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The Hoof Beat May 2007

Jousting in the 21st Century, A New Sport

Ever wonder what it would be like to gallop on the back of your horse holding a 10 foot lance in one hand, your reins in the other, and have the skill to pick off a small ring suspended in mid-air? This is one of the skills learned and practiced along the way for the ultimate event, Jousting in the 21st Century.

Like a knight in times past, in armor (albeit lighter), with helmet closed, lance extended, shield presented, charging down the aisles, one meets the other rider. Today’s jousting is about accuracy, skill, and safety, not about unseating the other rider. If these events sound like an interesting endeavor, you might consider taking the time to learn more about the American Jousting Alliance.

According to the Alliance, it was founded with the purpose of establishing a set of rules, guidelines, and safety standards by which competitive tournaments could be held.

The tournaments consist of 4 areas of competition. They are Ring Spearing, Shield Quintain Hitting, Spear Throwing, and Sport Jousting. The first 3 contests are collectively known as "skill-at-arms games". These skills are relatively easy to learn according to James Zoppe, the Founder of the American Jousting Alliance. "They’re a lot of fun when competing against others whether it is at an official tournament or around the stables."

"As you might imagine, sport jousting takes more time to learn and to become proficient," stated Zoppe. "The confidence it builds. The excitement and exhilaration it brings to those who take the time to master the techniques. These are well worth the effort. Riders learn to regulate the intensity of their hits to keep their comrade in arms safe."

James Zoppe runs a training school teaching the skills and techniques. According to Zoppe, his training methods have been developed over the years with an emphasis on safety with respect to people and horses.

Training headquarters are located in Frazier Park, California where the organization hosts a variety of classes, seminars, and training tournaments. Clinics are held at various locations to accommodate equestrians interested in the growing sport. Training can be undertaken on one’s own horse or the facility can provide a mount.

The Alliance stages a number of shows and tournaments at various locations throughout the year where its members gather to have fun showing off their skills and competing against each other in front of a thrilled audience. As the sport grows, the Alliance hopes to find sponsors and televise events.

For further information on the Alliance, visit their website on-line at www.jameszoppe.com. [Editorial Note: As with any competitive sport or equestrian activity, one should use good judgment in determining one’s suitability and physical conditioning for the endeavor, training and skill level, and understand the risks before pursuing the next step in the activity.]

Photos courtesy of Steve and Carol Ford
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