken the whole lance. In disbelief, I still had to stupidly ask the squire “Did I break it?” as I handed off the remains of my lance and raised my visor.

Stacy Wasson's(left) and Alison Mercer's(right) epic jousting pass(photo by Paul Keely)

“Are you kidding me?” he asked with a grin, “Take a look at this!” All he had in his hand was the grip and shattered wooden vamplate of the lance. I was still in disbelief. In 12 years of jousting this was a feat that I’d rarely seen, and then, only by men who are surely in the ranks of jousting demi-gods. Was I joining those ranks? Surely not, but no matter --- This no one could take away from me; on this day, in this tournament, at the Brooks Medieval Faire, Stacy Wasson had shattered her entire lance.
This no one could take away from me; on this day, in this tournament, at the Brooks Medieval Faire, Stacy Wasson had shattered her entire lance.
It was a benchmark, perhaps the high point of my jousting career. Our second pass was also a success, although overshadowed by the previous. Alison had broken both her lances as well and we grinned like idiots as we greeted each other for the traditional handshake of honor.

When the final scores were calculated, I was astonished to learn that Willow and I had won that tournament. Even though I had never been concerned with scores and winning, I must admit, to have won a tournament in such company – I was elated.*

Later as we were cleaning up, two young Canadian men approached Penny Pisano (a loyal STALC member) and myself. They presented to me for inspection a section of lance that they had somehow acquired. “Is that a piece of my lance?” I asked them. Oh yes, they assured me – not only was it mine, but it was part of the one that had broken so spectacularly. It had flown high up into the air and come down where they were sitting in the upper part of the grand stand.

“I had to duck,” said the shorter one. “And then I caught it,” chimed in the other. I must have grinned like a double idiot then – not only had I won the tournament, but I’d hit a home run as well.

“Wow... Would you like me to sign it for you?” I heard myself ask. (All this while part of my brain was thanking god nobody got hit,  and at the same time wondering if this was how Babe Ruth had felt.) The response was a resounding affirmative from both young men, who looked as if they’d won a great prize. Wow, Canada --- How could you not love the whole country?

*My win was one of four tourneys that comprised the entire competition; at the end of the weekend, Ole Nielsen of Denmark was the overall Champion.

Alison Mercer(left) and Stacy Wasson(right) beaming over Alison’s battered ecranche
(photo by Jeff Wasson)

Editorial note: In case you are wondering; the writing around Stacy's ecranche(which you can see in the photo at the top of this article) is her personal motto, which reads:
"Meme une petite fleur peut mettre a genoux un valeureux"
"Even the smallest flower can bring bring the valiant to their knees."

Do you have a favorite moment from 2014? Please share it in the comments.

Related articles:
Favorite Moments from 2014: Part One

Favorite Moments from 2014: Part Two

Favorite Moments From 2014: Photographers Andrew Wickens and Hanno van Harten

Favorite Moments from 2010: The Accidental International Jouster's Tale

Favorite Moments from 2014: Part Five

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Favorite Moments from 2014: Part Five

A few more favorite moments from 2014...

...from Ivar Mauritz-Hansen of Norway:

The season of 2014 has been my best season yet, and my first season doing shaped solid lances and full contact melee, and because of that, a lot of moments spring to mind when I am called upon to supply my favorite.

Ivar Mauritz-Hansen jousting at St. Hallvard's Tournament 2014 (photo by Renate Skeie)

My first tournament of the season was without doubt the most anticipated one this year. Petter Ellingsen, with others, spent years of planning and preparing for the Tournament of St. Hallvard in my home town of Oslo, Norway. After months of training, traveling to Crimea during the referendum to finish my new shoulders and helmet from Roman Tereschenko, and practicing with solid lances and wooden clubs, actually doing the tournament of that magnitude in a local venue was a true blast. To meet so many good people on and off the field really makes a tournament great, even if your merits in the lists themselves are not as good as one would like them to be.

Later in the summer, I once again went to the annual Tournament of St. Olav in Trondheim and had some really good days there with lots of good jousting. No solids this time. At the last day, I let my horse pass on the melee, as we were both tired, and my crew and I were going to Denmark that evening. So we took off all gear and walked back into the lists for the final victory lap after the melee was over. I was on his back without a saddle and my groom was leading him with just a rope.

Ivar Mauritz-Hansen, riding without gear at St. Olav's Tournament 2014
(photo by Hanne Prøis-Røhjell)

At the end of the round he just let the rope go, and we cantered out of the arena with no reins, saddle or anything. It is so wonderful to be able to trust one's mount to a degree that you can let go and know that he will take care of you... even if we both know that there is a bucket with feed by the trailer right outside the arena. This truly was a great moment.

Ivar Mauritz-Hansen at St. Olav's Tournament 2014 (photo by Hanne Prøis-Røhjell)

Then it was on to Denmark for The Tournament of the Golden Chain at the Nykøbing Medieval Center with Arne Koets and Stichting HEI (am I missing someone here?). I was really looking forward to meeting these people again after Oslo, and they did not disappoint me in or outside the lists. Jousting with Arne Koets was like getting jabbed by a bus. It was awesome. But the absolute top moment of the season was getting smashed to bits by Joram van Essen in the melee. You truly never feel alive before your body believes it's about to end. I'm looking forward to crossing clubs with Joram again in the future.

Joram van Essen(left) prepares to smash Ivar Mauritz-Hansen(right) over the head during 
the mounted melee at the Tournament of the Golden Chain (photo by Middelaldercentret)

... from Rozemarijn Keuning, who is on the cusp of becoming a jouster:

My favorite jousting moment of 2014 was of course when I had a lance broken on my shield for the first time! During the show season in 2014 and related training events, I didn't have my own horse with me here in Norway, as he was still in Spain being trained. I was lucky to have such good friends who would lend me their warhorses so I could join the training events.

Rozemarijn Keuning on the experienced jousting horse Misty 
during joust training in Norway (photo by Karoline Gudbrandsen)

I purchased a second-hand armour so I could join the fun while waiting for Luke Binks to create my properly fitted jousting armour. While I was getting help with my equipment, my good friends Pelle (Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell) and Ivar (Ivar Mauritz-Hansen) decided to break some solid lances and produced such a hard hit that it almost unhorsed both of them. I must admit I was wondering why I wanted to do this so badly in that very moment!

Unfortunately, I had some trouble with my equipment rendering myself unable to break a lance on someone else's shield, but at least I had a lance broken on mine, which really was a barrier I needed to cross to proceed with my training. The picture is a still from the GoPro and mostly just a blur, but you get the idea.

Rozemarijn Keuning has a lance broken against her for the first time 
(photo by Ivar Mauritz-Hansen)

My other absolute favorite moment of the show season in 2014 was at the tournament in Trondheim. The St. Olav's Tournament is always well organized and great fun. I was squiring for Pelle and his wife took care of his horse. Of course we were very happy to get a phone call from Arundel hearing he'd won the tournament together with Ben van Koert. But best of all was that he flew straight from Arundel to Trondheim, and even though he lost a day of gathering points due to his armour getting lost on the way, he still managed to win this tournament as well! Veni Vidi Vici! Very cool.

Rozemarijn squires for Pelle(Per Estein Prøis-Røhjell) during 
St. Olav's Tournament 2014 (photo by Odd Røhjell)

Also, Pelle finally got to ride his own horse Promyk, and of course I cannot speak for him, but I believe this was the first tournament where he did not need to spend all of his energy on his horse and could rather focus on the competition. Good training pays off, and Promyk was a star! He would do the job regardless of what was happening.

The reason why this is awesome you've probably heard before, as Promyk has a history of being dangerous to people. He ended up at Pelle's place kind of as a last resort, and if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would probably have trouble believing the total change he went through during his stay. Both his body and mind needed some serious fixing, and from directly attacking people to a very reliable warhorse in such a short time is truly a great achievement. Luckily he gets to stay, and I hope it will be to the end of his days.

Rozemarijn Keuning watches Pelle compete on Promyk during St. Olav's Tournament 2014
(photo by Ragnhild Krogvig Karlsen)

While writing this, I realize how lucky I am to have such great friends and teachers to train with, and I'm very much looking forward to the day I will be able to compete myself!

“Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.” – Brandon Sanderson in The Way of Kings

So, these were my best jousting moments of 2014.

Cheers, Rose

... from Joel Evans of the UK, who acts as ground crew for the jousting troupe Destrier

I was unfortunately only able to attend two events this season due to work responsibilities, but of those two, Bosworth was my favourite. We often have the opportunity to hold jousts in some really spectacular castles and historic properties, and as a bit of a fan of medieval architecture, this aspect appeals to me. It makes the entire joust far more evocative and atmospheric. However, as you're probably aware, Bosworth doesn't have that draw – it's just a field in the middle of the countryside. It is, of course the site of the Battle of Bosworth, and that is something very special, which added to the experience of the event.

The joust itself was a real challenge, with adverse weather, difficult horses and very tight timing for setting up and taking down the arena, which therefore made it difficult for all members of Destrier – from the knights (and King) to the ground crew guys such as myself. But I think that was what made it so satisfying. We were able to put on a joust that ran to a successful conclusion, was enjoyed by the public and also by the other re-enactors at the event. It was hard work for everyone involved, and a lot of running backwards and forwards on my part (the lot of the ground crew!), but it's always a great feeling when everything works out a success in the end.

The Destrier Team at the Battle of Bosworth 2014 (photo by Christina Pearn)

Do you have a favorite moment from 2014? Please share it in the comments.

Related articles:
Random Pic: Practicing for St Hallvard's

POV Video of the Last Six Jousting Passes at St Olav's Tournament 2014

The Tournament of the Golden Chain at the Middelaldercentret 2014

Interview with Per Estein Prøis- Røhjell, Team Champion at Arundel and Individual Champion at St Olav's 2014