Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gallant Knight

Shane Simpson: Gallant Knight

 Whoa! .... Calmly, deliberately and confidently, Shane steadies his aim. The target is in sight, his steed is prepared. Galloping full speed, high in the saddle, nock in place, hen feathers ready for flight, he draws his bow. Sha-pung. He hits the bulls-eye with exact precision!  The arena resounds with hearty cheers from the captivated crowd! Shane’s brave equine theatrical performance thrills every spectator.

Shane Simpson is a performance stunt rider. Traveling most of the globe, Shane performs archery, jousting, trick riding and much more! Shane says, “I have traveled a lot. I have been to Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Dubai and Japan!” Shane’s equine martial virtues and equestrian-at-arms skills are world famous as well as his love of horses.

Currently residing in England, he started riding at the age of 13 and began his career as a jockey racing thoroughbreds. “The first horse I rode was an Austrian Haflinger. He was an awesome gelding called Arnie; couldn’t have learned to ride on a better pony!” Arnie set the stage for Shane’s jockey career and nine week training at the British Racing School. “Everything I know comes from my experience through watching, doing or studying all the different areas of horsemanship”, explains Shane.

Shane left racing to further his equestrian career.  “After I left racing to expand my knowledge, I learned how to trick ride, joust, fall, sword fight, double for actors in films, fix problem horses, help with rider confidence and train western horses.” Honing his equestrian skills, he found employment with Oak Ridge Quarter Horses, The Stampede Stunt Company, to name a few. Shane says, “Stampede Stunt Company is owned by some very close friends of mine. They do live shows at county fairs, castles and at big events like ‘Your Horse Live’. They provide one of the best jousting shows in the country with some trick riding for more entertainment; they also teach horseback archery, jousting and sword fighting among other things at their base in Wales.”

Specializing in Medieval stunt riding, Shane brings all the chivalry, pomp and thrill to his events. He explains, “Jousting is an incredible adrenaline rush especially full plate jousts with full contact!” Combating with lances, in full armor, while wowing the audience, requires skill, precision and a keen knowledge of horses. Medium-weight warmblood chargers emulating large Destriers bring medieval romance to life. High back saddles and rugged stirrups provide the necessary leverage for an optimum charge along the jouster’s tilt-barrier. The rider must maneuver armor mechanisms to his advantage while controlling his caparison covered warhorse. Bright colors, imaginative and innovative costumes, and death defying feats create an unequivocal portrayal of a true chevalier. Donning renaissance costumes, wielding lance and mace, enticing the horse to perform while jumping through fire, jousting or trick riding - all of which demands finesse, courage and confidence from both the horse and rider. It’s all entertainment at its very best; stunts are meticulously detailed with professional choreography and expert scripts.

A theatrical equine event steeped in romance and passion, bringing to mind Ivanhoe, turreted castles, tawny horses and fearless knights, Shane brings history to life. The French historian, Froissart, explained the art of chivalry and the rules of the joust in his retrospect the ‘Chronicles of Froissart’. He wrote:

“Is there among you any gentleman who for the love of his lady is willing to try with me some feat of arms? If there should be any such, here I am, quite ready to sally forth completely armed and mounted, to tilt three courses with the lance, to give three blows with the battle axe, and three stokes with the dagger. Now look, you English, if there be none among you in love.”

As an expert equestrian-at-arms, Shane relives Froissart’s chronicle and reminds us that horses play an important role in our emotional strategies to overcome adversaries.  Portraying a seasoned knight takes poise, strength and stamina. Re-enacting these events on horseback is a sentimental choreographed event between horse and rider.

As a stunt rider, Shane has worked with a myriad of horse breeds. “I work with Lipizzaner, Andalusian, Friesian, Thoroughbred, Dutch Warmblood, Welsh Cobs, Painted horse, Quarter Horse, Arab, Polish Arab, Hanoverian and my favorite, Lusitano! Lusitano stallions look amazing and in general they are really eager to please!” exclaims Shane.  When I asked Shane how he deals with problem horses, his response was heartfelt. “Well that all depends on the problem, the horse and more often than not, the rider/owner. I suppose in a way I am a trainer. I have never really thought about it like that. I just enjoy every aspect of horses!” A fan of equestrian trainers Monty Roberts and François Pignon, Shane references the skills of others as well as his own experiences. “I have had the pleasure of working with Monty Roberts on a few occasions and learned so much!”

To stay physically fit for extreme riding, Shane visits the gym as often as he can - five days a week if he isn’t gallivanting with his stunt company.  As a professional equestrian, Shane has had his share of bumps and bruises.  A recent mishap leaves Shane still in good form. “I’m good, a bit sore from a horse rearing over on me, but its all part of the job. A crazy horse landed on my leg; just a bit bruised,” Shane smiles.  “Every time I travel I meet new horses, most of which are great and not a problem, but there is always the odd one. The worst I have seen so far is one I’m actually breaking in at the moment. He is a two year old colt racehorse that will be quiet most of the time but randomly flips over backwards without any warning. I’ll fix him to be a pleasant ride and to enjoy being a horse.”

The opportunity to ride in TV shows and movie performances has been one of the highlights of Shane’s equestrian career. He shares his theatrical history. “I have ridden as an extra in ‘Clash of the Titans 2’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘War Horse’. Riding for ‘Clash of the Titans 2’ was very, very cold but fun. All I was required to do was ride nice and easy along the beach. I also doubled for actor Colin Morgan who is on a TV show over here called ‘Merlin’. It is aired weekly on BBC1.”

I asked Shane how one can improve and become a better equestrian. Shane says, “Everyone can improve, even the best learn something new everyday about their horses. If I had to say anything, be patient and don't try to rush things. Horses learn things at their own pace, just like humans.”

Follow Shane and watch the action.…

© Gina McKnight, Author, Poet & Freelancer USA
No duplication without permission. Original Publication Going Gaited Zine 2012

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