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
What kind of quintain lance should
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?
- Line your horse up so the target is rotated just slightly away from
you. Remember that your lance will be held slightly across your body so
target face and lance shaft will be perpendicular or slightly acute to each
- Aim your horse so your inside shoulder just brushes the edge of the
target if you miss. It does happen, so do not aim your face for the target.
What gait is the most effective for hitting the Quintain?
- The gait that you can hit the target effectively and safely at is the best
- Given a safe gait, the faster the better.
- The gait you can hit the target effectively and safely at is the best
gait. Yes, I know I am repeating here but this is worth repeating, safety
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?
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Horses must often be
introduced gradually and gently to the quintain the first time.
- Trying to force the horse to go to the quintain is only going to
convince the horse that it is something dangerous that it does not want
anything to do with.
- Start by leading the horse next to the quantain and passing by on the
line you would want to take if running the quintain.
- As you pass by strike the quintain so it moves and show no reaction
yourself. The horse will take its que from your reaction. If you are not
excited by this thing that bangs and then moves around it does not need to
- Repeat this exercise several times on the ground until the horse is
relaxed with the quintain, then mount and repeat at a walk. Once the horse
is relaxed at a walk you can work up to your preferred gait by stages.
- Once you are running the quintain use good horsemanship techniques to
stay on 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
- 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?
- Situation 1: The target has rotated away from you. This is the
safer of the two situations. Angle your lance further across your body to
achieve a more perpendicular strike and don’t forget to follow through. Can
you get a perfect strike this way? No. Can you get a good, solid, and safe
- Situation 2: The target has rotated towards you. This is
not a safe situation.
- If you are not absolutely confident in your ability to overcome this
disadvantage DO NOT TRY TO FORCE IT! Raise your lance and give it a
pass. Ask the ground crew to reset the quintain and try again. The EM
and the ground crew may not be able to see that the angle has changed.
You need to make this decision yourself, and err on the side of caution.
- Do not try to go for it anyway, much of the force of your strike
will be imparted to the post and base of the quintain rather then to
rotating the target around the pivot. This transfer of force means you
will not get the same number of spins you would get otherwise. You
damage the equipment this way. You will receive more feedback force to
your grip and hence to yourself from this type of a strike. This can
cause you to lose your balance, drop your lance, frighten your
- Do not read any further on
this subject. Just skip over to the next subject. I mean, come on,
you have skipped around a bunch in this article already anyway, what is
one more little skip? The whole thing is not
a good idea at all. Why are you still reading? Didn’t you understand
the last few sentences, never mind the last section? Oh all right, fine, but
don’t blame me if you get hurt or scare your horse so badly that it will
never approach a quintain again. You are an adult , make an adult
decision and then take responsibility for it. If you are fully confident in your ability to control:
Lance, Seat, Horse, Self, AND all the opposing forces that will be acting on
all of them… then go for it. It is an unwise, and dangerous, thing
to do for all the reasons in the last section, but then I never claimed
great wisdom. The place to aim is the extreme edge of the target. In fact
it is best to overlap the edge by half of the diameter of your lance
tip. This will dig the edge of the target into the lance tip and ensure
the lance does not slip off. You will receive a lot of feedback force
initially but the target will start to turn quite suddenly after the
initial shock. Follow through is essential to get any turns as much of
the force from the initial strike was transferred to, and resisted by, the
post and base. With a really, really good hit (I have done this once
and it is incredibly satisfying) you can tip the entire quintain over.
I'm not very strong or very big, what can I do?
- Use your body as well as your horse’s momentum.
- For the initial strike nothing will beat the force
generated by the mass and speed of you and your horse. In fact, trying to hurry your
strike by pushing the lance forward at the last second can ruin the entire
- Turning your body and pushing your arm straight across
your body immediately after the strike will cause a good follow-through.
This is what you want, to keep the lance head on the target and imparting
energy/force to the cross arm for as long as possible. I usually know that
I have imparted good follow-through because I have to bring the front half
of the lance back
over my head to bring it back into position.
How do I recover
control of my lance after the strike? What if I have to line up for a
After hitting the shield, use the momentum of the
strike to bring the front of the lance back up over your head.
Practice this on the ground first. If you are unable to do so smoothly
due to shoulder or other joint problems then concentrate on giving the best
initial hit you can and keeping the lance locked beneath your arm.
If you have to
do a second quintain, do not try to add the full follow-through I described
earlier for after you hit the quintain.
Keep the lance level as possible and make your correction quickly as you
approach the second quintain then perform your follow-through to get that
extra little bit of force.
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
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