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Horse-Games-art - 7/25/09


"Equestrian Games" by Lady Lyonet Lamoureux.


NOTE: See also the files: Int-Equestran-art, Horse-Barding-art, horses-msg, Horse-n-t-MA-art, horses-bib, horses-lnks, p-horses-bib, saddles-msg, Stirrups-Hist-art, warhorse-size-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article is part of a series of articles originally written for "The Avantgarde", the newsletter for the Principality of Avacal in the Kingdom of An Tir.


All the rules quoted here are based on the "An Tir Book of the Horse", which is the handbook of equestrian rules for the Kingdom of An Tir. Much of it is common in other kingdoms, but you should check your local rules and regulations before starting any equestrian activities.


Equestrian Games

by Lady Lyonet Lamoureux


Previous articles have focused on generalities.  This issue provides specific details on games, equipment needs, space required as well as scoring options.  The games we will focus on in this article are the most common games you will see at an event.


The An Tir Book of the Horse (ABotH) is currently being rewritten due to the recent changes made to the SCA Equestrian Rules. As a result, the information here is not guaranteed to be accurate for use in An Tir.  The information in this article was taken from sources in other Kingdoms, but differences from the forthcoming rewritten ABotH will likely be minor so this information is at least useful to help get you started.


Ring Tilt


This is a test in lance accuracy.  There are various ways to set up ring tilt, but all versions involve suspending rings from one or multiple standards.  Rings should be suspended so that when the ring is speared it breaks away from its attachment easily.


Equipment:  4 rings each with the following diameters: 2', 4", & 6" or 2 rings each with the following diameters: 1", 2", 3", 4", 5", 6" for a total of 12 rings.  7'-10' lance/spear with a tip less than the diameter of the smallest ring. 'T' bars approximately 7 feet in height with fasteners to hold one or two rings at each end of the T.


Area Needed:  For single T-bar, a lane 8-10 yards wide and 40 yards long with the T-bar in the center.   For multiple T-bars, a lane 8-10 yards wide, with 15 yards from the start to the 1st T-bar and from the last to the end of the lane and 5-10 yards between each.


Set-up:  One way to set up is using three T -bars in a line 21'-30' apart and at least 30' from the edge of the arena.  In a more challenging version the rider has the choice of a larger or smaller ring at each arm of the T, so that strategy is involved in deciding whether to try for the greater points of the small ring, or the lesser points but easier capture of the larger.  For this version the 1st  T would suspend a 1" & a 6" ring, the 2nd would suspend a 2" & 5" and the 3rd would suspend a 3" & 4". The smaller ring should be placed to the outside position.


Rules: The rider starts at one end of the lane and rides in a line, spearing the rings as he goes. Before the end of the lane, the rider turns and rides straight down the opposite side, spearing the rings on that side. After the last ring on each side, the lance must be raised to a vertical position. The rider stops before reaching the end of the lane where he started. He lowers his lance, dropping the rings on the ground for the scorekeeper. Only rings retained on the spear count for points.


Scoring: Each ring still on the lance at the end of the pass is worth a number of points based on its size. Suggested points can be awarded based on current IKEqC standards:

1" = 20 pts, 2" = 15 pts, 3"=10 pts, 4"=8 pts, 5"=6 pts, 6"=4 pts


Quintain or Tilting the Mock Knight


The quintain can be in various forms.  The most common is a pivoting target with a counterweight on the opposite arm.  If an improper strike is made, the counter weight could strike the rider.  This teaches good follow through after the initial impact.  Tilting the Mock Knight is a similar game that involves a target that pivots out of the way and will be included herein.


Equipment:  The Quintain is approximately 8' tall, with a heavy base, a shield firmly bolted to the right arm and a sand bag filled with rags or foam suspended from the left arm. Several lances, at least 1 1/4" in diameter, although it may taper at the last 4' to 3/4" at the tip. Tip should be covered with hard leather or rubber. The lances may be from 8'-15' long, but ideally between 9'-12'. The lance can be weighted at the held end to improve balance. Warning: Tilting is a high impact sport. It is suggested that the lance be made of weapons grade rattan or similar material.


Area Needed and Set Up:  A lane 8-10 yards wide and 30 yards long.  The quintain is set in the center of the lane. The Quintain should be in an open area so a horse may pass on either side.  It should be a minimum of 30' from either end of the equestrian area to give horses time to stop safely.  The target shield should be turned so as to face the rider and so that it is slightly past the point of straight impact in the direction that the shield will rotate.  The shield/target should not be placed so as to be struck straight on.


Rules:  The rider proceeds towards the Quintain at their chosen gait. Ground crew should hold the Quintain steady by lightly holding the counterweight and standing outside the swing radius.  As the rider passes he strikes the shield to cause it to rotate as much as possible. Either Frankish/Norman or Persian/Saracen style may be used in tilting (see below).  Once the rider has struck, he continues in a straight line, ducking forward to avoid the rotating bag. The rider then raises the lance to a vertical position.  Before reaching the end of the lane he stops, turns, and sets himself.  Once the quintain has been reset, complete the run with a second pass.


Scoring:  Suggested scoring for Quintain will depend on how freely each individual Quintain turns.  On a Quintain in which an average strike will yield 8-10 turns, each turn would be worth less points than one in which it takes a strike to get 2-3 turns. On the average Quintain 5 points per turn is suggested.  On a very stiff Quintain half turns may need to be counted.  If a rider is struck by the counterweight there is a penalty applied, equal to a full rotation.


Beheading the Enemy


This is a good test of horse & rider's balance, flexibility and ability to work together and also the rider's ability to control both their horse and a weapon.  As such it has been and will likely continue to be part of the authorization tests.


Equipment:  5 poles varying in height from 4'-7'.  Velcro or cord should be attached to the top of each pole. 5 Styrofoam balls, wig stands, or rolled foam, reinforced with strapping tape, and with the Velcro or cord attached to the bottom.  Wooden sword or mace. 5 portable holes to place the poles in the ground or you can use the top of jump standards if you make an adaptor.  Markers for the starting and turning points on the course.  1 stopwatch.


Area Needed and Set Up:  An area 8-10 yards by 60-100 yards long.  Poles are set in a straight line 20'-30' apart depending on the style of tournament and space available.  The posts must be spaced evenly in a row.  Heads are affixed to the tops with some give (either Velcro or cord).  If Velcro is chosen, a cord (approx. 2' long) should attach each head to its post to prevent the heads from flying too far.  Place marker posts at each end of the course at least 30' from the first to the last pole.  A greater length is recommended at the start/finish line to give horses sufficient area to stop safely.


            Rules: Rider starts at the starting point then proceeds in a slalom, weaving between the posts in a regular pattern while trying to knock the targets off of the posts as they pass.  Only back swings are allowed.  After passing the last marker, he turns around the last marker and rides straight back to the starting line.


Scoring:  You can score for either accuracy or for fastest time.  If scoring for accuracy, the rider goes through the course trying to strike all the targets without missing weaves. Points are earned for each target struck and lost for each weave missed.  10 pts is suggested per target struck and 10 pts lost per weave missed.  Breaking into a faster gait than allowed is a penalty of 10 pts.  If scoring for speed & accuracy, a stopwatch will be needed.  Penalties are applied for each target or weave missed, or knocking over a standard due to collision. Suggested penalty values are: missed target +10 sec./ –10 pts; missed weave + 10 sec./ – 10 pts; collision/knocking over standard + 10 sec./- 10 pts; forward swings and striking horse + 20 sec./- 20 pts or disqualification.


Pig Sticking (also called Tent Pegging)


This game involves spearing objects that are low to the ground.  The objects will require a sharp point on the spear.  Minors may not play this game with live steel.  Alternative targets could be un-fired clay disks, embroidery hoops with paper centers that can be "punched out" or fuzzy targets for use with Velcro tipped spears.  The targets are placed on the ground in the center of the arena.  The rider then rides past the targets at their allowed gait and tries to spear a target then raise it to the vertical. The rider may only spear one target per pass.


Equipment:  7' to 10' lance with a pointed metal tip or narrow spearhead (or alternative for minors).  3 Styrofoam blocks, these can vary in size, wrapped in strapping tape and covered by cloth.


Area Needed and Set Up: Place one or more blocks in the center of the arena.


            Rules: For safety reasons, it is important to use the proper spear handling technique to prevent the rider from being vaulted from the saddle. The spear is held loosely in the hand, point up with the shaft to the outside of the arm.  The palm grasps the shaft from underneath, with the thumb turned to the outside. This hold allows the spear to be brought up into the air with a turn of the wrist and prevents the rider from pole-vaulting with the spear. Upon approaching the target, the tip is rotated downwards causing the shaft to be couched, across the elbow and to the outside of the upper arm. When the spear strikes the target the tip is rotated backwards, around and held up right after the pass.


The rider rides toward the blocks and pegs one as they go by. Once the block is pegged, the spear is brought to an upright position.  The spear should be lowered only when the rider is making his run.


Scoring:  Usually this game is based on 4 passes. 10 points per block speared and raised to the vertical position is suggested, but different sized blocks could be worth varying points.  The pegged block must remain on the tip of the spear to count. The horse must be at the gait authorized at the moment of impact with the block or no points are scored for the pass.




The reed course is a sword drill where the rider tries to strike targets resembling reeds on standards 4'-6' high.  The standard version of this game is to use a double line with a 4' or 4 ½' wide lane between the two rows of targets.


Equipment:  10 reed targets between 4'-6' in height.  They can be all the same length or in decreasing heights.  This is a sword game and requires a padded sword.  Maces are not used.


Area Needed and Set Up:  The reed course can be set up as either a single or double line of targets on standards 4'-6' in height.  The  targets can be all the same length or in decreasing heights for higher difficulty.  They are set up in a staggered formation such that the standards on one side of the lane are half way between the standards on the other side of the lane.  5 are used for each side, totaling 10 standards and they are placed approximately 21' apart.  Both ends of the course should be a minimum 30' from the arena wall.  The targets for each side are decreasing in height such that the 1st pair are 10" high, the 2nd are 8" high, the 3rd are 6" high, the 4th are 4" high, and the 5th are 2" high.  

Rules:  The rider goes down the center of the lane between the two lines of targets attempting to strike the reeds off of the standards with a sword. All sword swings must be back swings.


Scoring:  A single run at the reeds course is suggested for tournament situations.  Targets falling due to the standard being hit do not count.  A target must be hit by the sword and fall free from its standard to count.  Suggested points are awarded based on size of the reeds struck as per the current IKEqC standards:


10" = 5 pts, 8" = 10 pts, 6"=15 pts, 4"=20 pts, 2"=25 pts


Disqualification of the run can occur for:  forward swing or strike upon the horse;  dropping the weapon; breaking gait for more than three strides.  Reruns are at the discretion of the EqMIC.


Javelin Toss (also called Spear Throw)


The rider throws their spear trying to strike the target in the desired location to gain the most points.  There are many ways to lay out this type of game.  The limit is your imagination.  Minors may not participate in this event with live steel.  Modified spears and targets may be used to enable minors to participate.


Equipment:  The target, usually a drum-shaped object at least 2' in diameter, with a heavy cardboard or canvas face, attached to a 4' by 8' stand. The drum should be filled with compacted foam. Alternatively, use hay bales braced to prevent movement. Several light spears or javelins, 6'-8' long, with small steel or iron spear points.  For minors, a javelin with a non-live steel head may be used.


Area Needed and Set Up:  A lane at least 8 yards wide by 30 yards long, with an additional open space behind the target or a wall to prevent a misthrow from causing damage. Targets may be positioned so that the rider rides directly at the target and hurls the spear as he passes abreast—he must be at least far enough away to ensure that a "bounce-back" will not hit the horse. Alternately, the target may be positioned at a right angle off the lane by several yards. The rider travels straight down the lane, turning in the saddle and hurls the spear at the target. This requires more space set-up behind the target and to either side.


Rules: Rider is to throw a spear and pierce a target while riding.


Scoring:  The score may be the same no matter where the target is struck, or the points may vary as on a traditional Bulls Eye.  Suggested points are 10 pts/strike, or for a zoned target, 5 for hitting the target, 10 for non-vital areas and 20 for small vital zones.


Cup Carry (Tankard or Chalice Race)


In this game the rider races while carrying a full tankard or chalice of water over a pre-determined course.  The water in the vessel is measured before and after the ride.  This game is to show the horse and rider's skill in traveling smoothly and working together to avoid spilling much water.


Equipment:   One or more goblets of the same size. Water, a stopwatch and a banner, pole, or other turning point.


Area Needed and Set Up:   There are no minimum or maximum space requirements.  Course can be a simple corridor with a pole or barrel at one end. The start and stop line must be clearly marked.


Rules:  The goblet is filled to the brim and handed to the mounted rider. The rider cannot cover the top of the open goblet.  The rider then rides at his authorized through the course obstacles. The clock stops when he crosses the stop line. The cup is then measured. This game can also be used for relay races where multiple riders exchange a single chalice or multiple riders combine their water results.


Scoring:   Many possibilities exist for scoring this game.  Points can be earned for the water remaining in the cup, or in a timed event, points can be lost for water spilled during the run.  It is suggested that a point value is assigned to specific volumes (i.e. ¼ cup=4 points, ounce=2 points) depending on the size of the vessel.


Flag Race


This is a race similar to the Squire Rescue although the object carried is less cumbersome.


Equipment:  Two 6'-8' poles with pennants or flags attached, each a different color. 2 flag holders.  A tube 3' high and 4" in diameter or a barrel or hay bale (if flag pole is sharpened at lower end) may be used. One stopwatch.


Area Needed and Set Up:  A lane 15 yards by 20 to 30 yards.  A flag holder is set up at each end of the lane, with a flag in each holder.  Starting point is set 10 yards from the first flag.


Rules:  The rider starts at the starting line and rides down the lane toward the 1st flag, then grasps the flag from the 1st holder and carries it to the 2nd holder at the end of the lane.  The rider places the 1st flag in the 2nd holder, then grasps the 2nd flag and carries it back to be placed in the 1st holder. Timing stops when the rider crosses the line.


Scoring:  This is a timed event. Timing starts and stops as the rider passes the starting point.  Riders are not allowed to ride at a gait faster than their authorization, but a slower gait is not a penalty.  The flag must be completely placed in the flag holder before the rider may continue the course.


Flat Work


This event is not typically timed. This is in essence a test of horsemanship and the training and ability of the mount.   A course is set up with various obstacles to be negotiated at the rider's authorized gait.


Equipment:  A printed text and diagram of the course should be provided to the judges and riders, followed by a walk through.  Four or more 4" by 4" turned poles at least 9' long and painted to contrast with the ground.  Poles may be used for bending (turning) obstacles. These must not tip over if brushed by horse or rider, or blown over by the wind.  A water hazard may be constructed using a 4' by 8' sheet of plastic or tarp. Make a 3" to 4" depression 36" by 7' in the ground; spread the plastic over and fill with water. Carefully cover the edges of the plastic with dirt; lay a ground pole on each side of the water, parallel with the track.


Area Needed and Set Up:  A minimum of 30 by 60 yards, if unfenced, or 15 by 50 yards if in an enclosed area or arena is recommended as the minimum. Larger courses are encouraged if available. The course should be designated to create a natural flow from one movement to the next with no abrupt changes of direction or gait; also, the gait at which the movement is to be performed is an important consideration.


            Rules: A walk through to show the actual course and clarify questions about what is expected should be held with the judges and riders before the actual test.  The horse and rider must remain on course and perform at their authorized gait to be successful.  A typical flat work course includes objects on the ground to be walked or trotted over, poles or equivalent to bend around, a small 8 yard circle in each direction, a snakeline (three consecutive loops the width of the arena), a change of rein, halt, and backing four steps.


      Beginner = Walk the entire course, no water obstacle.

      Intermediate = Walk obstacles, and figures at the trot.

      Advanced = All three gaits will be incorporated into the course.


            Scoring: Points are given based on ability to perform as directed. 3 points per movement: 3 pts=completed satisfactorily, 2 pts=awkward or balk, 1 pt=a second balk, 0 pts = movement not completed or completed at incorrect gait. This may also be done as a timed event with penalties for not completing a certain challenge.


Relay Race


This game is a simple relay format game.


Equipment:  Some hand-off, such as a baton, small flags, banners or painted rocks.


Area Needed:  Any reasonably sized area.


Rules:  This basic relay race concept can be used with a number of different scenarios such as "retrieve the banners" in which the riders carry small flags, "Loot the city" in which the riders carry gold painted rocks or similar, etc. Relays work very well in situations where there are far more riders than horses available, as horses can be shared by a team and the mounting and dismounting becomes part of the test.  Relay races also promote teamwork.


Scoring: The first team to correctly complete the relay is the winner.  If a rider breaks into a faster stride than allowed, that rider must return to the beginning of their portion of the race.


Ribbon Race


Two riders at the same gait proceed to one point, turn, and return while holding a ribbon or other very breakable material between them.


Equipment:  Several pieces of ribbon or twine 12" to 14" long.  A marker for the turnaround point. A stopwatch.


Area Needed and Set Up:   A lane at least 8 yards by 25 yards. Clearly mark the start/stop line. Have riders of the team sit their horses side by side, each holding one end of the ribbon.


Rules:  The team must ride around the turning point without letting go or breaking the ribbon.


Scoring:  This is a timed event.  A torn or dropped ribbon means disqualification.  Fastest time wins.


Squire Rescue (or Rescue the Maiden)


This game can be ridden by any level rider using an inanimate object, a "maiden" or a "squire", that needs to be rescued and carried from one place to another.  The skill involved is to be able to safely ride one's horse through a course while encumbered with this extra object and hand the "maiden" off to the ground crew person at the end of the course.  Advanced riders only version:  Ride down a narrowly marked corridor, stop in a specified area, pick up a person and return down the corridor, riding double.


Equipment:  Non-hazardous material to mark the lane, a dummy and a stopwatch.  Advanced version: athletic volunteer who is qualified as an advanced rider.


Area Needed and Set Up:  An area about 10 by 30 yards.  The lane should be marked with a 10' wide strip running down the center of the lane for 25 yards; this strip turns either left or right to form a 10' square box. The dummy should be positioned in this box and the start/stop line should be well defined.  Ground Crew may hand the dummy to the rider if needed.


Rules:  Ride down a narrowly marked strip, stop in a specified area, pick up a dummy and return down the corridor to the starting point, where the dummy is handed off to the ground crew.  The advanced version is similar, except that a person must be brought up onto the horse to ride double back to the starting point.  The "squire" may help himself mount behind the rider by using his own strength or the rider's stirrup.  The advanced version will be ridden ONLY at the walk.


Scoring:  This is a timed event.  For every time the horse steps over the marked borders, the rider is penalized a specified number of seconds.  For the live body version, both rescuer and rescued must be on the horse when crossing the finish line.




Mounted Quests can be organized in various forms. A simple quest would be to send riders into the countryside to locate fixed, marked posts and to record them on a map; the rider or team of riders with the best time, or that finds the most posts wins. More complex quests can involve hidden clues or stations where certain feats must be performed, or questions asked and answered.  The marshal should cover the course to check for hazards and familiarize him/herself with the area. They should be aware of overdue riders, and with the Autocrat ensure sufficient water is available.


Mounted Archery and Mounted Combat


For safety reasons, the rules governing these two activities are extensive and complex.  Due to the current rule rewrites and the extensive changes expected to authorization requirements, I will not discuss these activities here.  It is recommended that anyone interested in participating in either of these two categories should contact their local equestrian community for additional information or contact myself at the email address listed at the end of this article.


Scoring Options


There is greater difficulty of doing these games at speed. If the tournament includes mixed rider levels it is suggested you use an altered form of scoring, for example: Walk: Score x 1.0, Trot: Score x 1.25, Canter/gallop: Score x 1.5.  These adjustments would be applied to games not judged based on speed.


Tilting Styles


There are two basic methods of tilting. The 1st is called Frankish or Norman style.  The 2nd is called Saracen or Persian style.


Norman/Frankish: The rider lowers his lance across his horse's neck and spears the target on the opposite side from his lance arm. This method requires that the target be higher than for the Persian so that the lance is not jostled by the horse.


Saracen/Persian:  The rider lowers his lance vertically on the same side of the horse as his lance arm.



Text Box:


Fig. 6 Saracen style


If you have questions about these games, or if you would like additional information, please feel free to contact me at the email listed below.  Alternately, you can research these games online.  Visiting the An Tir Equestrian Page as well as equestrian webpages for other Kingdoms has been a great resource for information and details.


Thanks to the equestrian community of the Kingdom of Aethelmarc for their detailed layout.


Copyright 2008 by Lya Lamoureux. <lyalamoureux at gmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org