Two hobby horses

Stick horse jousting – a youth activity

Once the kids assembled their stick horses, it was time to put them to use! I offered three jousting activities, modeled after skills I’d seen in adult jousting demos, but modified to include water balloons. The day wasn’t really a water balloon temperature, but that didn’t douse their enthusiasm!


  • SCA youth combat weapons make excellent swords and lances;
  • At the start, make sure the kids know they have to pick up balloon pieces;
  • Bright-colored balloon fragments are easier to spot against green grass for clean up;
  • Make up the water balloons in advance, or the kids will just want to blow up balloons and not use them;
  • Encasing a water balloon in a mesh bag (like you get with avocados or onions) helps keep the balloon fragments contained, but only last for a couple dozen impacts.


1. Slicing a cabbage (easy)

Instruct the kids to use a cross-body, downward swing to smash the balloon. This makes it fairly easy for the kids to break the balloon, and very rewarding for the kids. You can substitute a higher (and less plastic) table as the platform.

A jouster slices a cabbage on a post with his sword.
The adult version

A child smashes a water balloon while galloping on a hobby horse
Hobby horse version. (Photo: Matteo Keary)

2. Lancing a ring (moderate)

Instructions to the kids: they have to hit the balloon with the tip of their sword/lance, not swing at it like a baseball. The adult holding the balloon can lift the target out of reach if the child doesn’t use the proper motion. The kids found it more challenging to hit the target, and often the balloon did not break despite a direct hit — they loved it anyway!

A man attempts to thread a lance through a small ring while at full gallop.
The adult version

A youth rides a hobby horse and "spears" a water balloon hanging from a pole.
The youth version. (Photo: Matteo Keary)

3. Quintain (difficult)

One of our members had built a pony-sized quintain for personal use, and graciously allowed us to use it for the event. Pre-event testing showed that when the shield was hit correctly, the balloon would smash on its way around. On the day of, this did not happen as predictably. After a few passes (which still delighted the kids), we allowed them to hit the shield and let the balloon smash them in the back of the head, or to simply swing at the balloon.

A rider uses a lance to hit a small shield target on a pivot, which has a bag of flour as a counterweight.
The adult version

A youth aims for the quintain shield, which has a water balloon hanging from it instead of a bag of flour.
The youth version. (Photo: Robert of Ferness)

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