So you may be wondering what the heck sword fighting and bashing a quintain has to do with horsemanship - apart from being really good fun that is!
Well, yeah there’s the survival bit of course, but a few days ago I had the opportunity to try it when I visited with Jeff Sanders and his lovely wife Api ( and not forgetting Krys) Jeff introduced me to Frantisek, who is a truly amazing guy, he not only builds armor but uses it too and I got the chance to share some lessons on sword fighting and armor with him. I found out very quickly that it has an awful lot to do with horsemanship!!
I have to say this was my first time wielding a sword so for safety we started with plastic ones, but we did move onto metal ones, which once you get the steel on steel sound effects its even more addictive! We started with passing blows and once I learned some basic strikes then we could change our focus back to the horses and the importance of the position of your horse in relation to your opponents horse.
I think we went through every “dressage” manoeuvre possible both towards and away from each other so we could get the hit, which was interesting in itself - by using lateral manoeuvres - both defensive and offensive bends in the horse, meant that you could either keep your own horse and yourself safe or block and stop your opponents horse, putting your opponent at a serious tactical disadvantage. However, what was really cool was that once my focus was on Frantisek - where he was, how I was going to hit him etc, my attention was so much more on him and not my horse, I didn’t have to think about how I was sitting or where my weight was or what leg i needed to put on Zolik to get him to move, etc. It just happened and whats even more cool, is Zolik, offered me bigger and more energetic manoeuvres - I was no longer thinking about him - he just became my legs.
When my attention was on my opponent, i found I used more of my core rather than just hands and legs, as a result I became more balanced, my timing got quicker and I just knew where I needed to be - back to balance, timing and feel then! What was also interesting was just how little I needed to do to get where i needed to be, which made me ask the question - if it takes so little from me to sword fight on horseback then why do we have to do so much to the horse when we are “training” them on a daily basis??
I was spectaculously unsuccessful in catching Frantisek once we got up to canter, he zipped around all over the place but it was enormous fun incredibly educational, with a very practical side to it. Using a tool whether it be a garrocha, a rope, a lance or a sword definitely makes you focus on your position and how you use yourself - now, must go, I’m off to find plastic swords!
Huge thanks to Jeff for my lessons last week, to Api for letting me steal her horse for the week and to Frantisek for letting me share a fabulous lesson with him. This is just a snippet of my week in Czech, I'll be writing more blogs as I go through my notes for anyone who's interested :-D