By Corwyn MacCamie, EK Chamfron
“Through the Heralds,
spectators become participants.”
One of the largest problems equestrians face in the SCA is connecting
with the larger kingdom community. Their activities and practices seem arcane
and aloof to the masses. This is where the Equestrian Herald comes in. He is the
bridge between the equestrians and the rest of the populace, explaining the
activities, problems and joys to the audience, changing them from spectators to
participants. He makes the equestrians more accessible, and can go some way in
changing the overall outlook for the better.
Why is this so necessary? Let’s look at a Tournament Herald at a heavy
weapons list: He announces the contestants, gives the salutations perhaps, and
gets out of the way. At the end, he announces the victor. This is easy because
most spectators readily assume what the stick is for, and that the fighter on
the ground just lost. With weighted point scales, and the different speeds the
riders may go (which usually affects the score), some may be confused as to why
someone won, or the point of the activity at all. Confusion leads to boredom,
which leads to leaving.
WHAT IS AN EQUESTRIAN HERALD?
Each type of Herald has its own particular set of skills that enable them
to do their job. An Equestrian
Herald combines many of these skills into a new type of herald. Though an
Equestrian Herald is primarily a Voice Herald, he is also part Protocol Herald,
part Court Herald, and part Book Herald. He must be all these things because of
the unique roll he plays in an equestrian tournament.
He is a Voice Herald to announce the riders and horses, and to run a
He is a Protocol Herald to help determine the OP of riders in a
processional, and how ‘challenges’ could/should be given and
Crowns often show up to larger EQ tournaments. Knowledge of how crowns
& courts work will help mesh the desires of the crown with the safety needs
of the equestrians.
An EqH needs to have at least a minimal understanding of Book Heraldry to
help field questions about pageantry, ways to display coats of arms on horse and
rider and the inevitable, “I need a coat of arms, can you help
After that, the herald needs to learn about the different games and
tournaments that they are announcing. Not by any means do they need to become
expert, but they should be familiar with what is happening, so they can better
relay it to the audience. A basic knowledge of horses and equipment is helpful
as well. This handout is designed to help give you that base to start from.
Each Kingdom practices their Equestrian program a bit differently, so it
is important to talk to the marshals and riders to see how things are done in
the kingdom you’re in. If your kingdom has a Footman’s Authorization, I STRONGLY
recommend any prospective Equestrian Herald to receive such an
That was THEN…
The Heralds were, in period, under the aegis of the kingdom’s marshallate
or Lord/Earl Marshal (and still are, in places likeEngland). Judges
and arbiters, one of their main functions in their beginning was to run the
tournaments, and declare the victors. This allowed them to codify how knights
were recognized and keep track of who was who. The lord’s or king’s heralds ran
the tournaments, with some lords and knights (who could afford to do so)
employed their own.
This is NOW…
You are the Herald, not the Marshal. Focus on the crowd. Allow the
Marshal to focus on safety issues, and let them take care of any problems. Try
to dissuade any ‘helpful citizens’ that try to offer up their bodies to a
half-ton of panicked equine.
If you happen to be in the field during a problem that’s nearing you, the
best thing you can do is stand rock still. The horse will move around you if you
stay still. If you move or block his path, he may move through you.
That being said, the marshal’s main focus is going to be on the horse and
rider. The herald, with eyes already on the crowd, can help give an extra few
seconds’ warning if, say, a child runs into the field to pet the pretty pony. Do
not get in the marshal’s way, but be an extra set of eyes so they can do their
There are a few things that you’ll want to discuss with the MiC (Marshal
in Charge) beforehand, some of which preferably before you discuss things with
Tone – Is there an overall tone that they want to
Gate – Where are the equestrians going to gather, and where are they
coming in from? Knowing this, you can herd the crowd to the best spot to
Run-through – What’s going to happen? Are there alternative/uncommon
point systems in play? Though the MiC will explain all of this to the riders, if
you know it in advance, you can brief the crowd at the same time, if
Speaking – Does the MiC want to address the crowd at all? How would
he/she like to start/end?
Signal – What signal would the MiC like to use to indicate a longer pause
needs to be covered? And what signal is used for, “We’re ready herald, you can
shut up now!”
VIP – Are TRM/TRH attending? Are there gentles being championed? Is there
a “box” or area for them?
As has been stated, an Equestrian Herald is primarily a Voice Herald
though of a different stripe than is normally shown in the SCA. This is because
due to the inevitable lulls between riders, and the need to connect to audience
(and to keep their attention) the EqH must also allow a good leavening of the
‘color commentator’ to creep into their announcements.
They must be knowledgeable about EQ practices and traditions. Though by
no means does the herald need to be an expert in such matters, he/she does need
to have a basic idea and who to ask for an answer if
Mainly, this is a show, and you are the emcee. Talk to the marshal in
charge as to the flavor they want to project (European, Mongol, Arabic, Serious,
Comedic, etc.) and add as much passion as you can into it. In no other venue do
the heralds have as much freedom to enliven the proceedings, because we are
primarily entertainers in this instance. The information is necessary and
important, but if no one is there to hear it, what is the
paramount. Do not rush your words or they will get lost. Avoid diphthongs and
slightly exaggerate everything you say. Project, don’t shout. Be aware that
there will be a lot of noise around you and you will need to fight sometimes, to
rein back the attention of the crowd.
Because of the
unpredictable nature of tournaments, it is inevitable that there will be lulls,
flubs, and possibly shocks. During any of these times you should have something
to say. Keep the audience interested. Also, many riders may have little or no
idea how they want to be presented, and you may have to make up presentations on
the fly. There is no way to predict how things are going to go ‘off program’ but
if you equate a horse to a 6 year old that weighs 1,500 lbs, you’ll see what I
mean. The quiet lulls are one of the fastest ways to lose an audience, and a
well-chosen remark can keep them there and interested. If you can improvise
well, this talent will stand you in good stead.
If you cannot,
don’t worry overmuch about it. Instead, try to think of what to say in advance,
and write it down. Have some beginnings of introductions written down, in
different styles. After all, you’ll most likely have some papers in front of you
anyway while announcing, so what are a few more? Come up with lines are things
to say during a lull. Blatantly steal from other heralds, plagiarism is
vs. Rider Herald
Not meaning to
create more titles, I merely use the following to delineate the jobs and
functions of herald in a tournament.
herald(s) are the main herald, announcing the rolls and interacting with the
audience, but is largely seen to be unbiased. This can be split between two or
more heralds depending on the circumstance. Heraldic tabards should be kingdom,
local, kingdom or society EQ badge or the ubiquitous herald tabard, to show
A Rider’s Herald is a herald attached to a rider or riders, announcing
them, urging the crowd to applause for their rider, and is completely biased.
Think ‘A Knight’s Tale’. If possible, the herald’s tabard should be the colors
or arms of the rider they represent. Heralds should encourage equestrians to
make a tabard for their herald to wear, especially for championship tournaments
or an emprise. Usually found only at larger tournaments.
ANNOUNCING THE EQUESTRIANS
Some riders will have very specific ideas on how they want to be
announced. Some will have not the first idea on what they want. Get as much
information as you can. If you don’t use it during the introduction, you can use
it during a lull, if necessary. I have made a Fact Sheet for you at the end,
feel free to use it, or make your own.
How you introduce them can be (and perhaps, should be) influenced by the
type of tournament. If it is a 14th century French emprise, then you
can conform entries into a more specific style. For a kingdom championship on
the other hand, may want to focus on the differences of the riders, tailoring an
introduction to the rider. Talk to the marshal in charge on his/her thoughts,
and of course the riders on theirs. The more information you have at your
disposal, the easier your job gets. Some basic information that you should
Rider: Fairly obvious, but how they want to be announced may not be the
same name (or may be some variant) that they normally go
Persona Ethnicity: Not only is this an easy addition, but can help build
an intro style.
Riding For: If the equestrian is riding as a champion on behalf of a
person or group, then that should be mentioned in the first 1-2 sentences. This
also can affect the intro, as the persona of the person being championed may be
honored by tailoring the style to them.
Arms: For high-pageantry, you (or they) may even want to announce the
rider’s coat of arms. Find a book herald to blazon it for you if you need and
time and circumstances permit.
Awards: These can be the awards given by the society, kingdom, or group.
They can also be championships or tournaments won, prizes awarded, or holding an
office like KEO or SEO. Tailor this to the situation. For example, an equestrian
riding on behalf of the barony should have the baronial awards mentioned first,
then the others.
Entry Level: At what level have the entered the tournament at. This may
seem like not the thing to add, but a rider having to ‘walk’ the course is
forgiven much by the crowd if they know that this is a beginner before them, and
will be more generous in their applause.
Trivia/Filler: This is all the
little things that don’t fit the above categories but still can add to the drama
of the event. Rider’s first event? How many years riding? How many years in the
SCA? Married/Single? Favorite color?
You get the
idea. You should get more information than you can use, so you can pick and
choose your information to fit the situation. The more information you give the
audience, the more they will readily connect to the riders, and the more they
will enjoy themselves in turn.
Horses, by and
large, don’t care how they are announced, or if they are, at all. And if they
do, they probably won’t complain to you about it. The audience on the other
hand, does care. A LOT. Sometimes even more so
than about the riders. This is especially true if there are equestrians in the
audience. Most equestrians are happy to talk about their horses, so if you get a
question you can’t handle, tell them you can see if you can introduce them to
the rider & horse after the tournament. Some basic information to get about
the horse (also on the FACT SHEET on the last page):
Horse: The name of the horse. Many times the horse will have an “SCA
Name”, just like people do, to more conform to SCA or persona naming styles. Or
may have one just for that tournament. Find out what name the rider wants the
horse to be known as.
Breed/Age: Self-explanatory. Again, about the horse, not the rider. (Then
again…but on your own head be it.)
Height: Preferably in hands and in height.
Awards: Probably not kingdom awards (though you never know), this can
include championships and tournaments won, prizes awarded, etc.
Trivia/Filler: As with a rider, this is can be number of years in the SCA
or tournaments in general. It can also be color, special tricks or training. Is
it someone else’s horse? What does the rider like best about their horse? Does
the horse count? Does he sell cigarettes to inner-city school children? (Yes,
Pig* from Aethelmearc).
“Flowery-o-meter”. A handy 1-10 scale to remind yourself how flowery/grandiose
the rider wants you to get. This of course is a sliding base-scale, influenced
by the overall tone of the tournament. It can be very handy to a rider to ask
him/her the “1-10 question” if they’re having trouble thinking of how they want
to be announced.
* - Yes, the
horse’s name really is Pig.
Processionals & Protocol
If there is a processional of the riders, they should line up in the
following manner: Royals (if multiple royals, first by royal whose kingdom
you’re in, then my order of founding; Royal Champions; Local Champion (if held
in a locale that has a champion); SEO; KEO; any other kingdom champions; any
visiting KEOs; any local champions (same OP as Royals); normal order of
TOURNAMENTS & GAMES
Birjas – A challenge set with a T-shaped stand on which either end is
mounted with a large ring. The object is to pass a lance, spear or javelin
through the ring and catch it on the other side without the spear touching the
ring. Larger poles (such as spears and lances) are done in a two-handed style,
while javelins are attempted one-handed.
Challenge Course – A tournament where the horse & rider must pass
through a series of challenges demonstrating skill of the rider and training of
Crested Combat - A challenge of mounted combat for a rider to knock off
the ‘crest’ of their opponent’s helm. In the SCA, the crest is usually a stuffed
animal attached to the top of the helm by Velcro, using
Heads – Also known as Saracen Heads, the object is to knock or chop the
‘head’ off of a pole with a sword. This can be a fake head, piece of Styrofoam
or a head of cabbage, which determines the type of sword used (blunt or
Heavy Combat – Not in practice in all kingdoms, this is a combat form
using SCA Heavy Weapons rules (i.e. rattan and armor).
Mounted Archery – What it sounds like, though the horse is typically
moving while you shoot.
Quintain – Originally a training tool for using a lance, the quintain had
two purposes: A) teaching the proper strike, by hitting the shield, which moved
the arm, and B) proper speed for a charge, as the weight at the other end of the
arm would swing around to strike the rider if he was too slow. In the SCA
tournaments, the arm is shortened to not strike the rider, and it is typical to
count points for every revolution. With only a little encouragement, heralds can
get the crowd to count the revolutions.
Double – A quintain with a shield on either end of the arms, designed so that
the first shield correctly struck drops the other arm, preventing the opponent
from scoring. Considered a safer alternative to lance combat. Also known as
Reeds – Thin rods perched on poles of varying heights. The object being
to knock the reed down with the sword. Though in period they were more apt to
use steel swords, to chop reeds sticking out of the ground. In the SCA a wooden
or boffer sword is commonly used.
Rescue the Maiden/Soldier – A challenge in where the rider must ‘rescue’
a life-sized dummy to a specific location. There are a number of variants that
determine how the dummy can be moved, and if the rider must stay on or
Rings – Or more properly Ring Tilting. Training tools to promote accuracy
with the lance, rings of various sizes are suspended from a T-shaped device. The
rider gets points for piercing the ring with the lance. The smaller the ring,
the more points awarded, though sometimes the size of the required ring is
dictated by the level of skill the rider declares when entering the
Rods – A form of Birjas (see above), where a short rod is used
Spear – This can mean any number of games in two broad variants. In
Thrown or Throwing Spear, the aim is to cast a spear into a target at pace
(either vertical or some degree thereof) and make it stick. The other main
variant (known in the East as “pig-sticking”) is to stab a ground target(s),
while retaining the spear at pace.
Tilting – Also known as jousting (see Terminology), this combat form is
the iconic image of the Middle Ages Equestrian. Not in practice in all
Bard, barding –
Emprise (ahm-PREE) –
An equestrian tournament with a greater emphasis on pageantry and heraldry.
EO (EE-oh) –
Equestrian Officer. See also KEO & SEO.
Eo -Fyrd, -Hyrd
(AY-oh) – Armigerous equestrian orders of Calontir, AoA & GoA respectively.
‘Eoh’ is the Old English term for ‘horse’ or ‘warhorse’.
Footman – Helpers
inside the arena to aid the marshal and riders if necessary, and to help reset
the course after a pass.
Hand – Measurement for the height horses. 1 hand (hh) =
IKEqC (eye-KEK) –
The Inter-kingdom Equestrian Competition.
Joust – A tournament
or combat on horseback. Used more commonly to denote a pass of lances, or
KEO – Kingdom
Equestrian Officer, deputy to the Earl Marshal.
SEO – Society
Equestrian Officer, deputy to the Society Marshal.
Tilt(-ing) – A
combat or game involving lances striking a target.
Torse – A wreath or
headroll of twisted fabrics of two alternating tinctures, usually a
metal and a color,
worn on a helmet.
Most often shown with tails of alternating colors emerging from the back
Withers – Part of the horse above the shoulders,
usually below the pommel of the saddle. Highest part of the horse’s body (not
neck or head). Often heard as a height measurement for the horse: “The mare was
five feet at the withers.”
SCA EQUESTRIAN WEBSITES
Some have current practices and rules, some only have
website with pertinent information found.
Gleann Abhann: no webpage. Email:
This is my fact sheet mentioned above. A printable pdf version of
it can be downloaded
here. Just right-click and choose "Save Target