Fwd: Heads game - how tall? - It's origins and intent
- meant for the group...
From: henrikofhavn <henriksd5@...>
Sent: Thu, Oct 15, 2009 2:21 pm
Subject: Re: Heads game - how tall? - It's origins and intent
The Heads course originated here in The West Kingdom , back in the mid 1970's when the West Kingdom College of Equesteian Arts ( as we called ourselves back then) was a member of The California State Horsemen's Association. I had just been appointed Kingdom Minister of Equestrian Artes (the first time) and we had joined CSHA to obtain liability insurance protection ( since the SCA didn't have anything like an insurance policy of any sort, back then) and I received a copy of the CSHA membership booklet. In looking through the rules and descriptions of their official games, I had in mind to try to adapt any that seemed fun or challenging to our members without seeming obviously out of period. The pole bending competition, listed there, was an obvious one that I selected to modify to include a target on the top of the poles to engage, as the rider passed by. This became the original standard for the heads course. Six "heads atop six poles at 21 feet intervals, to be run for the speediest time while first going straight down the course, bending around the far head and hitting them all in succession while bending through the line, turning at the end and bending back through the line and turning once again at the far end and running straight back to the finish line, all for time. The object was to make it simulate a possible period training exercise and yet be an easy to standardize course, that any horsemen could set up where there was room for a polebending course. It was also intended to be a course that was familiar to non SCA horsemen so they could better understand the similarities in what we do and so be more likely to want to join in our activities. There has never been found any documentation, that I know of, that supports any historical training exercise precisely like this, however I suspect historically mounted riders did practice riding past targets with weapons and strike them in some fashion in the process. Certainly ring spearing and quintain striking are documented and are variations o this sort of exercise in general. The theory behind this particular exercise was to provide a line of simulated warriors who were to be "killed" by decapitation as the rider rode past them, while controlling the path and speed of the horse at the same time, to allow effective form and contact to be accomplished in the process. The only course requirements that applied to scoring were speed maintenance, course pattern adherance, and target contact. However the construction of the heads and their attachment to the poles and the method of pole installation on the course, have all been left up to the individual facility organizers. This unfortunately has fostered an attitude of light and easy as opposed to strong and realistic, with the consequent abandonment of a distinct martial style, by most riders. As Corwyn says, the form of striking the heads should be as if they were really being attacked with real weapons ( sword or mace), with accurate and forceful blows that would really damage real heads on real people. The blows that are taps, pokes or with the flat of a bladed weapon , may knock a foam head off a magnet or velcro purchase, but they would do little to endanger a real person and should be avoided. Unfortunately the current rules that are usually applied to scoring this game don't address that issue, and in my opinion they should. The height that the heads are set has always been intended to be "head height" of a standing "warrior". Historically this would be in the 5 to 6 foot tall range. 5 and 1/2 feet is a good compromise. In the early years before styrofoam head forms were common I used plastic gallon bottles filled with a few inches of sand or water to give weight in blowing windy conditions. We also used sewn cloth heads stuffed with scrap fabric, to give weight as well. Now that ballistic gel is available , it would be interesting to make realistic simulations mounted on realisticly functioning supports and attack them with real sharp weapons. The same sort of thing could be done with realistically weighted rubber heads and rattan combat weapons, for a more realistic competition course. But if something like either was to be done, the safety of the horse being ridden would have to be ensured - particularly from accidental over shooting of swung blows or dropped weapons, that might end up hitting the horse and causing real damage or injury to it ( or the rider ), tack, or others nereby. Henrik of Havn