Time for a middle of the off-season update!
This past weekend, while I’d have normally been working with The Brotherhood of the Arrow and Sword at the Vermont Winter Renaissance Faire, I was delighted to take a trip to England to attend the second annual Armored Fighter (Clinic? Workshop?) at beautiful Historic Equitation.
On Friday, I originally planned to do some sightseeing, but then the only thing I wanted to see in the area was…. Historic Equitation, which is one of the premier facilities of its kind in the world. Just as the name implies, they teach historical horsemanship and even have their own tilt yard on site. So, with no typical tourist sites to see, I arranged for some riding lessons. Now, I do have regular lessons back home, but not on horses trained for jousting and mounted combat and not with a reproduction medieval saddle.
So on Friday, I arrived just after noon and Dominic Sewell, the owner, introduced me to Apollo and I had a quick lesson where he evaluated my riding and gave me some pointers. This was my first time on an Australian saddle and Apollo was the largest horse I’ve ridden. It was also my first time riding with a curb bit and the double reins used with it…. Hurray for learning new things!
After this lesson, Dominic and I ate a light lunch and then returned to the barn and saddled up Esteban, one of his magnificent stallions which are often used in major jousting events around Britain.
Dominic fitted Esteban with a reproduction 15th century jousting/war saddle which is exactly what I had hoped to experience. These saddles fit the horse and rider very differently than modern saddles and both allow excellent control and safety out in the field. Jason Kingsley of Modern History has a great video on medieval saddles here.
I mounted up and actually got to feel what it was like to sit atop a proper war horse. We then walked out to their tiltyard and ran a few passes.
Now THIS was exhilarating! Esteban is well trained, extremely athletic, and absolutely LOVES running along the barrier. When it was time to go, he took off like a rocket and before I knew it, we were 100+ feet away and it was time to stop before we ran into the trees. I can see why knights in the middle ages loved this so much. It takes a lot of skill to hit someone with a lance while you’re both moving like that in full armor, and even my little taste of it was incredible.
I am so very grateful to Dominic Sewell for this opportunity, for the excellent teaching he imparted during this session, and also to him and his family for their hospitality over the weekend.
Saturday and Sunday, brought us the actual Armored Fighter Clinic (or was it a workshop? The jury is still out, I guess). This event was hosted at Historic Equitation and included lots of great teaching and guidance from some of the top experts in this field: Dr. Tobias Capwell, Arne Koets, and Augusto Boer Bront.
Saturday was poleaxe training. We began in the morning unarmored, then after lunch, donned armor and learned more with the extra weight and movement restrictions armor added. There was time for free sparring and later, presentations on getting the most out of your armorer by Fred Ryall and the history of English armor in the 15th century by Dr. Capwell.
Sunday, we worked on longsword fighting with an emphasis on longsword vs armor and this included half-swording techniques for grappling and disarms. Like on Saturday, we were unarmored in the morning and armored in the afternoon. During the extended lunch break, we had a presentation on physical fitness for armored combat, from a historical perspective by Mike Canfor. It looks like I’ll need to take up running if I want to keep up with historical knightly training! After the armored portion, there was, again time for free sparring and I got to see some marvelous (friendly) fights!
In all it was a pretty expensive trip, but for me it was well worth the financial hit. I met lots of amazing people (too many to name here and some of whom I never got their name) and I am humbled to be in such great company. Dominic and his family went over the top in making sure everyone got fed delicious food and felt welcomed to their farm.
I’ll leave you with an outstanding video compilation of the event, made by Louise Clayton-Hatch with music by Envato-Elements: