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a Cavallo - Mounted Training and Horsemanship @ AEMMA

AEMMA's continued research and development efforts in the resurrection and reconstruction of medieval martial arts now extends to the realm of mounted training and horsemanship. Mounted and horsemanship training is now offered to students as a result of a partnership struck between AEMMA and the International Jousting Association of Canada or IJA-Canada.

International Jousting Association of Canada
The mission of the IJA-Canada is to promote the interest and enhance the education of medieval jousts to the public through the promotion and encouragement of accurate reproduction and resurrection of historical jousts from the setup, rules and execution of jousts. The members of the Executive of IJA-Canada further its mission by providing students with a vehicle through which they can learn to support and practice historical mounted martial activities. The IJA-Canada's late 14th / early 15th century mounted, medieval martial arts training draws from martial treatises of the historical period, fundamental principles outlined by the IJA-Canada and the practices of experienced practitioners of the sport in modern times.

All training starts on the ground. Some students do not wish to ride or compete, and will prefer to support the mounted activities as ground crew. Some students, having learned to support from the ground, will chose to learning mounted skill-at-arms. Some students will progress to learning the joust. A student's desired goals and the success of their training will determine what activities he/she will take part in.

Brief History:  Battle field tactics was forever changed by a certain far-reaching technique introduced into the field, that being the use of the couched lance by a group of horsemen who mounted closely coordinated charges as single units. Prior to this new development, there were three alternative methods of wielding the lance:

The principle disadvantage of these alternative methods of deployment was that once the lance made contact with the target, it was difficult to retrieve for a repeat deployment and therefore, the wielder needed to rely on other weaponry in order to prevent being vulnerable.

The couched lance, on the other hand, was tightly tucked under the right arm so that a heavier (and more effective) lance could be used. The full weight of man and horse were behind each blow and the warrior was distanced from his opponent, making him less vulnerable to attack. Unless it broke in the onslaught, the lance was retained by the knight who could use it repeatedly if required to do so. The significance of this new method of combat was that it required training and practice in order to carry it off. Moreover, as its maximum effect could only be obtained by a number of knights acting in unison, it was team training and team practice that was necessary. The tournament fulfilled all these needs admirably and indeed may have developed precisely as a result of those needs. [ 1 ]

The tournament appeared to have emerged as a distinct form of martial game at the end of the eleventh century, initially in the northern reaches of France. Even during the First Crusades and corroborated by the monastic chronicler, Robert the Monk, noted that the crusaders spent their liesure moments running at the quintain. [ 2 ]

There were three games that the riders participated in:

  Riding Lessons

The training program includes a brief description on basic riding and horsemanship skills which must be developed before engaging with the joust training program. Although AEMMA has not formally established relations with ranches in the GTA area, we offer some details on a particular ranch Harmony Ranch located in Schomberg, ON located about 45 minutes north of Toronto. The instructors of the IJA-Canada do not offer basic riding and horsemanship training, and will only accept students who have developed the basic riding and horsemanship skills.

Harmony Ranch specializes in riding instruction for novice adult in the Western discipline. The comprehensive training ensures that the students will learn to ecome safe, thinking riders rather than "passengers" on a horse. The lesson program runs year round and regular lessons are sold on a month basis - one lesson per week. Periodically, Harmony Ranch will offer a 10 and 12 week course specially priced that include theory and in classroom sessions.

Duration of Training for a Novice

Horsemanship training is not an exact science because people learn at a different rate and therefore, providing exact durations is nearly impossible. However, a very rough estimate for a complete beginner riding student may take about a year, assuming one training session per week to become a safe and in control rider. Riding students should expect to pay between $25 - $40 per hour for riding lessons.

Contact and website details:
tel: 905.936.9611
email: or

Note: As more locations for riding training become known and available, this page will be updated to reflect these new locations. Additions of these new locations to this page will be based on student's positive experience with these riding schools.

  Joust Training Program Outline

The International Jousting Association defines four levels in the jousting hierarchy. They are are:

  1. Skill-at-Arms;
  2. Jouster;
  3. International Jouster;
  4. Instructor.
Level 1 indicates that an individual has achieved the skill and knowledge from ground training, weapons handling to riding, which enables one to freely compete in the mounted games portions of tournaments. Level 2 requires further training to allow one to joust against another rider, but requires commitment such as owning one's own horse, and jousting locally at domestic tournaments.

Training offered will provide the student the ability to advance to the IJA's Level 2. The training method is structured into two major components, a) ground training: horsemanship and weapons handling, b) mounted skill-at-arms. A student who wishes to train will undergo an initial assessment to determine the level of horsemanship skills possessed. From there, the student then engages in the training program which is catered to the skill level of the student. At the conclusion of each training component, the student is assessed by the instructors before engaging in training from the next level. Safety, discipline, control are critical attributes that are measured during the evaluations.

  Level 1: Skill-at-Arms

A. Ground Training Programme

horse grooming tools

The only requirement for entry into ground training is an eagerness to participate and to learn about the practical aspects of the sport, and a high regard for the awareness and safety required when working in an equestrian environment.

Students who do not wish to ride or compete must still understand and practice basic horse knowledge and skills, as all students will come in close contact with horses during training and competition.

The level of knowledge and skill that new students possess entering ground training have will be evaluated through their demonstrating their level of competence in performing the activities listed below. Any weaknesses in any of the activities below will be addressed through further instruction before moving on to the next section. Students with no familiarity with horsemanship in general will be instructed to perform the following activities as these are required skills before advancing to the next section:

  1. verbally explain the basic daily care required for a horse,
  2. physically implement the above,
  3. catch a horse, fit halter, and tie up with lead rope,
  4. check for any injuries, such as lameness, cuts, etc.,
  5. groom the horse,
  6. check and clean hooves,
  7. fit, adjust, store, and clean tack.

Weapon Handling

Students will be required to demonstrate or will be taught how to competently and safely handle the range of weapons used (sword, spear, lance, etc), both between members of the ground crew and between ground crew and mounted participants, and to be able to wield weapons while on horseback and not injure the horse. This is particularly important when targetting, for example, if the rider targets poorly in the games, the target is missed, however, targetting poorly during a joust, one could badly injure the opponent or the horse.

Training/Competition Skills

Students will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of or will be taught:

  1. common elements of the skill-at-arms courses and course set up,
  2. common conventions of setting up a joust list,
  3. common ground support roles, for both mounted skill-at-arms and joust,
  4. common judging and scoring conventions,
  5. assisting riders in mounting and dismounting,
  6. learning how to identify and resolve hazardous situations,
  7. lining up a horse at the start of the tilt line and cleanly releasing it down the list,
  8. catching an on-coming horse at the end of the tilt line.


The student must undertake to provide his or her own appropriate medieval "soft" costume.

Fees: $40 CAD/hour (rates may change without notice)
Note: In general, the average duration of ground training for this level is approximately 6-8 hours.


B. Mounted Training Programme


Training and becoming proficient in mounted fighting, games and jousting will not happen until the student becomes proficient at riding. All students intending to progress to skills-at-arms training must first develop their proficiency with riding and will be evaluated prior to beginning mounted skills-at-arms training.

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  • Ground Training
    • demonstrate skills and knowledge developed during the ground training programme described above including,
    • general anatomy of the horse,
    • general principles of stable management, horse health and care,
    • develop familiarity of equipment (bits, spurs, martingales, draw lines, etc.).
  • Basic Principles
    • leading the horse to create respect and gain control, yielding and ground manners,
    • mount up and dismount,
    • finding and riding over the centre of gravity of your horse,
    • stopping and turning your horse using reins and leg yielding,
    • understanding the difference between hold and pull,
    • communicating with your horse.
  • Perfecting Control
    • develop that soft, steady, balanced head position,
    • smooth, consistent, dependable frame,
    • enhance performance by being subtle,
    • enhancing gaits and transitions.
  • The Finished Package
    • integrating and practicing the attributes learned above,
    • refinement of subtle bridle and legs responses,
    • emphasis on cues from the rider's hips, seat, and upper thigh to establish rate and deepen collection,
    • demonstration of self-carriage, balance and finesse.


In addition to the required appropriate medieval "soft" costume, the student must purchase/obtain an approved riding helmet.

Fees: $40 CAD/hour (rates may change without notice)
Note: The duration of training necessary to achieve the level of jouster varies tremendously, dependent upon or lack of, a natural inclination to the sport.


C. Mounted Skill-at-Arms

After the student has satisfied the requirements of ground training and horsemanship described above, the rider now begins training skills that develops the rider's ability to both ride and to deploy attacks with the lance and spear. This level of training has no elements of direct competition with another rider and is ideally suited to individuals that wish to engage in mounted training without engaging in physical competition with another rider (jousting). The skills learned in this level are foundational for jousting and one cannot proceed to jousting against another rider without this training.


Spear Throw

Sword Skills


Fees: $40 CAD/hour (rates may change without notice)
Note: The duration of training necessary to achieve the level of jouster varies tremendously, dependent upon or lack of, a natural inclination to the sport.


  Level 2: Jouster

Jousting was considered the main attraction of the medieval tournament. Tournaments were held to enhance the prowess of the warriors of the period by placing the riders into competition against each other. Jousts as they were referred to were specifically single combats, one-against-one, athough the jouster may belong to a team participating in the tournament. Jousting were carried out in "lists" which was an enclosed area in which the jousts were fought. Jousting leverages all of the previous training culminating with the joust against a human opponent.

Learning to joust takes a great deal of fortitude and perseverance from the student. It is a potentially dangerous pastime, especially when one factors in a horse, which has a mind of its own! It is also a sport that puts substantial financial demands on the rider, as the student at this level is required to own their own jousting armour which conforms to the IJA specifications.

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While training for the joust, students will:

  1. learn about jousting armour, understand their design attributes and traditional nomenclature, donning a harness (armour), perform minor repairs, etc.,
  2. develop a level of comfort while wearing a full armoured harness,
  3. perform ground exercises, while in armour,
  4. develop a good riding seat, at all gaits, while wearing armour,
  5. train in the skill-at-arms exercises while wearing a full armoured harness,
  6. learn to control the mount, at all gaits (and halt) while using only leg cues,
  7. ride a halt to canter to trot transition down a tilt line while carrying a shield and lance,
  8. learn proper carriage, presentation and disengagement of the lance,
  9. develop good targeting at a moving target, with lance,
  10. accumulate experience in what it feels like to take a hit from an opponents lance.
Once the student has accomplished these feats (the time is variable, depending on the experience and natural attributes of the student), he or she will be given the opportunity to joust against an opponent.

Fees: $40 CAD/hour (rates may change without notice)
Note: The duration of training necessary to achieve the level of jouster varies tremendously, dependent upon or lack of, a natural inclination to the sport.



Dale Gienow
Bracebridge, Central Ontario

Dale Gienow is the founding president of the International Jousting Association – Canada and is a member of the International Jousting League. He is also a founding member of the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas and the first Canadian member of the International Armored Combat League. He is an avid archer, with traditional longbow, and has been practising the ancient art of falconry for over 20 years. Dale owns and operates "Chivalric Productions", a medieval education and entertainment company.


Stephanie Campbell and Jordan Heron
Dunnville, South-Western Ontario

Stephanie Campbell and Jordan Heron are both founding Directors of the International Jousting Association – Canada. Jordan is also an Auditor and member of the Board of Representatives for the International Jousting League, as well as a member of the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas. Stephanie and Jordan have both competed in Canada, Belgium and New Zealand. Jordan has also competed in the USA, Norway and Sweden. They are both long time member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Stephanie and Jordan own and operate "Cricket Lane Farm", a home base for their jousting and other equestrian pursuits.

  Training Locations

Twin Maple Farm
1227 Baseline Rd
Severn Bridge, Ontario
N1A 2W1
t: 705-330-6875


Click for MapQuest link to the Dunnville location


Cricket Lane Equestrian
35 Lane Road, R.R.#1
Dunnville, Ontario
N1A 2W1
t: 905-701-9059


Click for MapQuest link to the Dunnville location

View Larger Map

  Links and Resources


  1. Paragraph extract from "Tournaments", Richard Barber & Juliet Barker, The Boydell Press, 2000
  2. Quintain: A contraption consisting of a wooden shield mounted on a beam with a counter-weight upon a pole. When the lance hits the shield, it will swing round, and the counter-weight will strike the knight out of the saddle unless the horse is fast enough, and the knight agile enough.

Copyright © 2009 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA)
Released: January 11, 2002 / Last modified: October 16, 2009