Prince Frederick teen earns award for jousting prowess

MillerJoustingMikayla Miller was recently presented with the Touch of Class Award for her achievement in the sport of jousting.

When her mother tells people Mikayla jousts, most are appalled.

“The usual comment is, ‘You let your daughter do what?’” says Miller, a 17-year-old from Prince Frederick. “We try to be specific and say ‘ring joust.’”

The state sport isn't like the medieval competition of knocking opponents off their horses. It actually entails catching rings on a lance while riding down a track on horseback.

Miller saw jousting for the first time at age 9 when she went to a competition in Port Republic with a friend. When she started practicing the sport, she would set up a course and spear paper cups off horse jumps with a broomstick.

“We both really liked it and we just kept going every year,” Miller says of the competition at Christ Church in Port Republic. “I wanted to continue because it was something different than showing. It was unique, as well as our state sport.”

Her father, Rick, says that finding something different than jumping fences “was really interesting.”

In jousting, all ages and sexes compete together. Riders get nine seconds to race individually down an 80-yard track on horseback to catch nine rings on their lance. They have three tries to run the course and scoring is based on how many rings they get.

In her first joust, Miller scored one ring out of nine, but that same year, at a joust at St. Mary’s County Fair, she placed second.

In April, the Maryland Horse Industry Board, part of the Department of Agriculture, recognized Miller for winning her class at the national tournament by giving her the Touch of Class Award.

There are multiple jousting clubs in Maryland and Virginia that hold competitions. Jousters compete in different classes based on skill, including novice, amateur, semi-professional and professional. Miller competes as a semi-professional with her horse, Tyke, and won her class at all her competitions this year.

“This past year has definitely been a major accomplishment,” she says. “I was able to hold my state title in the semi-pro class.”

Miller practices once or twice a week at her local barn and competes in about 12 matches during the season, which starts in May and goes through October with the national tournament. She can advance to the professional class with four more official wins.

 

Miller's coach, Viviane Fischer-Flaherty, says that Miller’s greatest strength is her concentration, an important skill when focusing on spearing rings while also staying aware of what the horse is doing.

“Usually I’m pretty relaxed,” Miller says. “I still try to stay focused and have fun at the same time.”
Miller graduated from Calvert High School this past spring and plans to attend Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va., this fall to study biology and equine studies.

“[Jousting] definitely has helped me decide that I do want to work with horses,” she says.

Although the school does not have an official jousting team, Miller hopes to continue jousting by starting a club.

By Kelsey Cardace