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Mounted Training and Horsemanship @ AEMMA

AEMMA's continued research and development efforts in the resurrection and reconstruction of medieval martial arts now extends to the realm of mounted training and horsemanship. Mounted fighting skills were a critical component of the skills possessed by the medieval warrior. The horse was instrumental in battle throughout history and we feel that in order to round out the skills of a medieval martial artist, mounted fighting training is now offered as part of the AEMMA curriculum.

Brief History:  Battle field tactics was forever changed by a certain far-reaching technique introduced into the field, that being the use of the couched lance by a group of horsemen who mounted closely coordinated charges as single units. Prior to this new development, there were three alternative methods of wielding the lance:

  • the lance was deployed as a javelin which was hurled overarm at the enemy,
  • the lance was used as a spear held underarm and jab at the enemy, or
  • overarm to jab at the enemy.

The principle disadvantage of these alternative methods of deployment was that once the lance made contact with the target, it was difficult to retrieve for a repeat deployment and therefore, the wielder needed to rely on other weaponry in order to prevent being vulnerable.

The couched lance, on the other hand, was tightly tucked under the right arm so that a heavier (and more effective) lance could be used. The full weight of man and horse were behind each blow and the warrior was distanced from his opponent, making him less vulnerable to attack. Unless it broke in the onslaught, the lance was retained by the knight who could use it repeatedly if required to do so. The significance of this new method of combat was that it required training and practice in order to carry it off. Moreover, as its maximum effect could only be obtained by a number of knights acting in unison, it was team training and team practice that was necessary. The tournament fulfilled all these needs admirably and indeed may have developed precisely as a result of those needs.1

The tournament appeared to have emerged as a distinct form of martial game at the end of the eleventh century, initially in the northern reaches of France. Even during the First Crusades and corroborated by the monastic chronicler, Robert the Monk, noted that the crusaders spent their liesure moments running at the quintain.2

There were three games that the riders participated in:

Mounted Training Program

The training method is structured into two major components, a) general horsemanship, b) mounted fighting skills. A student who wishes to train will undergo an initial assessment to determine the level of horsemanship skills possessed. From there, the student then engages in the training program which is catered to the skill level of the student. At the conclusion of each training component, the student is assessed by the instructors before engaging in training from the next level. Safety, discipline, control are critical attributes that are measured during the evaluations.

Level One - General Horsemanship

This level of training focuses on the rider developing a comfort with riding and controlling the horse. Often it is said that the ability to ride well is a gift or the rider will be limited. This is not true, because horsemanship is a skill developed through a learning process that anyone can learn. However, for some people, it is true that some aspects of horsemanship skills are more intuitive than others. The rider which develops a trust for the horse and confidence in his/her riding skills will enhance the rider's ability to incorporate the arms and armour required in the second level of training. Key attributes of this level of training are focused on the riders' balance, coordination and posture. At the conclusion of this level of training, the student will possess riding skills necessary to proceed to the next level of training, familiarity with tack, horse breeds, general horse care, safety and basic handling experience. The training is a hands-on program which begins with emphasis placed on specific ground work techniques that will enable the rider's control over his/her horse.

Fees: $35 CAD/hour (rates may change without notice)
Note: In general, for those students that have no horsemanship skills, the average duration of training for this level is approximately 30-35 hours.

  • Basic Principles
    • general anatomy of the horse,
    • general principles of stable management, horse health and care,
    • leading the horse to create respect and gain control, yielding and ground manners,
    • finding and riding over the centre of gravity of your horse,
    • stopping and turning your horse using reins and leg yielding,
    • understanding the difference between hold and pull,
    • communicating with your horse,
    • develop familiarity of equipment (bits, spurs, martingales, draw lines, etc.).
  • Perfecting Control
    • develop that soft, steady, balanced head position,
    • smooth, consistent, dependable frame,
    • enhance performance by being subtle,
    • enhancing gaits and transitions.
  • The Finished Package
    • integrating and practicing the attributes learned above,
    • refinement of subtle bridle and legs responses,
    • emphasis on cues from the rider's hips, seat, and upper thigh to establish rate and deepen collection,
    • demonstration of self-carriage, balance and finesse.

Level Two - Rings, Spear, Quintain

After the student has satisfied the requirements of horsemanship, the rider now begins training skills that develops the rider's ability to both ride and to deploy attacks with the lance and spear. This level of training has no elements of direct competition with another rider and is ideally suited to individuals that wish to engage in mounted training without engaging in physical competition with another rider (jousting). The skills learned in this level are foundational for jousting and one cannot proceed to jousting against another rider without this training.

Fees: $50 CAD/hour
Note: The average duration of training for this level is approximately 30-35 hours.

  • Rings
    • The purpose of the rings is to develop accuracy and control with the lance. Rings can be setup either as single rings or multiple rings, of various sizes and heights. Rings can also be captured from the rider's left or right. This exercise leverages the rider's ability to control the horse, maintain one's balance and accuracy of the lance while riding. It is especially critical that accuracy be ensured should the rider progress to jousting whereby targeting the oncoming rider opponent must be secured to prevent devestating injuries.
  • Spear Throw
    • The spear exercise attempts to simulate an attack on a footman. The targets are typically 3 to 6 metres away and are usually constructed of bails of hay wrapped with a covering with a bull's eye or at the minimum, painted directly onto the bails.
  • Quintain
    • The quintain is a medieval training device that consisted of a target (usually a shield) fixed to a revolving wooden beam that pivoted on top of a centre post. Occasionally, a bag of sand was affixed to the opposite of the beam.

      The objective of the quintain was to train the rider to target cleanly at at speed as one would find during jousting. For those quintains that had a bag of sand attached, should the rider not hit the target cleanly or at speed, the rider would receive a painful clout from the bag of sand. It is these drills that enhance the rider's accuracy and timing when placing the lance strike.

Level Three - Jousting

Jousting was considered the main attraction of the medieval tournament. Tournaments were held to enhance the prowess of the warriors of the period by placing the riders into competition against each other. Jousts as they were referred to were specifically single combats, one-against-one, athough the jouster may belong to a team participating in the tournament. Jousting were carried out in "lists" which was an enclosed area in which the jousts were fought. Jousting leverages all of the previous training culminating with the joust against a human opponent.
  • Light Armoured Division (11-12th Centuries)
    • The differentiator between light and heavy armoured divisions is the armour worn and the fact that the light armoured rider also employs a jousting shield. The light armoured division represents the early medieval period in which plate armour was not the standard of the day. Typically, the riders would have worn full helms (pembroke, barrel styles or similar), mail, coat of plates, mail chausses, leather gauntlets and shield. Light armoured division minimum armour specifications can be found at the World Championship Jousting Association website.
  • Heavy Armoured Division (14-15th Centuries)
    • The heavy armoured division demonstrates the epidemy plate armour technology of the period towards the end of the medieval period. The 14th century is regarded as a transitional period in which armour making technology was evolving at a rapid rate. Armour such as chain mail took a lesser role in defensive armour, being replaced by increasingly sophisticated plate armour complete with articulated limbs that offered very little, if any resistence to freedom of movement to the rider. Heavy armoured division minimum armour specifications can be found at the World Championship Jousting Association website.

The Instructors

Shane Adams - Principle Instructor

Shane Adams was introduced to horses as a young boy when he started riding and showing Arabians with his family. He progressed to competitive trail riding, all the while dreaming of being a knight, fighting alongside such legends as Ivanhoe and Sir Lancelot. He's held onto these dreams, and after working with various jousting and medieval shows Shane created his own, The Knights of Valour in 1993. This lead to competitive jousting tournaments and in 1997 Shane Adams entered his first competitive tournament and traveled to Estes Park Colorado. With borrowed equipment, riding an unfamiliar horse he won the Championship which encouraged him to return the following year to repeat the win and earn the 1998 Championship as well, this time mounted on his Percheron stallion Dragon. Although happy with his performance, and pleased to meet others in the sport, Shane was dissatisfied with the lack of professionalism and organization at these tournaments and was confident that improvements could be made. With this in mind, and with assistance from friends, he founded the World Championship Jousting Association (WCJA) which held it's inaugural tournament in Port Elgin, Ontario July 24th, 1999. Keeping up with the demands of a rapidly growing association, and planning tournaments has kept Shane busy ever since, still he continues to lead the Knights of Valour, its tournament shows and its competitive jousting team. Helping him is his wife Cassandra Adams, a highly trained and skilled equestrian and joust competitor in her own right. Together they run Dragons Valour Farm, an equestrian boarding facility near Hamilton. It's here that Shane runs his tournament training school for those interested in the sport or getting involved in the show aspect, either way Shane is happy to pass on what he's learned in his may years in the lists.
"He was a verray, parfit gentil knight, And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly would he teche". Chaucer

Cassandra Adams - Instructor

Cassandra Adams, a native of Holland, left home for a life of horses at the age of 13, bounding from one barn to the next and eventually from one country to another. She's traveled and worked with many different breeds, injust as many disciplines - from jumpers to dressage, standardbred to draft. Her life with horses sent Cassandra to Canada, and ironically, her first medieval experience. She met Shane at a Toronto dinner theatre, and found her "Knight in shining polyester", four months after they met they where married and what is now Dragons Valour Farm was started. A joust professional in her own right Cassandra's won many Championship titles but often suffers from a lack of other female competitors in the jousting division aboard her Friesian stallion Valour. The pair also competes successfully in dressage competitions both locally and in nationally recognized show. Her commitment, knowledge and high standards for all her horses are obvious to anyone after even a brief conversation. Acting as barn manager at the farm, Cassandra's kept busy with training young horses for clients, teaching lessons, and the day-to-day chores of a busy stable.

For more information, contact:

Shane & Cassandra Adams
2724 River Road
Cayuga ON
N0A 1E0

Telephone: +1 519 443 6596
email: knights@dragonsvalour.com
URL: www.dragonsvalour.com
Click on the small image map below to view a larger image for the directions to get to the farm

Links & Resources


  1. Paragraph extract from "Tournaments", Richard Barber & Juliet Barker, The Boydell Press, 2000
  2. Quintain: A contraption consisting of a wooden shield mounted on a beam with a counter-weight upon a pole. When the lance hits the shield, it will swing round, and the counter-weight will strike the knight out of the saddle unless the horse is fast enough, and the knight agile enough.

Released: January 11, 2002
Last modified: June 12, 2003