One Thousand Years of Jousting History

Photo Courtesy of Medieval Horse Guild

These words conjure up romantic visions of Knights in shining armor on charging horses, King Arthur's Court, Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. 

Jousting is the oldest equestrian sport in the world. During the Middle Ages it was a form of waging war, but with the invention of gunpowder, the art of jousting a man bodily from his horse, became outmoded as a battle strategy. The tournament field became a place of "Sport", and the Knights turned their lances to the more sophisticated, skillful task of spearing small metal rings. Jousting became a civilized game of keen horsemanship, skill and sportmanship with the development of "The Ring Tournaments."

When the second Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert, founded the original colony of Maryland on the shores of St. Mary's County in 1634, Jousting had been performed for many years and Jousting Tournaments soon became a favorite pastime of the early settlers. This sport has survived wars and flourished in times of peace and tranquility in the State.
Accokeek Jousting Tournament 1940
 Over the last 100 years Jousting has evolved from private contests of 
skill, to affairs organized to raise funds for Civil War monuments and to public competitions aiding civic and church organizations. Paralleling 
this has been a growth in popularity of a sport once participated in only 
by the "landed gentry" to one now enjoyed by suburbanites, city dwellers and rural landowners alike.

Ring Hanger -  Bob Six

Baltimore Magazine August 2002 
Bruce Hoffman 
Knight of Maple Hill
Jousting is a unique sport. It combines a heritage of medieval costuming, traditions and pageantry with a modern, skillful technique that is challenging and adaptable to the interests of modern youth. It is a family sport in which all members, young and old, male or female can participate. The same set of rules prevail for all. There is no commercialism involved, no pari-mutual betting, no scholarships offered, professional advertising nor gimmicks.
In 1950 "The Maryland Jousting Tournament Association" was founded by a number of dedicatied Jousting enthusiasts. This organization was instrumental in the establishment of a set of riding rules adopted by riders and tournament sponsors throughout Maryland. It boasts members from every corner of the state as well as from neighboring states and the Districtof Columbia, all of whom have done much to popularize the sport of Jousting among people everywhere. 
Maryland Jousting Tournament Association
During the 1962 session of the Maryland General Assembly, The Honorable Henry J. Fowler, member of The Maryland House of Delegates from St. Mary's County, introduced a bill to establish Jousting as the Official State Sport of Maryland. This bill passed both houses by an overwhelming vote and on June1, 1962 Governor J. Millard Tawes signed it into law. Thus Maryland became the only state with an officially recognized State Sport.
A modern knight or maid (as female contestants are known) wears a conventional English riding attire, consisting of breeches, boots, white or colorful shirt topped by a bright colored gipon or sash depicting armor worn by his medieval counterpart. In keeping with tradition, he registers and rides under a title of his own choosing such as Sir Knight of Cedar Lane, Maid of Misty, or even Sir Knight of Will If I Can, to lend a humorous aspect to the matter.

Peggy Hoffman
Maid of Dragon's Lair
On Jousting Day the Tournament Field is gaily bedecked with flags and bunting. Prior to the contest there is a colorful Parade of Knights and Maids in medieval costumes. The guest of honor, usually someone of prominence, addresses the assembled knights and maids prior to the beginning of the Jousting. This is called the Charge to the Knights. The Grand Marshall reads aloud the rules and with a trumpet fanfair from the band, the Joust begins.
Each knight gallops his horse down a dirt track beneath three arches, when he is called in turn to charge. Suspended from each arch is a metal harness ring wrapped with white cord. The track is 80 yards long. The first arch is 20 yards from a starting point and each succeeding arch is 30 yards didtance from one another on a straight course. As the knight charges through the arches in a time limit of 9 seconds he attempts to spear the metal rings on his long, steel tipped lance. Rings vary in size from 1 3/4" in diameter to 1/4 of an inch in diameter. After each contestant has received 3 rides at "large size" rings, those with tie scores are given one charge at rings a size smaller. If there are still ties, a smaller size ring is used until only the victorious knight remains in the contest.
Dick Kershner -  Knight of Walnut Lane
Central Maryland Championship 1995
Westminster Ag Center

Photo courtsey of R.A.R.E. Photographic

Mike Virts - Knight of St. Marks
Central Maryland Championship 1995
All the pagentry doesn't end with the last hoofbeat. Following the riding, the winning knight chooses as his Queen of Love and Beauty, the Lady of his choice and crowns her with a floral wreath in a very beautiful, traditional coronation ceremony on the Jousting Field, thereby declaring his love for her and sealing it with a kiss. If a maid should win, she chooses her "Knight" for the crowning.
Maryland Jousting Tournament Association
Riding Rules 1950

1. Distance between each arch is to be 30 yards.

2. Time will be called from a point 20 yards before the first arch and end at the last arch.

3. The total distance of 80 yards is to be covered in 10 seconds.

4. Time will be called with the use of an official stop watch held by the judges on the stand.

5. The height of the irons will be 6' 9" from the ground.

6. All rings will be wrapped with white cord.

7. Tournament sponsors are required to send a complete score card to the secretary of The 
    Maryland Jousting Tournament Association.

8. After the 1950 season is completed, the following rules will prevail regarding the status of
    the rider.

    1. Any Amateur rider scoring either 3 first places or 4 second places in tournaments shall
        be considered a Professional Rider and must ride in the Professional Class thereafter.

    2. Any rider winning one first place in a Novice or Rookie class will be considered an
        Amateur Rider thereafter.