Jousting, Maryland’s original extreme sport

21 Photos

The Amateur Jousting Club of Maryland held its 2016 Founder’s Day Joust at the historic Jerusalem Mill Village.

2016 Founder's Day Joust at the historic Jerusalem Mill Village. from Baltimore Sun's The Darkroom on Vimeo.

Photos and text by Kenneth K. Lam

Jousting is the original extreme sport. Dating back to the Middle Ages, jousting tournaments provided knights hands on training in horsemanship and combat simulations.

In Maryland, jousting tournaments have been held since the colony’s establishment in 1634, by Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore. It became even more popular after the Civil War. In 1962, the state adopted jousting as its official state sport.

Today, ring tournaments, which retain some of the pageantry and customs of medieval tournaments, allow men, women and children to compete equally with skill and horsemanship determining the class. Beginning jousters, mostly youngsters, and their mounts are led by walkers through the 80-yard, three arch course. More experienced riders can canter or gallop their horses up to 30 mph trying to spear three rings suspended six foot nine inches off the ground. The rings have hole ranges from one and three quarter inches to quarter of an inch, about the size of the hole in a Lifesaver candy.¬

The sport is a passion for Vicki Betts, president of Maryland Jousting Tournament Association (MJTA). She says it teaches children responsibilities and sportsmanship. “They learn that they are not always going to win. And it’s so wonderful to watch them continue to cheer on their friends when they have missed enough rings that they are not going to win.”