09.04.25: Charge, Fair Lady, Charge

That is the call when the lane is ready for the jouster to run through the arches. Well, it would be "Charge, Sir Knight, Charge" if you're a man. Our Jousting clinic was today, and it was FUN!
I started out warming up Storm to check and see how challenging it was going to be to get him to a point where I would feel comfortable riding him. I started out in the arena and asked Storm to do some light circling. I was trying to allow him the room to drift, especially since the rope had a bit of sand on it, I did not want to burn my hand up. Incidentally, the rope slid faster than I anticipated, and slipped out of my hand, and Storm went off trotting in a straight line away from me. He realized he was free, so he kept going straight on and then headed into the corner of the arena, obviously looking for a route out. I asked him to move out of the corner, and he took off running, which wasn't what I had planned, but I went with it since I didn't have much of a choice. He continued to run for a couple of laps until he finally decided to stick to me again. I picked up the rope, which was now thoroughly sandy, and took him back to the round pen so that I didn't have to worry about holding on as much.
I asked for the circles again, and he almost flat out refused to go to the right, which I am sure is due to the imbalance that has shown up that is preventing him from picking up the right lead. He worked to the left and got a little bit more energy out, and began to respond to my cues again. I did a little bit more transition work with him before taking him back to the arena, and then I decided to go ahead and go up the hill for him to explore a little bit and get used to the commotion and strange things at the top of the hill in the field.
We headed up and he startled at a truck popping out from behind the barn, but that is normal for him in that area. He was a bit wide eyed and looked around a lot, and blew some, but other than that, was a real champ. We headed down the road a bit to find where Holly and Beth were, and to get around to the end of the group of trailers so that we could find some grass for him to relax for a little bit. Coming up the road to us was LittleFoot, Holly's horse just wandering up the lane saddle on and everything. Jim grabbed him and we discovered that he managed to break his leadrope. When we got back to the trailer, we realized that the rope clamp had come undone somehow (I don't know if he spooked or pulled back somehow, or what), and so LittleFoot was just wandering free for a bit. We tied him back up temporarily, and then Holly came back and got out another leadrope.
I took Storm over to the end of the area to check things out, and they began to go over the instructions. The first task was to do nothing more than walk through the arches to get the horses used to them. Storm, of course, did really well (I put him in a tiny trailer so this was nothing!) but several of the horses had a bit of a challenge with it. I walked him through from the ground just to test things out, especially with the environment and that kind of stuff. He was fine, which made me happy. I used my stick to tap the poles and make some noise over his head so that he would be ok with that when we began the runs. When the rings come off of the holders, they sometimes make a bit of a sound, so the horses have to be accustomed to that.
Once all the horses were walking through fine, they began to give instructions about how to use the lances (which were nothing more than broomsticks with a bit of a point put on the ends). The largest ring, which is the novice class, is only 1 1/2" in diameter anyway, so it starts out pretty challenging. The novice class is also not speed timed, so you are free to use any gait to get to the other end of the lane. There are a total of three arches, each 30 yards apart. There is also approximately 20 yards of room on either end of the run to allow for getting up to speed and then stopping at the other end.
After Storm and I walked through once, I took him back to the barn and saddled up. It took me a bit to get organized enough to get us together, I still had stuff spread all over from our trip. I brought him back up and borrowed the stepladder to mount up again, and then we walked through the run one more time without a lance to get a feel for the height, and how much I had to duck! The rings are only 6'9" off the ground, which is only about 9" taller than Storm's back, so I had to figure out the hang of leaning more to the side (which looks like very wierd riding) and  still see forward to catch the ring.
I got a lance and some instructions from Bruce, one of the club's advanced riders, and then Storm and I waited our turn to have a go at it. We walked down the lane, and I managed to catch one of the rings. Its just as hard as it looks, and as a result, the photos turned out with a lot of funny faces due to the concentration from the task.
We did a number of other runs, and then finally took a break. The weather was gorgeous, but warmer than anticipated, with a pretty high humidity. A bottle of water and a bite to eat were much appreciated! Storm enjoyed himself grazing for a while under the shade of the trees while I sucked down a couple bottles of water and ate a burger.
After the break was over, we took a few more runs through the arches (OK, so ours were walks) and then they had Bruce and Tiffany run their horses through so that everyone could see what it looks like when you get up in levels. The novice level is incredibly difficult to get out of, because you have to win 6 tournaments, and a tournament must have at least 6 participants. It is apparently not uncommon for people to stay in the novice level for 4 years or even longer. The novice ring is very small, so the challenge of progressing out of that level is appropriate, because the next rings up only get smaller. The top level ring is only 1/4". That's IT. About the size of a lifesaver! And this is supposed to be accomplished at a canter down the run in less than 9 seconds (which is ample time to get from one end to the other really). Bruce ran on a little while mare. I had the privilege from watching from the very end of the lane, watching him go away from me. It was amazing to watch his horse running so fast and his body was balanced perfectly still above her back so that he could catch the rings. Tiffany made her run on her big Belgian mare, and also did really well. Her mare got up to a gallop down the lane, and I think she caught all three rings.

Then we all got to pick our Knight or Maiden names, as that is how they annouce everyone. I picked Maid of Gray Tower cause it seemed appropriate from Storm's back. I couldn't think of anything more interesting in the spur of the moment. So once they had everybody's names, they started a mock tournament, and each person got to run down the lane three times as is standard in a tournament. Storm and I did really well, taking all of our runs very slowly and we ended up with a total of 7 rings out of 9, taking all three rings in the first and third runs. We ended up taking second out of the group, there was one other person that had a perfect run, I think also at a walk.
It was a really enjoyable day, and something else we can add to the list of things we've done. The clinic was a great success, and I think that we'll be making it a tradition at GEC. We are also hoping that the Jousting Club will be able to be represented with a demo at our Day of the Horse event in the fall. We tried to get it together for last year, but our date conflicted with their final tournament (which ended up being rained out as well).
I hosed Storm off, and then took him out into the pasture where the horses were grazing on the grass in the back. He happily headed out into the lush grass as I hiked back up to barn ready to get some water.
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09.05.16: Straightening the Storm