Moorpark horse trainer Stacy Tanner and her equine partner are a winning team in Middle Ages re-enactments.
Wielding sword and shield, the brave knight of the medieval era charged headlong into fierce battles atop his mighty war horse. This heavily armored duo drew upon experience gained from intense training practices, or games, designed to increase horsemanship and combat skills.
Today these games live on for medieval re-enactment enthusiasts such as Stacy Tanner, horse trainer at Moorpark’s Swanhill Farms.
“I’ve just always had a fascination for the era,” said Tanner, who blends her natural horsemanship training techniques with fast-paced sword wielding, jousting and lancing.
Since 1996 Tanner and her equine partner, Storm, have been winning top honors at medieval re-enactment events held across California.
“Storm was just six months under saddle when I took him to his first event,” she recalled. “Two months later we won our first event and have since continued to win nearly every event we enter.”
The events Tanner and Storm participate in are organized by the Society for Creative Anachronism Inc., an international organization with more than 30,000 members “dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe,” according to its website. The group offers members authentic tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing and various classes and workshops based on Middle Ages practices.
The Society’s regional groups are divided into “kingdoms” with the Kingdom of Caid covering Southern California, Southern Nevada and Hawaii. Within the kingdom, smaller groups form such as Tanner’s Ventura County chapter dubbed the Shire of Darache. Equestrian members of the shire meet every other Friday night at the Waverly Arena in Thousand Oaks to hone their skills.
“Practicing the knight’s combat games improves our horsemanship, while increasing agility and focus,” Tanner said.
“Trust between horse and rider are essential,” and often tested by devices such as the quintain, a jousting target that rotates when struck with the lance as the horse and rider charge past, she said.
Various games do the same. One such game is reeds, which involves an alternating course of posts with wooden dowels of different lengths affixed on top with velcro. The horse charges down the center of the course while the rider swings his or her sword from side to side, attempting to knock off the dowels.
Training a horse for these types of activities requires a great deal of patience and consistency.
“I start horses, I don’t ‘break’ them,” explained Tanner.
She employs the partnership method of training, starting on the ground and building a relationship of respect between horse and rider. And she does not believe in using aids to get there.
“Bits, spurs and whips only seek to break a horse’s will and undermine trust. I spend a lot of time fixing past damage from these aids, and rehabilitating horses who’ve been abused by them,” said Tanner.
She also works with horses rescued from inhumane care and trauma.
While desensitizing horses is a specialty of Tanner’s, a great deal of her work consists of building confidence in riders.
“I work with a wide variety of people who want, or need, to build their horsemanship skills,” she said.
One group in particular, actors and actresses, can take advantage of Tanner’s Hollywood for Horses educational program designed to enhance an actor’s resume with equine experience.
Tanner offers a variety of programs for riders of all levels. Additional information and insight into her training philosophy can be found on her website. To learn more about Storm and his many accomplishments with the Society for Creative Anachronism, read his Wiki page.