June 21st, 2012

The origins of tent-pegging are unclear. One theory is that the activity was developed in medieval India, where mounted warriors targeted the sensitive toes of war elephants with their long lances. Aggravated by the pain, the elephants would break formation or turn on their handlers. Tent-pegging, also called “pig-sticking”, hones the skills needed to hunt boar or spear an enemy footsoldier. A small target such as a soft wooden block or foam “pig” is placed on the ground. The rider moves in a straight line past the target attempting to catch the target on the end of the spear and raise it in the air.

The Fine Art of Pig Sticking

Lord Nialls MacKeth

Lord Nialls MacKeth

By Lord Nialls MacKeth

Boar hunting on horseback was commonly referred to as “pig sticking”. However, since this article is not based on historical facts, but rather quite a bit of practice and observation, we will not be going there this issue.

The first time I ever saw pigsticking was at Queens Equestrian Champion (Catalina) Dec 02. It was my first medieval equestrian event I attended as a spectator. I can vividly remember the look Master Damales gave me when he looked over and saw me. It was one of those, “Who is this freak and why is he staring at me,” kinda looks. I was staring, but I was also absorbing all of the information he was relaying to Duke Edric and others at the time. I noticed one thing that day. Duke Edric was crushing everyone at pigs. He was also using his own spear. I made a mental note to myself that if I ever had the opportunity to compete in the games, I would need one of those spears.

Going over all of the old scores and attending events, you can deduct that pigsticking is not everyone’s favorite event. Thus, my strategy was born. Practice at pig sticking until I have it down. Four pigs gets you 5 points at Queens Champion.

At first, I had no pig sticking spear. So a 9 foot dowel one inch in diameter became my spear. For the pig, I used a regular size horse brush. Every time I went riding, I would do 10 passes at the brush simulating sticking the pig and raising it into the air. Once I was hitting the brush 9 out of 10 times, I knew it was time to graduate. This is an excellent exercise you can do at your home barn without scaring anyone. Also, great for beginners to hone their skills.

If you want to win at pigs, you definitely need access to or purchase a good spear tip. Master Damales makes the best pig sticking spears I have seen to date. They slice through them like butter and hold like super glue. They are amazing. This is not a paid advertisement, just an observation. You are only as good as your riding skill, your horse’s ability and your equipment. Three factors to consider when competing. The last of which is often times overlooked. There are two other factors luck and heart, but that’s a whole other story.

Okay, so now you have been practicing at the brush and now have your own pig sticking spear. You’ve made some pigs according to the handbook and are ready to go. Take up your spear and lay it across the top of your arm, holding it in your hand. Then allow the tip of the spear to touch the ground. You should now move your hand on the spear to where it feels most comfortable and when you dip the spear, it just touches the ground. Generally your hand should be as high as your thigh. If you don’t understand, find me at an event and I can show you. You shouldn’t have to stab at the pig unless you are using a dull spear. Raise your spear tip above your head so as not to stick any of the ground crew and go line up for your run.

As you line up for your run, take a look at the pigs. There are usually 6 to 8 of them in a haphazard pile. Before you even make the run, pick out the one you plan on sticking. Being right handed, I select the one farthest to the left and closest to me. That is my mark. Line up and allow the spear tip to dip to about 3 feet off the ground. You should have the spear set and ready to go. Your only thoughts on the pig you have selected and getting your horse to go at your authorized gate.

Pigsticking is not a timed event so SLOW DOWN. Go as slow as possible in whichever gait you are authorized at. For advanced, a slow collected canter will get you more pigs than a fast showy run on them. Indecision can mean a full twelve foot stride so make sure you go for the pig you selected at the start of your run. Dip the spear and touch the ground through the pig. Your momentum and spear position should help to stick the pig and roll it sky ward.

One down, three more to go. After you remove the pig from your spear, be sure to reposition your hand on the spear as mentioned earlier. Pick your pig well in advance and ride as slow as your authorization allows. That’s basically it. With enough practice, your worst score should be a 3 out of 4. Bad luck factored in ;-D


How to make an Inexpensive Pig Spear

(Can also be used for ring tilt/spearthrowing)

1 8foot x 1″ Wooden Dowel (approx $7.29)
1- 6″ 3 sided file (approx $3.88)
1 1″ Copper Cap ($1.12)
1 1″ Copper coupling (smooth on the inside no stoppers) – ($1.16)
Total with California sales tax $14.49!!!!!

Inexpensive Pig Spear

Inexpensive Pig Spear

Tape the end of the wood so the coupling and the end cap fit very snugly with strapping/electrical/or duct tape.

Before seating the cap, drill a hole in it in the center large enough for the file to fit snugly through.

Put it all together and slowly tap the file into the wood until it seats. If you want you can add a few screws to the coupling if you think it might fall off

If you plan on using it as a ring spear, don’t forget to mark it 5′ from the tip so you can use it for IKEqC.

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