The Scone Horse Festival is a unique spectacle, and one of the great action-packed events on the schedule is the Australian Tentpegging national championships.
Running Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6, tentpegging is a true test of hand-eye co-ordination, horsemanship and mental composure.
Tentpegging originated in the North West frontier of India and was taken up by the soldiers of the British Cavalry to use as practice for mounted warfare.
Today the sport is practised in many countries, mainly by civilian and light horse.
The Australian Tentpegging national championships will feature the best riders from around Australia, including members of the Australian team who are competing in the World Cup in Oman in September.
“Saturday we’ll have pairs events leading into teams events,” said Scott Miller, a member of the Australian team competing in Oman.
“You ride as a team of four, one direction at pace in single file, to try to get a peg out of the ground and then you come back four abreast. You’re judged on how well you get the peg out and how well you present in drill. Being based on a military sport, extra points are available just by looking the part.”
The combination between man and animal is critical.
“You’re at galloping at 40kmh to 50km, hanging off the side of a horse with a sharp object trying to pull a 5cm target out of ground – you don’t need the horse to spook,” Scott said.
Most of the horse are Australian stockhorses, with a mix of ex-thoroughbreds.
Saturday afternoon sees the very popular “Skill At Arms” section.
“Competitors make three runs, with a pistol, sword and lance,” Scott said.
“You use a replica pistol with a nail on the end to burst balloons, then drop the pistol at the end of your run and take up a sword to slice through 5cm dowel [it’s supposed to be a replica of enemy soldier] and then you stab a dummy at the end your run, and on the third run back you use a lance to pick up 60cm suspended rings.
“It’s all over in 45 seconds, with your time just as important as your success with the shooting, slicing and lancing.”
On the Sunday there will be another series of rounds utilising a shortened version of arms, which increases how much you have to hang off your horse.
“It’s a game that requires mental control, hand-eye co-ordination and horsemanship,” Scott said. “Those three factors seem to develop with age, which may explain why the average age of adult tentpeggers is around 40.
“We’re expecting a good influx of teams, upwards of 36 competitors from the majority of the eastern states.”
Tentpegging is a sport that is practised throughout the world and is particularly popular in Middle Eastern countries.