Jousting comes to the South Okanagan at Osoyoos Desert Park

It’s a real joust. Lances, big horses, with knights on top of them in full suits of armour.

Suited up  in armour

Suited up in armour

It’s a real joust. Lances, big horses, with knights on top of them in full suits of armour.

“They’ll need the protection,” said Paddy Head, who is helping organize a three-day joust at Osoyoos’ Desert Park track.

This is an exhibition event rather than a competition, but that doesn’t mean the knights will be taking it easy, she explained.

”They will be competing with each other, and they are serious about trying to unhorse each other,” said Head, who rode with the Society of Tilt and Lance Calvary for four years prior to her move to the Okanagan.

“Now that I am involved with Desert Park, I called them up and said, why don’t you do a joust here?” said Head.

The ancient sport of jousting, which reached its high point of popularity in the sixteenth century, has experienced a resurgence in recent years, according to Head.

“It became extremely popular on the coast,” said Head. “I think it was revived in Europe about 10 to 15 years ago; there are competitions around Europe and North America.

Ripper Moore, who Head said some people will remember from the TV show Full Metal Jousting, will be one of the participants coming to Desert Park.

To create the proper atmosphere, the Desert Park Exhibition Society is also establishing the ancient village of Little Storping, where there will be food vendors, a beer garden, and entertainment for children. A dog agility club will be there doing demonstrations.

Along with the jousting, there will also be medieval games featuring sword and spear competitions, along with other events.

The jousts, though, are the main events, happening at noon and 4 p.m. each day of the event.

“It’s a 12-foot lance and the last two feet are balsa wood, and the aim is to break your lance on the other knight,” said Head, noting that the competitors get five points for breaking their lance, or 10 points if they unseat the other knight.

“And they have been unseated. I hate seeing it, but people find it quite exciting. It takes them a while to get up, their squire has to come over and help them get up,” said Head, adding that the armour weighs about 115 to 120 pounds.

“The armour weighs more than I do, so I would never try to do any jousting,” said Head. There are female jousters, though, including Radar Goddard, founder of the Society of Tilt and Lance Calvary.

“Radar brings all the horses. Most of the horses we use are rescue horses,” said Head. “Most of the horses have some draft in them, just to make them bigger and stronger.”

Putting a joust together and making it run smoothly takes a lot of manpower, a lot of which is supplied by the squires.

“Each knight has a squire, then there are a couple of extra squires,” said Head. After each of the knight’s charges, the squires have to be ready to hand their knight a fresh lance, as well as running up and down the lists, cleaning up.

“And then the squires have to carry all the equipment down to the lists.  For the medieval games there are swords, and spears—they throw a spear—and do things like that. There is a fair amount of equipment that has to be brought and arranged, then handed up a the appropriate time,” said Head. “They have always been very organized, so everything seems to happen quite smoothly.”

The Desert Park joust takes place on May 21, 22 and 23, with gates opening at 11 a.m. Tickets are available online at or at the gate.

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