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Sussex Yeomanry is developing the sport of mounted skill-at-arms with a view to demonstrating the type of disciplines that could have been used for the purpose of developing the equestrian skills of the cavalry.

Several disciplines may be included in our demonstrations. An illustrative list (which is not exhaustive as it is constantly being developed) is set out below.

  1. Tentpegging. This is the best known discipline which involves removing a three inch wide tentpeg from the ground with a sword or lance. Displays may include a number of variations of this such as, e.g.:-
    • Individual pegging – riders running independently of each other.
    • Half Section – two riders running as a pair
    • Section – three or four riders running together as a team, picking up either ordinary pegs or streamers (pegs with ribbons attached)
    • Indian File – three or four riders running one behind the other picking up pegs in quick succession.
  2. Rings on Cabbages. Riders independently ride past (at the speed of canter) and take a ring from each of two cabbages, with a sword.
  3. Cabbages. Riders independently ride past (at the speed of canter) – and cut – each of two cabbages, with a sword.
  4. Jump (x 2) and Upright Dummies. Riders jump the first fence, ‘attack’ a dummy on the right (with a sword), jump the second fence and ‘attack’ a dummy on the left, leaving the sword in the dummy.
  5. Jump (x 2) and Balloons. Riders a) jump the first fence and simultaneously burst a balloon to the right (with a bayonet or pricker), b) burst a balloon to the right mid-way between the two jumps and c) jump the second fence and simultaneously burst a balloon to the left.
  6. Jump (x 2) and Dummies on the Ground. Riders jump each of two fences and ‘attack’ a dummy on the ground (with a lance) that is immediately behind each jump.
  7. Jump, Dummy on the Ground, Jump, Peg. Riders a) jump the first fence and ‘attack’ a dummy on the ground (with a lance) that is immediately behind the jump, b) jump the second fence and c) take a peg that is placed in the ground at a set distance after the jump.
  8. Dummies on the Ground. Riders ‘attack’ each of four dummies on the ground (with a lance) – the first with the butt to the right, the second with the butt to the left, the third with the tip to the right and the fourth with the tip to the left.

The exact format of each display will depend on the size and condition of the arena that is to be used.

Sussex Yeomanry in Association with the Royal Logistic Corps Coaching Board is available to put on a display that is entitled “Horses in War”. For general information about this display please follow this link, RLC and Sussex Yeomanry Horses in War Display Detail

Sussex Yeomanry is actively looking for potential venues within the UK, both as part of the Horses in War display referred to above and as stand alone displays, to demonstrate the cavalry skills of its members.

For further information please Contact Us

Tentpegging/Mounted Skill-at-Arms

Tentpegging has nothing to do with Boy Scouts or leaky tents!!

It is hard to say exactly where the sport of tentpegging originated. If we look at knights in the Middle Ages they frequently used suspended rings to help improve their accuracy. A man in armour is well protected except for a few weak spots – hence the need to be accurate with a lance or a sword.

In the UK it is generally felt that the sport was imported in roughly its present form by the British Army from India – in a similar way to the sport of polo. When Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B.C. he had lancers with him.

Stories are told that his mounted soldiers would ride out of the sun at dawn removing with their lances the pegs that held their enemy’s tents to the ground. Foot soldiers would then follow to ‘mop up’ the entangled enemy. Other stories are told that his lancers would engage enemy elephants and try to ‘peg’ their toes. The infuriated and agonised beasts would then turn on their own army! Both of these stories seem to be the sort of tall stories that an ‘old soldier’ may well tell a young one on April 1 !

Leaving the above aside, it is fairly safe to say that the sport of tentpegging owes its origins to the North West Frontier of India and was used as a way of training horse and rider. It also made use of equipment that was to hand, i.e. tentpegs, and – in the case of sword dummies – sand bags.

Like many other sporting disciplines – be they equestrian or otherwise – it has evolved from the games and exercises practiced by generations of cavalrymen to hone the skills necessary to fight the enemy.

In the countries where this sport is still practiced there has developed considerable national individualism as to the detail of the rules and the style of execution. A standard set of rules for International competitions helps with the judging. It also enables countries to compete on a more even footing with each other.

National identity is a good thing – the world would be a greyer place without it! Rules in Great Britain are based on those used by our cavalry and would probably be recognised by any long past cavalryman, no matter in which far-flung outpost of the Empire he saw service

What has changed is that tentpegging is now purely a sport that is open not only to the military but to everyone.

Tentpegging/Mounted skill-at-arms is a sport in which the whole family – from grandchildren to grandparents – can take part. A cavalryman had to look after his horse well, if only because, at the end of the day, his life depended upon it – it also depended on his skill. Today, competitors have to apply themselves in the same way as was done in the past – the difference however being that their own and the horse’s life no longer depends on the outcome of their training!

Mounted Skill at Arms is a fun, fast and exciting sport, where riders are expected to hit a variety of targets with, e.g., a lance or sword – at speed. As potentially lethal weapons are used, the safety of horse and rider is a high priority and correct drill and training is vital to ensure that no injuries are caused.

Like many equestrian sports, Mounted Skill-at-Arms has its origins in the military. In recent years however interest in (and funding for) the sport within the military has waned. It has however become increasingly popular with civilians and is popular in an increasing number of countries such as, e.g., South Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, Holland, Germany, Israel, UK and USA.

The weapons that are used are potentially dangerous. Therefore, before riders are introduced to weapons, an assessment of their general riding skills must be carried out. After that has been done, disciplined instruction needs to be given in the handling of the weapons – at first on foot and then on horseback.

There are several disciplines involved in basic SAA competitions, of which the best known is tentpegging. This involves removing a three inch, 2 inch or 1 inch wide tentpeg from the ground with a sword or lance. It may sound easy but it has to be done at the gallop, so the rider has to be able to think fast and aim faster!

Other disciplines in basic SAA competitions involve taking rings (with a lance or a sword) or slicing oranges (with a sword) [all suspended from gallows at head height], penetrating straw dummies (with a sword) and/or bursting balloons (with a revolver or what is known as a pricker) while jumping small fences. In competition, points are awarded for accuracy, style and pace. Different disciplines are involved in cavalry-based SAA competitions

Battle Proms

The Battle Proms are an exciting yet informal open air picnic concerts to which people take their own food and picnic equipment and create their own space in the auditorium. The concerts have been staged since 1997 and provide an evening of exceptional entertainment that encompasses sublime music, stunningly choreographed aerial displays, thunderous cannon fire, dramatic cavalry displays and fantastic fireworks. Sussex Yeomanry members have taken part in the cavalry displays (under the banner of Crown & Empire) for in excess of 12 years.

Stormin’ Norman at The Festival of Horsemanship

Festival of Horsemanshipthis was a new Festival in 2014 at which members of Sussex Yeomanry (at the invitation of Crown & Empire) put on a display of cavalry skills.

In 2016 Sussex Yeomanry were responsible for putting on a display at the Festival which was in a larger arena than before – we expanded upon our display of cavalry skills and add a display of our tent pegging skills!

We now look forward to again taking part in the Festival in the future – hopefully in 2018 (the 2017 Festival having been cancelled).