CORDOVA, MD. – Let the jousting begin.
A century and a half of tradition was nearly lost this year, but the Old St. Joseph’s Jousting Tournament and Horse Show will continue. The ring jousting tournament will be held on Aug. 7.
It’s the 151st year for the tournament at this historic and beautiful old church. It’s a social event which brings hundreds of parishioners and jousting enthusiasts out for a day of fun and competition. “The people love to come out, set up their lawn chairs under the trees and watch the jousting,” said Buck Schuyler, committee person. “If you haven’t seen somebody all year, you may see them at the Old St. Joseph’s Joust.”
Ring jousting is the official state sport of Maryland. Once far more common, riders use a lance to try to hook small circular rings as small as an inch in diameter. It’s a test of horsemanship as advanced riders gallop, standing in the stirrups, at more than 20 mph, toward the equivalent of a big bottle cap.
There is a ring jousting circuit in Maryland and this was once the inaugural event each year for the circuit. and the sport is believed to have been held at Monticello.
The annual fundraiser draws about 300 people per year. There’s a horse show, a dinner with country ham, barbecued chicken and all the sides, children’s games, raffles and other food.
But the event was nearly cancelled because the parishioners running the tournament and horse show we’re getting older and health issues made it difficult to continue. “They had to give it up,” said Schuyler.
That’s when the Eastern Shore Jousting Association stepped in to run this year’s event jointly with St. Joseph’s Church, allowing it to continue.
Schuyler is delighted to see the event continue. At age 68, he still competes in the professional class and has done ring jousting since he was 12-years-old.
There are five classes, including a class where horses are led as beginning riders get used to the horse and sport. The lead line class is the first of five classes, including the professional class. Riders begin with rings an inch-and-three-quarters in diameter and progress to rings only an inch in diameter. For these riders, the ring is hung six feet, nine inches from the ground.
There is one somewhat dramatic change from its medieval history. Riders in an earlier time who missed their target would get whacked in the back of the head as the arm holding the ring dropped and made them pay for their poor aim. That seemed a bit severe for a church event, so there’s no risk to the riders here, except perhaps a little embarrassment.
It’s also different from more standard jousting where riders gallop toward each other and try to dismount their opponent. “Some of us have been to Medieval Times (a jousting show and dinner) and seen the jousting. We’re grateful we’re ring jousters,” he said.
“It’s a pretty basic sport. The person who catches the most rings wins,” he said.
It is basic, but it’s also difficult. Schuyler said riders need to have a good horse and be “one” with the horse as they compete. “You need to have a lot of faith in your horse because you’re standing up in the stirrups,” he said.
By the time, riders reach the third class, called the amateur class, they must complete the 80-yard class at about 26 mph in order to finish under the eight second requirement.
There’s no age limit, no specific restrictions on lance type and any kind of horse can be used. The event is always held rain or shine.
Events begin with the horse show at 9 a.m. The jousting begins at 1 p.m. and last until about 4 p.m. For those who come for the food, the country dinner is held at 11 a.m.
Raffle winners can take home a beautiful quilt. First prize is that quilt, while second prize is a handmade horse quilt, third prize is $200 fourth prizes is $100.
Chances will be sold after Mass.
The tournament chairman is Paul McMullen. Horse show chairmen are Don Potter and Donald Callahan.
For more information, you can call 443-988-3531.