THE TOURNEY:Demonstration of skill at arms from horseback

The importance that the nobility placed on the sport of hunting cannot be overstated. The oldest book on hunting in English was written about 1413 by Edward of Norwich, Duke of York, and dedicated to Henry, Prince of Wales, the future Henry V. Titled The Master of Game, it was primarily a translation of Le Livre de Chasse by Gaston III, Count of Foix.

[M]en are better when riding, more just and more understanding, and more alert and more at ease and more understanding, and better knowing all countries and all passages; in short and long all good customs and manners cometh thereof, and the health of a man and of his soul.


Edward of Norwich, Duke of York, The Master of Game, 1413.

Martial Games

  • Tent pegging is one of the most ancient cavalry sports, dating back to at least the 4th century BC. According to legend, the lancers in the army of Alexander the Great would ride out at dawn and remove, with their lances, the pegs holding their enemies' tent down. In the skill-at-arms competition, a man must use his lance to pierce and carry off a small ground target while at a gallop.
  • The quintain has been used as a means of improving mounted skill with the lance or spear since perhaps the Roman era. The rider must strike an arm or shield that swivels when impacted. If he hits the target but is riding too slowly, a counterweight will swing around and strike him in the back.
  • Riding at rings is said to have been a favorite pastime of a young Henry VIII. Following the death of his brother, Prince Henry was forbidden from jousting, so the rings were a way for him to continue demonstrating his horsemanship. The rider must couch his light lance and collect a series of rings, often three, suspended at approximately head height.
  • Slicing the cabbage is arguably one of the most fun of the mounted events. The rider must gallop alongside several posts, each with a cabbage mounted atop it. Using a sharp sword, he must cleanly slice each cabbage in two as if decapitating his enemies on the battlefield.

Hunting Games

  • The boar was one of the most deadly beasts a nobleman hunted. Using a long, sharp sword, the rider must gallop past the boar target and skewer it with a deadly thrust. Additional points are awarded for lethal strikes.
  • The bow, whether a longbow or crossbow, requires some level of skill to hit a target at a distance. The hunter must also have excellent horsemanship in order to aim his bow while maintaining his grip on the reins and successfully hit the boar as he gallops by. If that is not difficult enough, medieval crossbows did not have a safety--a slight squeeze of the lever will fire its bolt at whatever it is pointed at.

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  •   What they said:

    What they said:

    "For every kind of military encounter, hunting is better training than jousting."

    image Gaston de Foix, author of Le Livre de Chasse, 1405.
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