The riders come from every walk of life,every age group and riding ability. It is a family sport, often with several generations participating. Classes are based on skill level and it is not unusual to see fathers riding against daughters and sisters against brothers.
Riders choose titles to ride under. The title can represent the name of their horse, "The Maid of Ritz Bits", the area they are from, "The Knight of Caroline County" or can be fun names, "The Knight of Missing Rings" or the "Maid of Visa".
There is no requirement for the type of tack used. Jousters ride in English, Western and Australian Stock saddles. They often ride in a shortened stirrup allowing them to stand in a two-point position. This allows the rider's knees to absorb the motion of the horse and allows the rider a more steady ride.
There are no requirements for dress; however the riders often were shirts with their title embroider on the back. You will see riders in jean, breeches, t-shirts and polo shirts.
All breeds of horse are used for jousting. Popular breeds include Arabians and Quarter Horses. But jousters have ridden Tennessee Walkers, Belgians, Miniature Horses, Welsh and Shetland Ponies, Haflingers, Paso Finos and Thoroughbreds.
The only requirement is being able to train them to run straight down the track and at the higher levels make the minimum time which requires a fast canter or hand gallop (8 or 9 seconds on the 80 yard track).
The track is 80 yards long, 20 yards from the timer to the first arch and 30 yards between arches with additional length at the start and finish as available at the location to allow for starting the horse into a gallop and stopping at the end of the course.
The three arches hold the ring hangers. They can be permanent or portable. The arches can be made out of variety of materials. The main component being the iron that suspends the ring 6'9" above the track. The iron is a metal rod suspended from the arch which holds the ring. The iron has a pivot point which allows the hanger to move out of the way if hit by the rider.
There are no specifications for lances. They are handmade and come in a variety of lengths and weights. Beginners often joust with a broom handle the end tapered or having a nail or spike added. Often a pool cue is modified and used backwards with a nail or spike added. Advanced riders have custom lances with wood shafts and custom stainless steel heads and tips.
The rings are metal covered with white cording with a crocheted edge. The rings are treated with white shoe polish or chalk to make them more visible. The rings come in the following sizes: 1¾", 1½", 1¼", 1", ¾", ½" and ¼" inside diameter. The smallest being the size of a lifesaver.
In "Ring Jousting" the rider travels down an 80 yard track with three arches trying to catch rings on their lance.
The rider has 3 rides down the track, trying to catch all nine rings.
The rings range in diameter from 1 ¾ to ¼ of an inch.
The Sport offers 4 divisions and Leadline
Leadline: The rider tries to catch 1 ¾ inch rings. The rider may walk or trot the course. They can be lead down the track. This allows the new rider the opportunity to learn the sport and get comfortable catching rings. Leadline riders are not placed, but often receive participation awards
Novice: The rider has to try to catch 1 ¾ rings. This class is not timed, but the rider must maintain a gait faster than a walk.
Amateur: The rider tries to catch 1 ½ inch rings. This is a timed class. The rider must complete the course in 8 or 9 seconds. The exact time depends on the Club hosting the tournament.Semi-Professional: The rider tries to catch 1¼ inch rings. This is a timed class. The rider must complete the course in 8 or 9 seconds. The exact time required depends on the Club hosting the tournament.
Professional: The rider tries to catch 1 inch rings. This is a timed class. The rider must complete the course in 8 or 9 seconds. The exact time depends on the Club hosting the tournament.
At the end of 3 rides the rings are counted and the the tie-offs are rode off. The size of the ring is reduced by ¼ of an inch. And each tied rider makes an additional trip down the track. This continues until the tie is broken. If the riders catch 3 rings and are still tied the ring size is reduced again. The rings can get as small as ¼ inch inside diameter, the size of a life-saver.
To celebrate the History of Jousting, the Knights and Maids dress in Medieval Garb and ride their horses down the track in a pre joust Celebration. The joust is started with a Charge to the Knights and the playing of the National Anthem.
At the conclusion of the Joust awards are given out in a Crowning Ceremony. The winners are present with a crown of flowers. Tradition has it that Knights present the crown to their Lady (mother, wife, girlfriend ...); Maids will invite their Lord (father, husband, boyfriend ....) up to crown them. At the State and National Tournaments the Winner's are Knighted by the State or National Champion.