My Dad invited us to the Gulf Coast Jousting Tournament on Saturday and we jumped at the offer.
The Tournament was held at the Pensacola Equestrian Center, which is way out on the other side of Pensacola, so we drug ourselves out of bed early Saturday morning and pointed the car in that direction.
We were excited and had no idea what to expect but all three of the kids were adamant that they wanted to see Knights, armor and horses. Oh, and they wanted to see those knights poke each other with lances.
Don't tell them this but that's what I wanted to see too.
You'll have to excuse the photos - we've been having trouble with the camera, the lighting was weird, an 8 year old took a lot of the pictures, and fast moving objects have never been our specialty so the pictures aren't great - but they work.
We arrived at the Equestrian Center and as we came around the corner I saw this man.
He doesn't look like someone you'd want to make mad so I asked if he'd mind if I took his picture and he turned out to be a really nice guy, despite the axe.
The Island King wanted his picture taken with the man who happily obliged.
Then the Island King tells him to act like he's chopping his head off.
It was a little odd when the man took special care adjusting the Island King's collar so his neck was exposed.
But that gave me an idea and I told the man that I'd give him five bucks to go ahead and swing. My Dad chimed in that he'd add another five which made the man lean over to the Island King and whisper "Dude, I'd watch them if I were you."
Both boys wanted their pictures taken with him too but the Youngest Island Boy told him he didn't want to pretend to be getting his head chopped off and that he'd just stand next to him if that was ok.
Bless his heart, he's a little brighter than his Dad.
The show started with each Knight coming into the arena, walking the circle and then
lining up while the announcer told us a little about each of them.
The National Anthem was played
And then it was time to start the tournament.
The first challenge was called the Gauntlet. Each rider had to ride fast, turn tight around a barrel, jump a bale of hay, hit a weather vane looking thing with a lance to see how many times they could make it turn, and then ride by a target on a hay bale and throw a spear at it.
I have no idea why we only have 2 pictures of that whole event.
Points were awarded to each rider according to how well they did on each stage of the gauntlet but I never did understand their scoring system so I have no idea who was leading in the tournament.
After the gauntlet there was an intermission and out near the vendors there were members of the local medieval club putting on sword fighting exhibitions.
The youth group did a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
And then a group of older swordsmen came out and did a more extreme sword fighting display.
The man in white did really well, beat this guy and then took on another one.
These guys were wearing real armor and were wailing on each other with those swords like you wouldn't believe. They were literally knocking each other around and the sound of the swords hitting the armor was really loud.
I lectured my boys about not trying this at home but I'm pretty sure that was just a waste of time.
Soon it was time for the jousting to begin.
The horses were ridden back into the arena and this time all of the riders were dressed in heavy armor. And when I say heavy I mean heavy because according to the announcer the armor weighs 150 pounds.
The joust takes place in a roped off corridor, with each rider starting at an end and then running full speed to meet in the middle.
They bring each horse up, face them away from each other and give the rider his lance.
They turn around, face each other and when the signal is given they take off.
These guys were serious and weren't cutting each other any slack.
You could see each hit they took literally rock their entire bodies. The lances are designed to break but not before delivering a severe poke.
In fact, there were supposed to be 10 riders competing but one of them was injured in the competition the night before and couldn't continue.
Injuries seem to be pretty common when you get on horses, ride towards each other really fast and then try to hit each other with long sticks.
I mentioned that to the boys when they started talking about trying this on their bikes.
They shook hands after each match and showed a lot of good sportsmanship - which I like to see.
It wasn't long before we got to see what we were secretly hoping to see. A rider being unseated.
And we don't have a picture of it. But two of them were riding towards each other and when their lances met one guy went flying off the back of his horse and landed flat on the ground.
See that shiny stuff in the middle of those people? That's him. He laid there for quite a while and I was starting to wonder if he was going to get up when he finally started moving around.
He was moving slow but he was up. They brought a mounting box over to him and he was able to climb back on his horse.
I didn't want anyone to get hurt but it just wouldn't have been a joust without someone flying off his horse, right?
The horses these guys ride are very impressive too. All but 2 of them are considered "War Horses" and have been bred large and strong. They weigh about 2000 pounds and are about 18 hands high.
I don't know anything about horses but I do know that these horses are so big they made the two regular sized ones look like ponies.
This rider is a relatively big guy and he looks like a 12 year old standing behind the horse.
As each match is happening the other riders are waiting in the corners of the arena and at one point this horse decided to sit down. They tried to get him to stand up, which he wouldn't, so the rider got off and he and another man tried for 5 minutes to get that horse to stand up.
After a while he stood back up and seemed raring to go.
When a 2000 pound animal decides to sit down there's not really much you can do but wait for him to want to stand up again.
Ever wonder what they look like under that armor?
Again, I didn't understand the scoring but this man won the afternoon tournament.
They were scheduled for another match that evening and then a final match the next day where a winner would be named. I think the points are cumlative but I really don't know.
It was a fascinating experience and we're now looking forward to the Renaissance festival that will be held in March.
Thanks for inviting us Dad, we loved it!