Kryssi Jeaux Miller, along with members of her theatrical performing group “Knights Of The Tempest,” Bryan Connolly, Jo O’Brien and Kallyn Hunter (Morgan Dooley was attending the FEI world championships in Nebraska), set up a course of four obstacle runs for students at a free clinic Sunday, April 2, 2016, at Oasis Equestrian Center in Fort Collins, CO. In competition, these are always done at a canter, but in practice may be done at whatever gait is appropriate for the skill and comfort level of horse and rider.
Never having jousted previously, I had no idea what to expect. One of my trail riding friends, Helena Laliberte, met me in Fort Collins a couple days early. We wanted to avoid a snow storm and get ourselves and our horses settled in. After the clinic, we planned to explore some of the trails in the area.
We found Kryssi to be an excellent instructor. She and her troupe provided us with a positive, safe and supportive environment to learn, expand our comfort zones and have fun.
Except for the bending poles to behead stuffed animals, all the obstacles are done with a roped off run approximately 5-6’ wide and the length of a small arena.
We started out getting acquainted with each obstacle and, because it was a small group, we got to practice each three times before putting the course together and being timed and scored for our “tournament”.
Rings: Think “Return To Snowy River” where you carry a sword and pick off rings spaced approximately 14’ from each other dangling, from wires on the side wall approximately 6’ high. Tobias and I nailed this in practice at the trot. However, in the final scored competition, we missed nearly all of them.
- Sworded beheading a.k.a. headchopping: This is where bending poles have stuffed animal heads, balls or cabbages stuck on the top. You are handed a dull theatre sword and then slalom through, swinging the sword in a figure eight, back beside your horse’s rump and then up to behead your teddy bear. It can be a little unnerving for the horses as the heads go flying. Tobias and I definitely need to work on one-handed neck reigning. At speed in scored competition, he just wanted to charge straight through as he had so brilliantly done in the other parts of the course. So we chose to go back to sever heads, losing quite a bit of time.
- Throwing Spears: Again, think of that same early scene from RTSR. There is a bale of hay propped at an angle with a target on it. You charge and throw your spear and try to hit it. Then someone on the sidelines hands — or throws — you a second spear and you go for the second target. I had terrible aim, but it was lots of fun to let out my warrior cry as I released the spear. I was the only student to choose to catch rather than be handed the second spear, and Jo made that effortless with her accurate, vertical toss. However, it was Helena who not only hit the target, but scored the only bullseye of the day.
- The Quintain: think “A Knights Tale”, where you have a lance and need to break the point on your opponent. While there are light and full armour jousts in competition, our opponent was a wooden head that rocked back if we hit it – and it conveniently didn’t hit back. In practice, Tobias and I hit it straight on. Not so in the tournament.
Helena came in first place and I came in last. Still, Tobias and I had a fabulous time and plan to do it again.
Having learned from Patrick “The Black Knight” Lambke, Kryssi Jeaux Miller made history by being the first female jouster to win one of the jousting competitions during the 2012 games at Estes Park. She took first place in the “Light Armor” competition on that Saturday, beating out Shane Adams who came first in “Light Armor” on both Friday and Sunday, and who earned first place in “Heavy Armor” all three days. (www.thejoustinglife.com Sept. 16, 2012)
Who amongst you will take up the challenge?
It’s amazing how much fun you can have while at the same time improving your horsemanship and your partnership with your horse. Upcoming clinics at Oasis Equestrian Center in Fort Collins are: Sunday, May 7; Sunday, September 24 and Sunday, November 5. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
The Knights of the Tempest’s first theatrical performance of 2017 will be during the Fort Collins Fringe Festival, July 27-30.
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/knightsofthetempest/