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11/04/2018 07:57 BST | Updated 11/04/2018 07:57 BST

I Am 'Most Me' When I Am In Armour, Jousting On A Horse

Jousting makes me feel intensely alive and focused. It’s the combination of challenge, horsemanship and weapons-handling that keeps me totally engaged

Sarah Hay
LLO

I didn’t see real-life sport jousting until I was 37, at a festival in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. I was instantly attracted to the sport and immediately inquired about learning. However, it took a short while to find a jouster who was prepared to teach me. The first people I approached just walked away, but I was determined to learn, no matter what. 

I had to drive 250kms each way to go to each jousting lesson, but even if it was 1000kms I would have driven without hesitation. Somehow I knew that jousting was my passion and I was totally absorbed in focusing my life around learning the sport and it still consumes me today – 10 years later.

I work in education full time. Jousting is a sport, rather than a full-time profession.  However, I have made massive changes to my educational career in order to pursue my dream of jousting internationally. 

I left Australia in mid-2016 to move closer to Europe in order to joust more regularly.  This meant leaving a leadership job, to go back to the classroom at a school in Muscat, Oman.  Despite the drop in job role status and pay, it was worth it to be closer to Europe to be able to joust more often.

I will start my next job in August 2018 as principal of a British school in Cairo.  This is another four hours closer to Europe, which makes taking small trips to tournaments much more feasible than when I was in Australia.  By taking this position, I can keep up with my interest in educational leadership as well as jousting in Europe.

Since 2010 I have been jousting internationally, with one to three international trips per year to joust overseas.  This took an enormous financial commitment.  When I lived in Australia I invested all my money and long service leave to travel internationally each year on jousting tours in New Zealand, USA, Canada, France, England, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and France.  I invested a lot of money in myself to be recognised on the international jousting circuit.  It paid off as I had a number of significant wins at international tournaments in both hemispheres, which helped me build a solid and positive reputation as a quality jouster. 

Sarah Hay

Jousting will never be my full time career as I passionately believe in making a difference to the world through education.  I have worked in education for 27 years.  I can keep furthering my leadership work in education as well as jousting in the big summer break in Europe.  Now that I am in the northern hemisphere, the holidays coincide with the European summer, which is when most of the jousting happens.

I feel most me when I am in armour, jousting astride a horse. Jousting makes me feel intensely alive and focused.  It’s the combination of challenge, horsemanship and weapons-handling that keeps me totally engaged.  I love my armour, which was made especially for me.  The whole picture, including the heraldry I designed, my motto (courage, passion, integrity) and the horse barding comes together as a package that represents who I am and what I stand for.  Ten years on, my personal jousting motto still resonates powerfully for me.

Highlights have included travelling all around the world to pursue my sport, including visiting jousting friends in their homes in other countries.  Jousters are truly an international group of people and we enjoy hosting fellow jousters in our homes.  I have also been fortunate to be the first woman to win particular tournaments in both hemispheres, which has been ground-breaking for women in the sport and women in general.

Sarah Hay

Over the Easter weekend this year I was jousting at the world renowned Royal Armouries Easter Tournament in Leeds, England.  It was the first time an Australian team (of two) were competing at this prestigious event.  It was a great thrill at the end of the tournament to be named the winner of the skill-at-arms competition.  The Australian team were also victorious in the team competition, winning the Sword of Honour for our top-scoring performance.  However the best of all was that I was named tournament champion as the highest individual jousting point scorer.  As a result I won the highly prized ‘Queen’s Jubilee Horn’, which is a world first for women.  My personal heraldry will be added to the Queen’s Jubilee Horn, which is kept at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.  This is the greatest win of my jousting career so far and I’m still basking in the thrill of what happened just a few days ago.

There aren’t many low points in jousting.  However, broken bones mean jousting comes to a sudden halt.  I once had my pointer finger knuckle smashed to pieces and had to take six months off for that to heal properly.  Other low points include missing out on jousting opportunities, as it’s all I really want to do with my spare time for the foreseeable future.

The other great issue for me is that my special jousting horse, Femke, is still in Australia. It costs about $30,000 AUD to fly her to Europe and I’m trying to find a sponsor who might help me fly her over, so we can joust together in tournaments across Europe. I miss her every day.

Being a jouster has changed my outlook and life because I know that I am ‘most me’ when I am in armour and jousting on a horse.  It defines what makes me unique and when I feel most powerful and in tune with myself.  By defining my personal motto and heraldry I have been able to think a lot about what matters most to me and this is captured by the heraldry I have chosen.  The golden winged lion stands for courageous vigilance and my personal motto – courage, passion, integrity – is something that guides all my actions on and off  the jousting field.

Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you’ve got something extraordinary to share please email ukblogteam@huffpost.com with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page.