The Brass Ring

What do fairground rides have to do with mounted combat?  A lot, it turns out.

Luxembourg carousel
Ring-spearing on the antique carousel at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris

The children's game of spearing rings from the back of carousel horses descends directly from knightly games.  In fact even the word 'carousel' comes from the Italian 'garosello' or 'little war'.  These were the displays of skill at arms that replaced jousting in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ring spearing has been one of the most common and enduring of mounted games -- it's even the State sport of Maryland!

When done from the back of a real horse, the game involves speed, control, and accuracy.  As part of your Blue Spur you will be expected to be able to:

Accurately and precisely thrust four out of five rings in a course three times in a row, using a synthetic or wooden sword while at a trot or canter.

While we say 'at a trot' that is merely the minimum speed.  You may canter if you prefer!

The three best ways to get good at this are practise, practise, and practise.  However there are a few tips that will make the rings a bit easier:

  • Karissa on PrincessExtend your arm straight out in posta longa, with your crossguard pointing straight up and down.  Sight down the sword, using the guard to help centre the ring.  Having the sword extended is not just good martial practice, it also allows you to recover a miss by quickly couching the sword for a second try as you pass.
  • Lift the tip of your sword very slightly after each speared ring to slide the ring down to your hilt to avoid dropping it.
  • Two-point position with a moderately short stirrup will allow you to isolate your body from the horse's movement and keep the sword on target.  Two-point also allows you to extend your arm farther forward and get your eye level closer to the target.

Kailea & StephNeed a chance to practise?  Want to see it done in person?  Come out to our Mounted Games Playday this Sunday at Red Colt. Rings is always one of the first games we run at these sessions, in addition to mounted sparring, horseback archery, and other mounted games.  Spectators are always welcome... and this time we'll be celebrating the end of the 2015 season with cookies and hot chocolate!

Chris vs JenMounted Combat Playday
Sunday 6 December, 1-4pm
cost to enter: $15 + $15 for use of school horse
spectators: free!
location: Red Colt Co-op



Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.