Improving your game scores: quintain

by Robert Odekirk aka Sir Rapheal the Rogue


The quintain is one of the most recognizable pieces of equestrian game equipment and one of the oldest training tools used for the medieval joust.  Consisting of a rotating arm with a sheild on one end and a weight or hanging bag on the other, the rider strikes the sheild with a blunt lance while riding by as quickly as possible to avoid being struck by the hanging bag or weight.  The goal is to turn the quintain as many times as possible.

What kind of quintain lance should I use?

I use a 10 foot, 2 inch in diameter lance without a counterweight, and I grip it about 6 feet  from the striking end.  I like the feel of a slightly tip heavy lance, it gives the muscles in my arm something to slightly push against but is not so heavy that I  have to fight it. I suggest you start with something slightly longer then you are comfortable with, train with it at that length on the ground until you can safely handle the lance, then cut it down a bit at a time until you have a length that is ideal for you.  Do not make your lance less then 8 feet long.  You will need the length and mass of the lance to safely strike the quintain.

How should I hold my lance?

You need to safely and securely hold the lance.  Work with a lance on the ground to find what works best and safely for you.  For advice on what that should be I will refer you to a quote from King Duarte of Portugal, in "The Art of Horsemanship" c. 1434

When training anyone, do it with him standing on foot and show all that is required using a small lance or stick. This is what you should teach: if the lance is being rested on the leg, which is what most people do, hold it with your hand supporting it from below. If you rest it on your chest, put your hand as close to your arms as you can and bend it in such a fashion that it can be used as a rest for your lance. The weight of the lance must be supported by the palm of your hand and not your fingers. And when you want to place the lance under your arm lift it in such a fashion that the shaft is free from your arm, but once you have the lance under your arm, then hold the shaft as tight as you can, resting it partly against your chest, taking care not to twist or lean forwards out keeping a straight posture in order to be able to catch your breath. And do try to do it with a certain flair. This point is very important when aiming the lance without a lance-rest, as this way the lance is being supported in three ways: by the hand that supports, it, by the arm that holds it tight, and by the chest against part of which it is being held. You must lift the lance with a sudden movement, as it is the easiest way. . .and when you can handle a small lance move on to a big one…When you can handle a lance on foot, then try it on horseback, but always have someone who can advise you of any mistakes you are making…

How should I line up for my run?

What gait is the most effective for hitting the Quintain?

Geek Note:  Newton’s second law of motion is very applicable here.  F=MA or Force = Mass * Acceleration.  In this case (not in all cases mind, but we are safe enough in this macro layman’s case) Acceleration can be thought of as velocity or speed.  Since we are at a relatively slow velocity the mass will stay effectively constant and the only thing we can do affect the initial force imparted to the target is to increase the velocity.

How do I control my horse if it shies away from or does not want to approach the target?

Where do strike the quintain?"
  • Strike the target between the center and the outside edge.  This will impart the best lever advantage to your strike.  The further away from the fulcrum or pivot point the greater effective force imparted.  More effective force = more spins.


What angle is the best for hitting the quintain?
  • You want to hit the target either at a perpendicular/90 degree/right angle or at a slightly acute (less then 90 degrees between the lance and the cross piece) angle. 
  • A strike that makes an obtuse  (greater then 90 degrees between the lance and the cross piece) angle runs the risk of glancing to the inside across your body.  This is an unsafe position to be in as it can twist you unexpectedly in your saddle and impart a rearward force on you if the lance shaft strikes the post of the quintain.  Horse going forward, force pushing you backward, where are you going to go?  Well to be honest, it depends on your seat.  I have yet to see anyone come off a horse due to this but it is a situation that is best to avoid.












What if the target is not well placed (angled away from you or towards you) due to a mistake or from the wind rotating the target?

I'm not very strong or very big, what can I do?


How do I recover control of my lance after the strike?  What if I have to line up for a second quintain?


We all have our opinions and mine is that the quintain is one of the most fun of the games we play.  There is nothing like the feeling of pounding down the track, seeing your lance strike the target, feeling the impact of the strike, and then you are past like lightening.  It is an absolute thrill and I love it.  You have got to try this, it feeds the romance of the soul.


Practice any new skill on the ground first for safety's sake. Practice any new skill on the ground first for safety's sake.  Practice any new skill on the ground first for safety's sake.  Yes, that bears repeating three times.  Safety first last and always.  Become comfortable with yourself and your abilities first, then work to stretch them out further.

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