Tent pegging is an equestrian discipline in which horseback riders use a lance or a sword to stick objects and carry the objects on the end of the lance. The mounted rider travels at a gallop to spear the peg, which is made of cardboard or wood. The sport requires accuracy, skill and precision at high speeds.

History

Evidence of early tent-pegging places the origins of this equestrian sport as far back as 4th century B. . making the specifics of how it started difficult to prove. It is thought that tent-pegging may have originated in the early calvary of Alexander the Great and was used in battle. Battle elephants have very thick skin covering their bodies, but in between the toes they have more fleshy, vulnerable skin. Riders in the calvary would use the precision learned from tent-pegging practice to pierce the elephant’s skin and send the elephant rearing and trampling about the infantry.

Still others believe that tent-pegging originated in India. Calvary soliders would ride through enemy camps and pull up tent pegs (hence the origins of the name) in order to collapse the tents on their enemies. Amidst the confusion, the infantry would use the element of surprise to their advantage.

Tent pegging was used as a training technique in the British calvary and in 1875, held their first tent pegging competition. This competition was a formalized and stylish affair. Since that time, tent pegging competitions were taking place across the world. International competitions began in 1963. International associations were formed as a way of regulating competitions, which began to include civilians as well.

Inground Tent Pegging

Inground tent pegging a version of tent pegging in which four team mates pull pegs out of the ground. In the first round, the riders follow each other, one after the other. In the second round, players ride abreast and all pick up the pegs in unison. Players use a sword or lance depending on the competition. A full inground tent-pegging competition will last six rounds total and the team with the most points is the victor. Scoring is determined by the peg pick-ups and a few other factors. If a player strikes a peg but does not pick it up, two points are awarded. If a player picks up the peg but does not carry it the entire specified distance, four points are awarded. If the player carries the peg to the destination, a full six points are awarded. Points are additionally awarded for style, drill and as a collective team.

Rings and Pegs
During a rings and pegs competition, riders attempt to place their lance through rings held up by a T crossbar. Each ring hangs 2. m above the ground and the riders must spear the rings while riding at a gallop. Just after the ring, a peg is placed in the ground. The rider must spear the ring and then pull the peg. Scoring is similar to inground pegs, in which 6 points are awarded for carry the peg, 4 for a dropped peg and 2 for a pierced peg.

Lemons and Pegs

In a lemons and pegs competitions, riders must slice a lemon that is suspended by a T crossbar. Like rings, the lemon hangs 2. m above the ground with pegs 20m after the crossbar. Riders use their swords to slice the lemon using a forehand motion for the first run and a backhand for the second. Competitors ride back and forth, making the competition two rounds.

Skills at Arms

The skill at arms competition consists of three separate components. During the balloons and jumps portion, horse and rider have the added challenge of incorporating jumps into tent pegging. Two jumps measuring, at most, 70cm high are lined up with 20m in between. The first jump has a balloon placed 1. m high and to the right side of the jump. The second jump has a balloon placed at the same height but to the left. A third balloon is lined up with the first, and is 20m from the second jump. That balloon is placed 50cm high. The maximum six points are awarded for each balloon burst, as well as for each clean jump.

The second portion of the skill at arms competition is the heads and dummies competition. The heads are placed 15m apart and 2m high. Riders attempt to cut a dowel neck that holds the head and measures 10cm in length. A successful cut will lead to an award of ten points. 20m away from the heads, a dummy is placed. The target on the dummy measures 8cm in diameter and riders are supposed to stab the target. Scoring awards 6 points for clean cuts of the dowel and accurate stabs of the dummy. If the rider misses the target but strikes the dummy, 3 points are awarded. The third portion of the competition is the rings and pegs competition. Riders only complete one run, but all of the other rules are as listed above.

International Competitions

International competitions, as governed by the FEI, have individual and team events. The events that are included at all international competitions are individual lance, team lance, rings and pegs, individual sword, team sword, lemons and pegs, pairs, Indian file and potentially, half section lance, half section sword and the skill at arms.

Safety of the Horse

Like any other regulated horse sport, the health and wellness of the horse is a great priority. Horses undergo vet inspections one hour before competition. The veterinary inspections determine if the horse is healthy enough to compete in tent-peggng. Additionally, a resting station is at each competition as well as a horse ambulance for emergency injuries.

Scoring

Like many other horse sports, errors in tent-pegging will result in penalties. Tent-pegging is designed to be an exacting sport of high precision. Lemons, pegs and dowels are all relatively small objects to hit at a gallop and the sport takes a lot of training before it is mastered. The rider must be athletic and precise, and able to control the sword or lance with great strength. The horse must be supple and obedient, and willing to gallop and sometimes even jump without hesitation. Any horse can excel at tent-pegging with the proper training. What is paramount in a tent-pegging horse is the relationship between horse and rider. Mutual respect will lead to victories while mistrust will result in failure and disqualification.

In tent-pegging competitions, the highest scoring team will be declared the winner. Some competitions do have a provisional tie-breaker. In the tie breaker, riders will take one more run and aim to pick up a 2. cm peg. The fastest rider to complete the challenge wins the tie. There is only one run in a tie-breaker to avoid over-exerting the horses. This is one other way the wellbeing of the horse is constantly taken into account. In the event that there is no time for a tie-breaker competition, the peg scores only will determine the winner.

Tent-pegging is an ancient military disciple as well as a fine equestrian event. It is enjoyable to watch as it combines speed, excitement and precision. As one of the FEI recognized equestrian discipline, its popularity will probably only increase in the upcoming years.