The Jouster

Where do you get joust training? Knight school!

Jeffrey Hedgecock, 43, of Ramona, has built a life around Medieval things.
  • Jeffrey Hedgecock, 43, of Ramona, has built a life around Medieval things.

Continuing with Jeffrey Hedgecock, 43, of Ramona. Hedgecock makes knightly armour, museum-quality work — imagine 15th-century breastplates, gauntlets, greaves, spaundlers, faulds, and more. Hedgecock says there are two other museum-quality armourers in the U.S., both on the East Coast.

Hedgecock has built a life around Medieval things. He and his wife, Gwen Norwick, are founders of Historic Enterprises. Their outfit sells aforementioned arms and armour, period clothing, lances, saddles, horse armour, everything needed for Medieval man and beast; plus, there’s a link to Knight School Joust Training. Mr. Hedgecock is waiting.

Hedgecock and Norwick also produce World Joust Tournaments and among their properties is the Tournament of the Phoenix, which can be found at the Poway Rodeo grounds this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And, yes, Hedgecock will joust.

We talked by phone on a recent, foggy Friday morning. I wanted to know, “A family arrives in Poway to see jousting. What can they expect?”

Hedgecock says, “Friday is a preview, goes from 11:00 to 3:00. They can expect an all-day festival Saturday and Sunday. Competition between six of the best knights in the world doing four jousting sessions over two days.

“A session lasts about an hour. We’ll do 18 passes. In between two sessions is a combat event. On Saturday we have foot combat, in full armor, with six-foot poleaxes. On Sunday we have a mounted event: six knights in full armour, two teams, battle against each other on horseback.”

I’m trying to make a picture of this in my mind. Doesn’t come easy. “When did you start jousting?”

“In 2003, in England,” Hedgecock says. “My first tournament was at the Royal Armouries Museum. I’m the only American to have ever been invited to the Royal Armouries. My team, the Order of the Crescent, is the only team to have won the team tournament in three consecutive years.”

Okay, got the knights battling picture in focus. Working on the armoured-horses picture. “How do you train horses?”

Hedgecock says, “Very slowly introducing them to armour until they’re completely relaxed around it. Not only around someone on foot wearing armour, but someone on their back wearing armour, and then another horse and rider running at them wearing armour. We have to take it rather slowly, it’s a very incremental process.”

“Is jousting an emerging sport?”

“As a re-creation of an ancient sport, I think it is growing, it is re-emerging,” Hedgecock says. “A lot of it is rediscovering the knowledge and technique it takes to do it.”

“And how big is the sport of jousting?”

“There’s a huge range. There’s a relatively limited range of competitive jousting going on worldwide, and especially in the U.S. Most of what’s happened in the U.S. has been theatrical jousting or jousting shows that happen at Renaissance fairs. In England, there’s probably more competitive jousting, or at least unscripted jousting, than there are jousting shows.”

“Is there a world champion?”

Hedgecock says, “There is no central governing body for jousting as a sport, so there’s no recognized world championship.”

“Is there a jousting event that is regarded as the best, most prestigious?”

Hedgecock says, “I think, within the U.S., ours is probably considered that. One of the things we’re trying to do with World Joust Tournaments is create a true national professional jousting league or, at least, a series of tournaments where the best competitors in the world can be assured they’ll have competition at a high level to go against. And that the horses will be well trained and it will all be operated on a very professional basis.

“Right now we have the Tournament of the Phoenix, which is a flagship event. We’ve affiliated with the Tournament of the Silver Lilly in Quebec, Canada, that was in 2010. They just had their third tournament. I competed in the first two and then marshaled the third. Next year we have tournaments booked for France and Poland, and we’re in negotiation for two in England.”

“How do you practice? Getting all that knight and horse stuff together in order to gallop down a runway with a pole in your hand, how do you practice frequently enough to ever get good at it?”

“It is difficult,” Hedgecock says, “because it not only takes a lot of persistence on your part, but you have to gather the people it takes to do it. Even though there are two guys on horseback, you can’t put your armour on yourself; you need help. You need someone to hand a lance up to you every time you do a pass. It takes a minimum of four people; that’s the two riders plus two helpers. Usually, it’s more like four extra people in addition to two jousters.”

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