The Jousting Life

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chivalric Martial Arts International Symposium, Day 3, and "Lysts on the Lake" Gets Exciting Even Before the Tournament Begins

Thursday, May 10, was the third day of the Chivalric Martial Arts International symposium (CMAI) held in Taylor, TX. There were only three equestrian classes held during CMAI on Thursday.

Beginner Riding 4: with Tina Walsh
Jousting 5: The Joust with Luke Binks
Mounted Combat 3: Introduction to Fiore's Sword on Horseback with Theresa Wendland

The limited number of equestrian classes was to allow time for the competitors of "Lysts on the Lake" to do some practice runs and be evaluated by the King of Arms and Lady of Honour before the actual tournament. These practice runs also gave the ground crew, staff and volunteers a chance to practice their parts.


In the middle of the last jousting practice, the wind began blowing so strongly that the tilt fence was swaying into the lyst lanes. The jousting runs had to be stopped until the wind died down. But the wind did not die down; it continued to get worse. When it got to the point that rain was blowing sideways into the arena, everyone was told to take their horses over to the downwind side of the arena.

A few minutes later, the announcers were notified that there was a tornado watch in effect for the Taylor area. The competitors were told to dismount, and everyone was told to be prepared to run into the most secure building on the grounds -- the cinder block bathroom building. However, before all of the competitors even managed to dismount, several people thought they heard tornado sirens. Everyone was told to IMMEDIATELY leave the arena and take shelter in the bathroom building.

I was there. It was a terrifying experience.

The wind was ferocious and was driving the rain so hard it that it was literally stinging any exposed skin. Ground crew and squires were trying to help jousters dismount, loose horses were running around the arena, and because of where I had been set up to take pictures, I was on the opposite side of the arena from my husband and my horse.

This experience made very clear to me where my priorities lie. I love taking pictures and anyone who has seen me at an event knows how much I baby my camera. But when the tornado warning was given (mistakenly, thank goodness), I thrust my camera at the videographer who was standing near me and ran to take care of my husband and my horse. As you may have noticed, there are no pictures in this post. The videographer still has my camera.

By the time I got to the other side of the arena, my husband had managed to dismount and was being ripped out of his armour by his squires, so I took my horse, Shadowfax, and started moving him to the downwind side of the arena, scared, but not wanting to leave my horse, and irrationally thinking that somehow he and I would be more protected there. Many people had already dismounted and loosed their horses and were running out of the arena. So I was dodging horses and people and hanging on to my horse's reins for dear life. My horse, fabulous creature that he is, was far calmer than I was, and he stuck by my side despite all the confusion surrounding us.

As I was continuing to lead Shadowfax across the arena, not really knowing what else to do, a good friend and fellow equestrian came up to me and yelled at me to just take Shadowfax's bridle off and leave him in the arena. I think she and I managed to get his bridle off in less than two seconds. I didn't want to leave Shadowfax, but my friend literally dragged me away from him by my arm and thrust me towards the bathroom building. I have a somewhat unclear memory that Shadowfax still tried to follow me, but my friend shoo-ed him back towards the center of the arena. Other horses were trying to follow their owners as well, and various individuals were trying to keep the horses in the arena while getting the people out. I got swept up in the mass of people running to the cinder block building, and there I stayed throughout the worst part of the storm.

However, some people were braver or more stubborn than I was. My husband and several others began moving the horses who were still in the temporary stable -- consisting of a huge tent and portable fence panels -- into the covered arena where they would be safer than they would be in the tent. They also managed to somehow get the remaining tack off of the loose (and panicking) horses that had been in the arena for jousting practice. Some of which were running around with bridles, saddles and/or caparisons still on them. (For those that aren't familiar with horses, it is dangerous to leave a horse loose with its tack on. The reins, stirrups and other parts of the tack can get caught and tangled in ways that can seriously injure and even kill a horse.)

Dale Walter was one of those risking themselves to protect the horses. He wrote on Facebook:

"Kudos to Ryan S., John Juretich, Andre Renier, and anyone I missed seeing in the blinding rain, who with me, refused to take cover during the tornado, and fought to save the joust horses.
Eric was in it too. Robert Welch as well. Samantha, Kellyn, many of the French contingent, and arena staff, ran horses into the arena while Ryan and I battled unfamiliar saddles, tack, and caparisons off panicked horses and hurled them over the fence to John Juretich.

Jennifer was in most of it, and was the first one back when it let up a bit.

It was exciting for sure..."

Despite this little adventure, "Lysts on the Lake" will still start at noon Friday as scheduled. If you were planning on coming to the tournament, you should definitely still come. Like the famous Tournament of Eglinton which continued in spite of three days of truly appalling weather, a little rain and wind is not going to stop the "Lysts on the Lake".

For those participating in the event as competitors, squires, ground crew, volunteers, etc... If at all possible please arrive early on Friday to help re-set the tilt fence and other pieces of equipment that were knocked over and/or blown about during the storm. Most of the staff plan on being there at 8am and would appreciate if as many people as possible could show up at 8am or shortly thereafter to help prepare for the event.

Some other comments from Facebook:

"When I woke up this morning, I didn't think I'd end the day in a women's bathroom with a bunch of knights." -- Tanz Dexter

"Horrible weather at lysts on the Lake I am truly thankful for friends that care about me Nikki and Charlie Andrews for coming to our rescue and getting my horses in a safe place for the night .." -- Bobbie Patterson

"Charlie Andrews literally just gave me the shirt off his back - well the jacket. Good man!" -- Ilona Beck

"I was very worried about getting my pregnant wife, my daughter, and my horse to safety. Charlie Andrews, William Brunson, and Joshua Warren went out of their way, at great personal risk to themselves, to help me save my family, and property. I owe them." -- Matt Daniel

"There was a point, when all of the horses were in the arena and we were breaking up the horse fights that I turned around and there was a flood of people coming out of the safety of the restrooms to help with the horses. At that point, nobody knew that we were safe. They just knew that there were horses that needed held and calmed. Talk about an amazing bunch of people." -- Robert Welch

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