By Catherine Nantel-Philibert
The Renaissance of Jousting
“I used to be the freak of the fair,” jokes Radar Goddard, founder of the Society of Tilt and Lance Cavalry (STALC), Calgary’s only jousting troop. “When I started jousting in 1990, it was a relatively obscure sport. There were few jousters and even fewer women who jousted.”
Nowadays, she tells me, its popularity is on a bit of an upswing. Fuelled by television shows like Full Metal Jousting, the sport is experiencing somewhat of a rebirth, or if you will, a renaissance. But 20 years ago, jousting was non-existent in her hometown of Calgary, Alta.
“I’d never seen jousting in person until I went to Wiltshire, England,” Radar explains. “I fell in love with it and came back to Calgary with a new passion.”
Since then, she has founded STALC and worked hard to shed light on this age-old sport. The troop participates in a number of medieval and renaissance fairs throughout Alberta, Canada and the world. This summer, they will be participating in the Brooks Medieval Faire in Brooks, Alta.
“This year is going to be especially entertaining,” Radar says. “Jousters are coming from Belgium, Australia, United States and throughout Canada to participate in the event.”
Jousters may be coming from all over the world to participate in the faire, but their horses will not be coming with them. In other words, Radar has to bring eight of STALC’s troop horses to the event.
“I don’t have eight trained horses at the moment,” she says, “so we’re going to have to train a few for the faire.”
For Radar, home is 14 acres of land in DeWinton, Alta. It’s there that she trains the troop’s horses—outside, in an 80-foot round pen.
Today, she and Lacey Hadford, owner and head trainer at Spartan Coulee Equestrian Centre, are working to get Willow and Romeo ready for the faire in Brooks.
Both are rescue horses.
“I’m not sure what type of breed they are,” says Radar. “They’re obviously part draft but for me and most jousters, breed isn’t too important. I’m more concerned about disposition. I want them to have a good mind and a good work ethic.”
Contrary to what you might think, the height of a horse isn’t a big consideration for Radar either.
“A tall horse isn’t really an advantage. It’s actually easier to hit your opponent with your lance pointing up than it is with your lance pointing down. You’re more likely to get thrown out of the saddle with your lance pointing down; not to mention that the taller your horse, the higher your fall.”
Within a few months time, Willow and Romeo will each need to learn how to pick up the canter from a full stop while carrying 200 to 400 pounds of rider with full armour and gallop down a “list”—long ropes, usually 190 feet long, consisting of two lanes where jousters pass each other.
Much of the horse’s training will involve getting used to the sights and sounds of the joust-armour-clad men and women clanking about, slinking chainmail, swords striking shields and shattering lances.
To help recreate the sounds of the joust, Radar has recruited the help of foot soldiers Dean Goffinet and Jason Castator. They will practice their sword fighting techniques, hit their shields with their swords and do their best to make as much noise as possible while Radar and Lacey train the new mounts.
With Dean and Jason clanking around in the background, Radar and Lacey begin to get Willow and Romeo comfortable around a long plastic pole that mimics a lance. Lacey then trots the round pen, periodically striking a bag filled with empty pop cans.
“The empty pop cans sound a lot like armour. This will help Willow and Romeo experience a sound similar to a lance hitting their rider’s armour,” explains Radar.
Once Willow and Romeo are relaxed around the makeshift lance and the bag of empty pop cans, Radar mounts her horse, Diego.
“Diego is an experienced jousting horse. He isn’t bothered by any of this noise,” demonstrates Radar as she moves her arms up and down, making her armour to clink and clank. “He’s here to help Willow and Romeo feel more at ease and to get them comfortable walking, trotting and cantering past another horse.”
As Willow and Romeo become comfortable passing Diego, Radar and Lacey begin to ride with the makeshift lances in hand, tapping them as they cross each other.
Exercises like these are crucial to the new mounts development as jousting horses. Over the next few months, Radar will work diligently to transform them from rescue horse to noble steed.
The end product is entertaining and mesmerizing for children and adults alike. Thanks to Diego, Willow, Romeo and the members of STALC, the folks who attend the Brooks Medieval Faire will be transported to the medieval and renaissance period to witness the chivalric sport of jousting. c
The 9th annual Brooks Medieval Faire takes place in Brooks, Alta., Aug. 10?–11, 2013. For more information visit, www.brooksfaire.com
Lances are generally 11 feet in length and weigh approximately 10 to 12 pounds. The materials used in the fabrication of lances vary; in the case of the Brooks Medieval Faire, STALC will be making the lances using solid pine.
During the event, jousters will be given 1 point for touching their opponent with the lance, 3 points for breaking only the tip or the first 12 inches of the lance, 5 points for breaking the lance and 10 points for unhorsing their opponent.
During the Medieval and Renaissance period, suits of armour were visible expressions of wealth. Like the armour of yesteryears, 21st century armour remains very expensive to make.
Radar’s armour is made of stainless steel, patterned after 16th century English armour. It weighs in at 85 pounds and cost approximately $8,000 to make.
European jousters participating in the Brooks Medieval Faire are more likely to be sporting $30,000 suits of armour made of carbon steel (also referred to as mild steel). During the Medieval and Renaissance period, suits of armour were more likely to be made of this type of steel; it is therefore considered to be more historically accurate than the stainless steel often used by North American jousters.