"The present custom of wearing riding clothes
gives more opportunity for concentration upon the riding rather than upon the
bright-colored costume of other days. Indeed, approval of the cotton velvet, tinsel, and
barnyard feathers was not unanimous in former days. The Baltimore American, for instance,
praises the knights of Mount Royal, Maryland, in 1870 for appearing in English jockey
style and dispensing with the "circus paraphernalia seen at some tournaments."
Esther J. Crooks and Ruth W. Crooks
The Ring Tournament in the United States, 1936
In the mid 1800s it was popular to emulate a medieval knight,
complete with plumed helmet, horse trappings to the ground and banners flying from the
lances. While this is no longer practiced during the competitions, it does have a place in
the opening ceremonies as a tribute to the romantic history of the sport. Today's rider
adheres to no written dress code. Riding boots, britches, and a polo-style shirt is the
most common and comfortable attire. The outfit is usually decorated with the rider's title
or maybe a heraldic emblem embroidered on the shirt. The use of heraldry in emblems and
colors is a remnant from the medieval period when most knights were illiterate. This
practice developed into a very complex, elaborate display for the purpose of
identification. Today's competitors can rarely trace their lineage back to the great
houses of Europe. So, being the resourceful Americans we are, many of us design our own
family coat-of-arms and colors. These may also be used on a sleeveless tunic called a
gipon (pronounced gee-pon). Brightly colored sashes are another favorite rider
embellishment. Hard hats, or safety helmets are not required at this time, but are highly
recommended for obvious reasons. In the more relaxed atmosphere of a small country joust
it is not unusual to see jeans and cowboy boots (always fancy, of course).
For the horse, no specialized tack is required. The most popular
saddle for jousting seems to be a close-contact English-style saddle with a shallow seat.
This type saddle permits greater freedom of movement when the stirrups are shortened,
allowing the rider's knees to act as shock absorbers. Many styles of bits and bridles are
used. A well-liked style is a double rein bit. The snaffle rein is shortened by tying a
knot so that it rests on the horse's neck at the position where a rider rests his hand
when on the track. The curb rein remains long. Another option is the use of a leather
strap or belt placed loosely around the horses neck at the rider's hand position.
Tournament riders may outfit their mount in any manner they wish. It is not unusual, nor
unacceptable to see riders in western, Buena Vista, stock or even dressage saddles. Most
riders use fancy saddle pads or elaborate browbands, often matching their chosen colors.
Some jousting clubs use matching saddle pads, shirts and even jackets.