Getting Started with Horses in the SCA

As this year’s Siege of Glengary is resurrecting equestrian activities, a common question is, “how do I play?” The answer is as varied as SCAdians’ interests and skills! Folks of any experience level can participate in ways that are both fun and safe.

If you have NO experience with horses, begin a journey that can last a lifetime (beware though, horses are EXTREMELY addictive!) Go online, hit the library, find a local mentor in the SCA or your mundane world who can teach you about horses and horsemanship.

Horses are large animals whose evolutionary success was based on fleeing or fighting predators (humans included!) Some modern horses have not gotten much beyond that! Even the most placid horse can bite or kick violently in an instant if startled. Learn to handle and ride horses safely BEFORE you attempt to do it in garb and with weapons.

Here are some suggestions to get the most enjoyment out of equestrian activities at Siege:

  • Read the rulebook to understand the games we are playing and the historical roots we honor.
  • Willingly sign the equestrian waiver. It is an SCA wide requirement and a mundane fact of life.
  • Help set up the tourney field before the event, and breakdown when the event is over. You’ll meet lots of horse people that way and earn their enduring gratitude!
  • Respect any posted signs or verbal suggestions or warnings— equestrians are not elitists, they are obsessed with their mounts’ well-being and YOUR safety.
  • Take lots of photos (ask all horsemen before using a flash though—some horses can react dangerously to the sudden light explosion.)
  • Consider a horsey theme for your personal passion: create an equestrian-based entry for the Arts and Sciences display, help sew a caparison (full cloth covering for horses) or learn the Horse’s Bransle if you love dancing.
  • Ask lots of questions- horse people LOVE talking about their passion!

If you know how to ride but do not have a horse, consider asking private owners about sharing a mount. Bear in mind, horses are priceless companions and valuable investments. Most people would not consider asking to borrow someone else’s spouse, or the ’69 Stingray they lovingly restored. In addition, horses have individual personalities, quirks, and pet peeves which may not mesh with your own.    Do not take it personally if an owner say no!  They are not being selfish, they are simply looking out for both you and their horse.

If they say yes, be grateful for the generosity! Expect to

  • share or cover expenses, or pay a fee similar to what a wrangler would charge.
  • sign a waiver holding the owner harmless in case of incident or accident.
  • Practice beforehand to solidify your skills and communication with the horse
  • help with the horse before, during, and after the event

If you don’t have access to a horse, you can still participate. The games require a horse-savvy ground crew to reset props, hand off weapons, and keep things going on the field. Horse people ALWAYS appreciate extra hands both in the lists and in the stable area.

While many events team up with local stables to offer rental horses, there are no rental horses at Siege.

If you know how to ride and have access to a horse (this includes folks from the previous paragraph who have secured a steed), prepare, prepare, prepare!

  • If you are not authorized, find out if authorizations will be conducted at the event. If not, get in touch with an equestrian marshall or your KEO to find out if there are alternate possibilities. We will have some authorizations at Siege, check the websites for more details.
  • Think about everything your horse needs to be able to do and practice it at home. Practice the skills required for the games, then the games themselves. Acclimate them to their barding (horsey garb) and to seeing other horses in barding. Expose them to the mayhem of heavy fighting, general event ruckus, and crazy people in garb. Make sure they load and travel willingly in a trailer. Check the accommodations provided and make sure your horse will be comfortable and safe- he may need to tie (without breaking away or getting upset), high line, stall (this can be tough for pasture dwelling ponies) or stay within a small temporary pen. The event is NOT the time to train them! A solid foundation will ensure a fun day on the playing field.
  • Research and satisfy mundane requirements. Most events, including Siege, require a negative Coggins certificate for all horses, and a health certificate for out-of-state equines.

The equestrians of Sylvan Glen began preparations as soon as the site was approved. As Siege looms closer, we continue to weave unofficial practices and project days into people’s crazy schedules. Watch the yahoogroup for updates, and come join the fun!


Aethelmearc Equestrian Site:

Destrier Today! warhorse news and link library

Sylvan Glen yahoogroup:

Dolly Madison to miss Siege of Glengary 2009 Equestrian

It is sadly and with heavy heart,
Do heavy horse not take her part,
Unsound of hoof shall miss the beat
Of drums and chants and marching feet

A mighty steed made weak by chance
And foul unlucky happenstance
Siege of Glengary will miss her thunder
Until the next year’s tales of wonder


Yep, unless an especially kind Lord creates miracles of hoof growth, my mighty warhorse Dolly will miss Siege of Glengary.

She is, of course, receiving the absolute best of care, but there is no reasonable expectation that shell be anything resembling sound in 10 days… and it would probably be unwise to try even if she does make radical moves towards four-leggedness.

As far as my riding goes, I will be continuing to work with Ally to prepare for the Equestrian Games at Siege of Glengary 2009.

I suppose there are a lot worse fates in this world than having a big, beautiful Clydesdale with lots of feather to ride as an alternate mount. They are about the same size heightwise, and its possible that Dollys barding will fit. And shes a Scot breed, so its even appropriate!

Of course, the only less period name I can think of than Dolly Madison happens to be Metallica, Allys proper name! LOL I hope everyone has a sense of humour!

Well, that all for now. Assuming no major training/weapons issues, Ill be changing mounts for Glengary.

Sliante Mhath!


SCA Cavalry Demo- Atlantian Knights

On May 15, 2009, members of  the Lance of the Argent Bear and House de Montfort, all denizens of the fair kingdom of Atlantia, created a medieval demo for the fortunate students of Shoal Berry Intermediate School in Duncan, SC.

The riders were competing for the honor of becoming the Queen of Camelot’s champion. About 150 students were divided into groups to cheer for their chosen knight. Who reigned victorious?  Watch and find out!

Many thanks to sommerbrendan for posting this footage!


Clinic Teaser

We are currently incubating a combination Jousting/Mounted Archery clinic with Alexander Caithnes and his lady!

Date TBA after Ice Dragon.

Lysts at Castleton

This professionally produced video clip from last year’s Lysts at Castleton was just posted on YouTube.  The riders are Sir Alexis la Bouche and Master Terafan Greydragon.  The event is held in the Barony of Bryn Gwlad, Ansteorra.  Enjoy!


Sylvan Glen Equestrian Practices

We are thrilled to have 2 equestrian practices on the calendar so far.

On Feb 21 we will be holding an unofficial equestrian get together.
Alexander, Aethelmearc’s current KEO will be coming down as well as
Gunnar, the Equestrian Marshal for Siege.

On March 21 Gunnar will be coming down again along with Banshee and/or
his lady to authorize riders.

We will no doubt be locking in more dates as the season advances, and
encourage equestrians to participate in nearby Atlantian practices.

Practices will be held at Almost Heaven Horse Source in Leetown (Mark
and Kirsten’s family farm) and are weather dependent. We will post
details and directions closer to the date. There are a FEW horses
available to rent for intermediate and advanced riders. Please
contact me as soon as possible if you think you may want to ride.

Rules for the games, and many other resources are on the kingdom
equestrian site at
Googling “sca equestrian” and suchlike will provide endless hours of
entertainment and inspiration. At some point I promise I’ll put all my
favorite historical horsey hangouts in one spot…

Wanna play but don’t want to ride? We can’t pull it off without our
wonderful groundcrew! Come to the practices and start becoming
familiar with our beloved steeds, the crazy things we do and ways you
can join in!

So, mark your calendars, read your rulebooks, and shoot me any
questions you may have.

Ailenor’s Equestrian Practice

Our southern cousins Lady Alienor and Lord Reinmar hosted an SCA equestrian practice at their farm.  We loaded up the beasties and dragged Scott and Noel along as well.  Scott and Noel rode at Siege of Glengary when we hosted the equestrian events. Noel now owns my old warhorse, Sioux, veteran of Gulf Wars.  It was just like old times!

The two young horses I brought had never played the games before.  Gideon was a little leery–especially of the heavy machinery next door! Lucy, my Thoroughbred racetrack rescue, took it all in stride:

Lucy, 5 yo TB mare for sale, cross-trains at an SCA medieval equestrian practice


Lucy, all around TB mare for sale, cross trains at an SCA equestrian practice

Lucy, all around TB mare for sale, jousting at the quintain

Our novice horses faced new places, new horses, and new challenges…even new outfits!  The natural horsemanship foundation laid at home gave them a solid grounding for acceptance and quick mastery of new experiences. Clicker training accelerated the horses’ comfort level with flailing swords, bobbing lances and billowing costumes.

Everyone rode well and had a blast!  Lady Brandwyn Alston again marshalled.  Our thanks to the ground crew who kept everything running quickly and smoothly. My hands were too full with 2 horses to take photos. Next time I promise to get more!

Ride To the Middle Ages

Saturday morning lessons finished, I played hooky from farmwork and snuck over the Potomac to an Atlantian equestrian practice.  Lady Alienor graciously shared her steeds with me.

Lady Alienora and JR

Lady Alienora and JR at the Reed Chop

Atlantia’s Deputy Earl Marshal of the Horse, Lady Brandwyn Alston of the Rift, marshaled a day of medieval horsemanship.

SCA medieval equestrian game of tilting the rings

Several of the riders are also musicians.  Impromptu concerts sprang up during breaks.

Gorgeous day in the pouring sunshine, doing the things I love most in the world, while ethereal voices sang period ballads under the pavilion. Yup, great times had by all!


Sca Equestrian Practice

Click here to see the full gallery of images.