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Jousting: Lady of the Rings


A different sport

Jousting. Just mention the word and most people imagine lordly knights in shining armor splintering lances and knocking each other off their steeds. The object of the tournament, of course, is to win the fair maiden’s hand. Spend a few minutes talking with 18 year old, Dottie Gannon of Queen Anne's County, Maryland, and you will quickly learn that when it comes to modern Ring Jousting competition, nothing could be further from the truth.

"The object of this sport," Dottie explains, "is to gallop your horse down a straight 80-foot track and spear small rings with the use of a lance while being timed." A marker is placed 20 yards before the first arch, where timing begins, and there are 30 yards between each arch. Timing stops as the horse and rider pass through the third arch. Adequate space for starting and stopping the horses is needed, usually about 160 yards. Most tournaments permit each rider three "charges" at a specified size ring to determine the winner. If two or more riders have a tie score, the ring size is reduced until a winner is determined.

"The experience is challenging and exhilarating," Dottie says. "One of the things specific to this sport is that you have to keep your mind set on the rings and not on your horse. You have to trust your horse to do its part so you can concentrate on spearing the rings with your lance."

Dottie started riding when she was 7 years old, but got into Ring Jousting Competition in 2001. "We found out about Ring Jousting from another family in our 4-H club. It sounded really fun, and it’s something my entire family got into doing together." Indeed, her mother and father, Dottie and Tom Gannon both compete as well as her two sisters; Catherine age 21, and her baby sister Jennifer now 7. "If my seven year old sister can do it, anybody can," she laughs.

Enjoyed by men, women and children of all ages, from all walks of life, Ring Jousting is certainly democratic in its approach. Classes of participation are based strictly on skill level without regard to gender or age; making Ring Jousting an ideal sport for any and all horse enthusiasts. To keep the competition fair, Ring Jousting Tournaments are divided into four classes; Novice, Amateur, Semi-Professional and Professional. And, while it may be true that anybody can do it, few have had success as quickly as Dottie. Dottie won the 2001 Maryland State Champion Title in the Novice Class, the 2002 and 2003 Maryland State Champion Title in the Amateur Class, and the 2005 Maryland State Champion Title in the Semi-Pro Class. Asked if she intends to go Pro, Dottie shared, "I'd like to eventually compete in the Pro Class, but unlike some horses how events, it’s not something you can do professionally. You can't make a living doing it, it's more about getting better at a sport that you love."

Love of the sport is what Ring Jousting is all about. Tournaments have few rules other than those that govern the scoring. Dottie competes on her Quarter Horse, Roni. "You can ride any kind of horse," she says, "but that's what works for me." There are no restrictions on the type of horses and types range from Shetland ponies for the smallest children to Quarter Horses, Arabians, Paints, and even draft-size Friesians. Experienced jousters concur on several desired characteristics of jousting steeds. They agree that a levelheaded, mid-size horse with an extremely smooth canter works best.

Dottie's take on the method that works best for riders in a joust "is to trust your horse, keep the upper body virtually motionless, have a good eye and a steady hand." Dottie is an intelligent and passionate spokesperson for Ring Jousting. "I love getting other families involved in Ring Lancing, It's a fun, laid-back sport. It's something everyone can do and really enjoy."

Dottie Gannon feeds Roni Southern States Reliance Pleasure Horse Feed. "I really like the quality and consistency of the feed. I also feed quality forage with my grain." She should know. Dottie grew up on her father's grain farm and works part time at Queen Anne's County Southern States store in Maryland and is presently enrolled in college where she is studying to become a veterinarian specializing in large animal medicine.

Ring Jousting Tournaments start in May and run through October. Dottie plans to compete again this year. Southern States is proud to have the Lady of the Rings as a part of our family and wish her continued success in all her endeavors.


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