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Sir Half Ass and the Chalice of Equis  

Greetings Mule riders. Kris and I and 2 of our mules tried something a little different this weekend.  We left the trail to go to a equestrian event sponsored by the “The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc(S.C.A.).”  The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe . The event they were holding was located in Coffeyville , Kansas . The trip was about 6 and half hours for us and so a long haul for a weekend. The event was called the “The Chalice of Equis”.  The equestrian part of the event was to include tests of horse and rider competing in medieval tasks such as archery, lancing, spearing targets, axe throwing, and sword striking targets all from a moving horse in a timed course.  

When we arrived we met a large number of nice horse people who were interested and curious about our mules.  I went through all the reasons I like mules and stressed how smart they were. I also stressed how our mules were trail mules and had only seen the inside of an arena once or twice and had never seen a lance or a sword swung over their heads.  

The next morning came and it was time to authorize. Each person before they could compete for the Chalice of Equis needed to pass a safety test. My wife Kristine and I and our two mules Kate and Buttons were tested and successfully authorized. We were pleased with this result considering we had never done anything like this and our mules were being asked a lot to get used to in a short time including the noisy arena and swinging swords that were part of the test. The test included showing control of your animal at different speeds and then finally riding through a pole bending type exercise where you must strike targets from off the top of each pole. While others were being tested I took the time to begin rubbing my mule down with a sword trying to convince her she shouldn’t flinch every time she saw it swung later.  

The competition began and after watching a few others run the course I was just hoping I wouldn’t fall off, or hit my mule or myself.  The authorization was pretty simple when compared to this course and had focused on rider and mount safety skills but this course required much more skill.   I have been in the SCA for 20 years and had a lot of experience with swords, bows, spears and axes.  But always used them from the ground.  This was the first time we had brought our mules to an SCA event.  This was a crossing of what was to us till today two different hobbies.  And I questioned my ability to wield these items and run the reins one handed at speed from a mule who I couldn’t blame for seeming a bit worked up and jumpy today (probably a reflection of my own feelings).  As I waited my turn people kept mentioning how quite our mules were standing and how smart they must be to be learning to cope with all this so quickly. I thanked them and thought yes compared to some of the horses our  mules are standing quiet but I could tell this was no where near the calm I expected of these mules on the trail and could tell the mules were worked up.  

My turn to compete came and as the grounds man handed me my boar spear I would need for the first part of the run, my mule spooked at seeing this spear behind her head and shied away at a scooting run. Fortunately we were headed towards the target which was a small pig shaped doll on the ground we were to spear in one pass. I whispered calming words to my mule as I juggled the spear and reins and was pleased to see her straighten and slow as we approached the doll and was able to easily spear it as we passed. As we met the next grounds man and switched a spear for a sword I kicked up my mule into a waiting ring of 4 posts each with a target on the top.  This part you had to stay at till you struck them all off the post with your sword so a missed target would require doubling back and cost you time.  Buttons didn’t shy from the posts or much from the sword as we approached and I struck the first 3 with ease but as we passed the 4th and smallest target I missed, but was pleased to see Buttons turned on a dime at my request and rather than circling back was able to spin her in place and strike the missed target. Approaching the next grounds man I handed off the sword for a pair of axes and raced to the next station. I was to ride past a set of two targets at about 15 feet away and throw an axe at each as I passed. The object was to knock the head off the targets with the axes. I had seen only a few people hit even 1 head and none hit 2. The path was straight and my mule ran like an arrow and so smooth each time I went to throw the axe it was like being on the ground and my axes both found their mark.  Turning from this I approached the maiden rescue run. I was to pickup a life sized dummy dressed as a maiden in long dress and veil. The doll was laying over a barrel where it laid like a corpse, I was to grab it and run it around a post and return it. If you picked up the maiden it was worth some serious points and many riders were unable to get their mount near this dummy whose clothes blowed in the wind.  But riders were allowed to skip the pickup points and just race around the far pole sacrificing points for time on the course run. As we got close the wind of course betrayed me and blew the dress up just as buttons was passing close to it and already giving it the evil eye. She bolted forward to get past it and hanging low and heavily off the horn I managed to snatch the maiden by a leg as we passed and pull her partly onto my lap. Not the most dignified rescue of the poor maiden as I drug her along by one leg. Well my mule buttons took exception to seeing the thing she was running from suddenly jump on board and attack her rider. Buttons begin a sideways full tilt run to get away from this attacker. I was still trying to get back up, hang on to the maiden, and get my reins under control. I assumed if we continued this forward but sideways run we would hit an arena wall soon.  I saw us go really wide past the post we were to go around and managed to turn Buttons without falling off and got her back on course and to the grounds man to drop off the maiden and grab a bow and arrow. Still wound up Buttons didn’t want to slow as I approached the archery target. I had one arrow and my points would be greater the closer to the center my shot landed. Whispering “easy Buttons” she slowed and stood still after a moment despite her excitement when I said “stand”.  After a moment of figuring out how to align my body, the mule and the bow I took careful aim and fired. Conscious of the timer still running I didn’t really pause to see where my arrow hit but spurred Buttons to the next station. I found out later my arrow was a bulls eye. I had real high hopes for this next station as I am a good with a spear on the ground. So of course the one I expected to go best went worst.  I was to ride past a target and throw a spear with enough force to stick into the target.  It turned out to be way different trying to throw from a moving mule back and I over compensated and missed the target completely. Grabbing the long lance for the final station I reined Buttons toward the run past the post which had rings of different sizes attached to it. The smaller the ring you managed to spear onto your lance as you past won you larger points. I had seen only a few people get a ring at all and I needed to make up time, but as I kicked Buttons into a run she could see the long lance hanging out in front of her and to her credit she only shied a little. I am guessing she was getting used to all these weird things her rider was holding over her head. I managed to get her back on course as we passed the post but was far enough out my lance was going to be too short. Quickly sliding my grip to the end of the lance to get a little more reach I managed to lance one of the large rings as we passed and rush to the finish line.


My wife and her mule Kate’s run was very good until she got to the end of the field where the evil damsel laid  across the barrel still blowing in the heavy Kansas winds. Kate would not go near this thing. Kris tried multiple approaches to only have Kate shy away. As I stood with the other riders watching this someone commented “has that mule never seen a plastic bag in the wind?” I replied “Sure she has, but you see that mule is too smart. That mule is saying Hey fools there is a dead looking woman over there, has no one asked the obvious question? What killed her?! This mule is not going over there till a CSI investigation is done, the killer could still be there.” This got a lot of chuckles and people saying “Wow smart mule”.  Kris by this point had decided to try to back the mule across the arena at the maiden, but Kate was too smart for that sly trick and would back every direction but that one.  Kris’s run didn’t do well time wise but everyone was impressed how unlike some other riders she didn’t just give up and finished the course so her mule would learn something.


After all the runs were completed the scores and times were tallied and royal court was opened.  It turns out Buttons and I had won the Intermediate level competition and won the Chalice of Equis. As I came forward to accept the chalice the event organizer commented “We are sorry but the chalice has the image of a horse on it, the ears may be a little short, we did not expect the best horse to be a Mule.” I accepted the chalice and told the crowd and event organizer “It’s ok, there is still a place in this world for good horses……we need them to breed good mules.”


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