The Jousting Life

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Training for the Joust with Destrier

A great deal of work goes on before a jousting demonstration or tournament is seen by an audience. If you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes, this article written by Andreas Wenzel will give you a glimpse of how the members of the jousting troupe Destrier train.

Written by Andreas Wenzel:
(with pictures by Dr. Richard Pearn)

Destrier’s year is split into a “training season” and a “show season”, with the former starting at the group’s AGM(Annual General Meeting) in October, and lasting to the first show in May. During this period, Destrier’s riders are working on expanding their skills with their own horses, or are taking private lessons to advance their riding skill. Once per month these personal efforts are complemented by a Destrier training weekend. Then many of the almost 40 Destrier members gather at one of Destrier’s horse suppliers – usually at Nicky Willis’s Tournament Stud near Silverstone, and occasionally at Dom Sewell’s Historic Equitation near Peterborough.

Destrier training is traditionally organised by the society’s Vice-Chairman (currently Mark Caple), but many of the group’s experienced riders help out by running one of the training sessions, or by giving advice from the ground and in separate in-session work-outs. This was also true at Destrier’s February training weekend at Tournament Stud, Destrier’s main base. This impressive location includes bedrooms for riders, spare stables for guest horses, an indoor riding school purpose-built to house a full-length tilt rail, and extensive grounds permitting long hacks and outdoor cavalry manoeuvres. Tournament Stud’s own horses were joined by three of Historic Equitation’s mounts and several personally owned horses for the weekend.

Members of Destrier practice at Tournament Stud(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

With numerous members of various skill levels present, Mark separated both days into three one-hour training sessions, each preceded by a warm-up element consisting of flatwork dressage.

Saturday’s first session, run by Stacy Evans, focused on basic skill-at-arms skills, with disciplines including the lance at the rings, the sword at the cabbage and javelins at archery targets. During the session, individual riders were called into a separate area for 20-minute one-to-one workouts with Kyle van Dolah, a Destrier member and qualified riding instructor.

Stacy Evans practicing tilting at rings(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

The objective for Saturday’s second session, run by Mark Caple, was to train in harness on the tilt. Consequently several of Destrier’s jousters and jousters-in-training suited up, while other members converted the indoor school into a jousting arena for a range of lance control, timing and accuracy exercises. Kyle was kind enough to continue the one-to-one workouts, providing opportunity to work on one's riding position while wearing armour.

Andreas Wenzel canters the tilt in armour(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

Saturday’s final session, run by Andreas Wenzel, began with an extensive drill lesson where riders practiced moving as a mounted combat unit in a variety of formations in the three basic gaits. This was followed by some skill-at-arms in formation, for example using the lance at the rings while maintaining a line abreast. The session was then concluded by a three-round practice melee.

Left to right: Silvana Burnes, Kyle Van Dolah and Tina Steiner practice tilting at rings while in three abreast formation(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

After an excellent dinner at the local pub, accompanied of course by strictly non-alcoholic beverages,

Destrier members quaff a drink at the Kings Head pub(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

...and a good night’s sleep in Tournament Stud’s bedrooms, some of Destrier’s lady members got up early and saddled a few horses with side saddles for some out-of-schedule jumping practice. This is strictly speaking not part of Destrier’s programme, but was actually training for English Heritage’s Victorian Gymkhana show in which Destrier members Kyle van Dolah and Emma Pearn are performing.

Kyle Van Dolah jumps her horse while riding side saddle(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

Having slept through the side-saddle affair, Andreas armed himself with a bracing cup of tea and took over the Sunday morning session. After another drill element riders practiced with a variety of skill-at-arms exercises, including taking the cabbage with the sword while jumping a low fence. This was concluded by a rather nail-biting five-round melee.

Silvana Burnes slices a cabbage in half while jumping her horse(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

Sunday’s second session, again with riders in harness, was headed by Jason Kingsley and dedicated to an advanced exploration of sword cuts and parries from horse-back, featuring a variety of related exercises.

Jason Kingsley(left) works with Amy Wallace(center) and Mark Caple(right) on mounted sword fighting(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

The final session of the weekend was a repetition of Saturday’s first, with Stacy Evans and Kyle van Dolah once more honing riders’ basic riding and weapon skills.

Valentin Timur tilts against the quintain(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

The content of Destrier’s training weekends across a training season follows an ultimate multifaceted plan. While each rider’s individual skills are given opportunity and focus to improve, the training schedule also aims to enhance the group’s ability to work together as a unit. New ideas and concepts are thrown into the training sessions for experimentation and testing before being introduced to Destrier’s displays. Because of this each Destrier training weekend is different and involves a wide range of riders and trainers in addition to those who are mentioned here.

Destrier members practicing at Tournament Stud(photo by Dr. Richard Pearn)

To learn more about this jousting troupe, check out the Destrier website and Destrier Facebook page.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vera Bos Talks about Her Upcoming Documentary "The White Bear"

Recently, this promo video for Vera Bos's upcoming documentary about the members of Stichting HEI was posted online:

Promo video for "The White Bear" (video by Vera Bos)
The complete documentary should be out around Christmas 2014.

When asked about how she became involved with Stichting HEI(here is theEnglish version of their website) and why she decided to create a documentary about them, Vera kindly responded with this lovely article.

Written by Vera Bos:

My name is Vera Bos. I am 21 years old, and I study photography at the Willem de Kooning academy in Rotterdam. Ever since I was 16, I have also been working at the Archeon, a historic theme park, where I give tours and teach both children and adults about one of the periods that is represented there. Ever since I was young, I've always had an interest with history. I think that was at first due to the storytelling aspect, but later, during my work at the park it became so much more.

Now, it's not just the storytelling part, or even just the the aesthetic aspect (physical findings and images that display a rich culture) of history that appeal to me, but rather the conceptual way of thinking it inspires. Using history as a mirror. And not a "Wow, look at how much better things are now" mirror. But more about putting life in perspective, and by extension, modern life. One of the things I learned is that "things change" and always will. This is one of the things that I want to teach the visitors of the park. But especially to make people enthusiastic about this wonderful thing called history, so that they one day may be open to the philosophical questions it raises.

While working at the park I got to know a few of the men of Stichting HEI. They were performing jousting shows there. We got along very well, and one day in 2012, I was asked to go with them as a photographer to a joust in Nyborg. It was wonderful -- the location, the show, the people -- and I made photos to my heart's content.

Jouster Alix van Zijl at Nyborg 2012(photo by Vera Bos)

When I got home, I realized I had a lot of pictures, and many different kinds of pictures as well. But no matter how I looked at them, they didn't convey what interested me about HEI. They were either beautiful on the surface, almost acting like a looking glass trough which you could momentarily catch a glimpse of the 15th century, or unnecessarily harsh, like I was trying to criticize these people. I went with them again in 2013 when I was older, my imagery sharper and my photography better. But still, I was missing the images I was trying to make.

Tent with Shadows at Nyborg 2013(photo by Vera Bos)

Then I decided that I had to try a different way. Photography is an extremely visual medium which gave me the urge to solely capture "the image" and "the illusion" and the beauty in it. But that is not what drew me to Stichting HEI in the first place. I wanted to tell something about these people. In fact, I wanted to let them tell their side of the story. The passion, the drive but also the consequences. By now, I've only uploaded the teaser trailer but I've got a good idea of how to give an honest insight in what drives them.

I had known the people from HEI for a while before I started this documentary. But, of course, because of this documentary and such extended contact, I got to know them better than I had before. They didn't so much surprise me with the hobby on it's own, but every time I talk to them they inspire me with their expertise, their enthusiasm and their drive for the thing they do. They are amazing people who have an incredible love for this craft and would love to reach more people. I'm also pleasantly surprised about how easily they work along with everything. Sometimes I'm calling one of them so often that I'm thinking "Aren't I annoying you guys by now"? Apparently not, they like what I do and they love to help me out.

Members of Stichting HEI(left to right): Sander Nicolai, Laurens, Bertus Brokamp
(photos by Vera Bos)

If there is anything I learned from making this documentary, it's the technical aspect, which frightened me initially. This is not a problem (even though the documentary is not yet perfect, I learn by doing), but telling a story using a different medium was indeed a new experience for me. I was used to making pictures, but telling a story works very differently in that area. I still have a lot to learn, but I have read a lot about this and have friends who can help me.

I hope is that this documentary doesn't just reach people who already have the same interests, but that it finds a larger audience. I want to show that Stichting HEI, and maybe reenactment as a whole, deserves a place in in this society and isn't just escapism. Even though people often call it that. I'd prefer that people who don't know a lot about historical reenactment or history think, in general, "Yeah, this a legitimate thing to spend your time on". Firstly, to teach people something, especially to wake their enthusiasm for history, and secondly, because it's a beautiful way to think about the past.

Vera Bos(photo by Maruschka Kartosonto)

The complete documentary, "The White Bear", will be finished around Christmas 2014. Look for an announcement.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Joust For Fun: A Knight and His Axe

Jouster Wouter Nicolai(photo by Vera Bos)

Vera Bos took this wonderful picture of jouster Wouter Nicolai with his electric guitar. In addition to jousting, Wouter also plays in a band called Firestriker.
How would you caption this photo?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Jousting Life is Two Years Old!

Two years ago today, "The Jousting Life" website first appeared online. It's been great getting to know so many different people involved in jousting all over the world, so many of which have contributed information, pictures and video to help create interesting articles. The Times and Epochs history festival even covered my travel expenses so that I could attend their jousting tournament in person -- which was absolutely incredible! With your continued help, I hope to keep The Jousting Life going for years to come.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Video: Armourer/Filmmaker Eric Dube Raises a Sallet Style Helm with Visor

Eric Dube' of Armure Dube' shows his skills in both armouring and videography with this new video documenting the creation of a raised sallet helm with visor.

Eric Dube' creates a sallet and visor(video by Eric Dube')

At apx 2:10 you will see Eric's hammers soaking in water. When asked why he soaked his hammers, Eric responded that it was NOT to keep them cool, but rather to keep the handles tight. The constant hammering can cause the handles to loosen from the heads. The wooden handles swell in water, thus keepong the hammer heads tight while Eric works.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Video: Jousting at "Times & Epochs" History Festival in Russia

Ratobor Show just posted this video on their Facebook page. It is of the jousting tournament at the "Times & Epochs" history festival that I was fortunate to attend in June of 2013. It was a fantastic event and this video gives you a small taste of it.

Jousting at the Times & Epochs history festival(video by Ratabor Show)

Ratobor Show is the agency that arranged my visit to Moscow to report on the "Times & Epochs" jousting tournament. Their website is in Russian, but there are a number of people at the agency who speak English, so if you have questions about traveling to Russia, you can email them to find answers. I do not understand the voiceover, but the text that was posted with the video (when translated by Google) suggests that they are trying to raise money to have another jousting tournament during the first week of September 2014. I hope that they succeed.

You can see more of the tournament in the videos that I shot(much lower quality) on "The Jousting Life YouTube Channel". You can read more articles about jousting in Russia by clicking this link.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Video: Demonstration of Mounted Combat in Armour

In November of 2013, Arne Koets, on his Andalusian gelding Maximillian, and Joram van Essen, on his Murgese stallion Zogo, did a demonstration of mounted combat in armour as the intermezzo at a dressage competition. The event took place at De Hollandsche Manege in Amsterdam, the oldest riding school in the Netherlands(still extant). Ben van Koert, who is both a film maker and jouster, was there, and he created this short video of the demonstration.

Arne Koets on Maximillian and Joram van Essen on Zogo, mounted combat demonstration
(video by Ben van Koert/Kaos Historical Media)

Here is what Arne Koets had to say about the demonstration:
"We did a display for my old student riding club H.O.R.S. in (downtown)Amsterdam. It was meant for a riding audience, so we tried to concentrate on riding in combat, but we combined it into a sort of story, which is kinda lost in the filmcut. It explains why I did any garrocha at all, which is not known from any 15th century sources. It just seemed like an appropriate way to show off in the story.

But we liked it enough to publish it, because we did some nice jousting 'at large' (without a tiltrail) and we were quite happy about the passades which are a huge focus of renaissance riding manuals and is very likely to be meant by some passages in Don Duartes work Bem Cavalgar." - Arne Koets

BTW, according to Arne, H.O.R.S stands for "something REALLY obscurely ancient Greek, the society was formed over 100 years ago." He later told me that it stands for hippos ouch raidioos sfalletai, which translated from the Greek means, 'a horse doesn't trip easily' 'even the best hose trips occasionally'.