A shield is attached to a horizontal arm that rotates on an upright post. A rider strikes the shield with a long blunt lance as he or she rides past, causing the arm to rotate. The more rotations, the higher the score. Some quintains are built with a counterweight, designed to strike the rider in the back if the horse is moving too slowly. A similar exercise with a Mock Knight consists of a target that pivots on the horizontal rather than vertical axis.
Pluvinel’s work illustrates riding at the quintain. In period, quintains were constructed in varying manners; however, all were made to represent a shield or target to be struck by the rider’s lance. In 1434, Duarte, King of Portugal, writes on the techniques of jousting and discusses the different ways of carrying a lance properly: “You can carry the lance in your hand in four ways; with the lance running along the arm with the arm extended; with the lance a little higher and crossing over the mane of the horse; with the lance over the left hand or arm; and with the lance either below or above the belt.” In the SCA, carrying the lance running along the arm with the arm extended is often called “Saracen style”. Holding the lance above and across the neck of the horse is referred to as “Frankish style”.