Jousting event reined in by rain

August 22, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

FAIRPLAY - A hole in one wouldn't get you far in Fairplay on Saturday.

This wasn't golf - this was jousting.

The best riders in the afternoon competition jabbed lances through tiny hanging rings three times out of three.

As horses pounded the gravel in a fast canter, riders froze themselves high in the stirrups, keeping their lances extended and still.

Jousting, the Maryland state sport, is a tradition at the Old Tilghmanton Tournament Grounds at Community Park. You might say it's the spirit of Fairplay, at least for one weekend a year.


But the threat of rain, plus another tournament in Virginia, may have kept Saturday's field smaller than usual, said Linda Minnick of Middletown, Md., who was organizing instead of riding.

Jousting's roots are in combat, said Sandy Izer of Downsville, Saturday's announcer.

"It was originally a way of war between medieval knights," she said.

Ring jousting developed as a method to practice fighting. But when Henri II, the king of France, died in the 16th century after a jousting accident, combat was banned, Izer said. Ring jousting was all that was left.

Jousting tournaments were a part of Southern genteelness in the 19th century, Izer said.

Her theory is that jousting remains most popular in parts of Maryland that sympathized with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Minnick said the sport is simple and inexpensive - not counting, of course, the cost of the horse.

Her father, Leon Enfield, who raised a family of jousters, said he likes the sport's self-determination. Unlike events in which judges decide success, in jousting, "it's you and the horse," he said. "That's what always appealed to me."

There's also steadiness and aim in jousting. The novice class rings are 1 3/4 inches in diameter. The rings get a quarter-inch smaller for each class.

In a perfect run, the rider gets all three rings, which are suspended 6 feet 9 inches off the ground, 30 yards apart. The time limit to cover the course is nine seconds.

Enfield said he was about 14 when he first grabbed a lance and rode. He stopped after 54 years, but remains one of nine people in a family in which jousting is a glue.

"That our family has stayed together and done this every weekend, from May through October, is unusual," Minnick said.

She didn't ride Saturday, but her brothers - Bob Enfield of Keedysville and Ken Enfield of Easton, Md. - did.

Bob's children - Bradley, 9, and Marley, 6 - rode as "lead liners" in the novice class. Their father ran alongside the horse, controlling the rein, as each child focused on guiding the lance.

Minnick's sons - Corey, 22, and Craig, 19 - also rode.

A downpour early in the afternoon halted the competition. A half-hour later, though, it had subsided to drizzle, and the tree cover helped deflect it.

"C'mon, riders," Izer called out. "It ain't gonna get any better and it ain't gonna get any worse. Let's ride."

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