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.


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