The F?d?ration Equestre Internationale (FEI) recognizes some horse sports as regional disciplines? Although it hasn’t quite gained the international following of the more mainstream disciplines, tent-pegging is recognized and governed by the FEI and has a wide following in some parts of the world.
History: From time immemorial, cavalry have used a variety of weapons in battle. Besides lances and swords, battle axes, maces and other deadly instruments were also used. It was essential for mounted warriors to practice their skills with these weapons before battle. Equally certain, they would have engaged in mounted sports for recreation. An ancient painting from Asia depicts a mounted warrior honing his skills while carrying three weapons – lance, sword and bow-and-arrow.
In medieval times, mounted knights of old used both lance and sword in battle, among other weapons. They would have exercised their skill with these weapons in preparation for war or jousting in the lists. Later on, mounted troops carrying lance, sword and revolver used these weapons on the practice track for the same reasons.
Canadian-born academic, Akaash Maharaj, has written that Tentpegging originated in India 2500 years ago. It is well-recorded in the times of the great Mogul Emperors (1700s AD) that Indian Cavalry used the lance to charge at elephants of the opposing forces and attempt to lance the sensitive feet of these great animals. This could have been very successful. Panicking elephants were liable to turn and stampede through their own forces.
British cavalrymen introduced the sport of Tentpegging to Palestine and wherever mounted troops were stationed in the vast British Empire. A painting has also been seen of two Arab riders tentpegging on pegs leaning against heaps of desert sand.
In the mid 19th Century, officers and troopers of British cavalry regiments stationed in India indulged in the sport of wild pig-sticking with the lance. Back in the military camp, tentpegs would be placed at intervals in the ground for practice purposes. Other equipment was erected for cut-&-slash and Ringing-the-Hoop exercises. It is said that mounted troops used lance and sword in surprise moonlit or dawn raids on enemy camps. Galloping amongst the tents, guy ropes would be severed with swords and tentpegs drawn from the ground with lances. This would collapse the tents and create confusion amongst the enemy.
Whatever the truth, British cavalry learned their tentpegging in India, where the Indians had created their own style of tentpegging. In 1875, The Illustrated London News showed pictures of the Fifth Royal Irish Regiment of Lancers and reported on their engagement in the first Tentpegging competition held in the grounds of the elite Gun Club at Hurlingham. They had returned from duties in India. This was a very fashionable affair, with the then Prince and Princess of Wales as well as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh present to witness this manly exercise. Likewise, tentpegging was introduced into South Africa from India at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Dragoon Guards and the Bengal Lancers. In South Africa, probably the first significant military competition was held in the city of East London in 1904.
Today, the South African Equestrian Tentpegging Association, founded in 1951 as the S.A. Gymkhana Union, has gone from strength to strength. It is the umbrella body for nine Provincial Tentpegging associations, as well as for Tentpegging associations, viz. Junior, Coaches and Judges.
Since 1963, many Internationals have been held. South African Tentpegging teams have competed in Australia, Great Britain, India, Israel, Pakistan, Namibia, and the then Northern and Southern Rhodesias. In 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007, World Tentpegging Championships have been hosted by South Africa with as many as nine nations represented, each with a full team. These World Championships have always been held under the Tentpegging Rules and Regulations of the International Equestrian Tentpegging Association (IETA), founded in 1994 by Australia and South Africa. This was to ensure that visiting teams knew exactly what to expect when competing on foreign soil. The IETA Rules are fair to all teams competing, and this International body has now a membership of eight nations.
In 1973, the first Australian Tentpegging team visited and competed in South Africa. They were under the leadership of the legendary tentpeggers; Colin Campbell, Bob Freeman and others. They took back with them to Australia the South African Rules and Regulations for Tentpegging that had been formulated in 1951 for at least twelve Tentpegging events. From this handbook, the Australian tentpeggers formulated official Rules and Regulations to suit Australian riders and conditions. Today, these are the Rules of the Australian Tentpegging Association.
Gradually, civilian riders in many parts of the world have taken to the noble sport of Equestrian Tentpegging. A variety of events are held for sword, lance and revolver. In one event, all three weapons come into play, upholding the old military traditions, and are a reminder of knights jousting, as well as the great hand-to-hand battles of old.
Today, tent-pegging is most popular in India and Pakistan, but has spread to Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa and around Asia and the Middle East. The sport hasn?t quite caught on in North America, although Team Canada had fairly recent success, winning the 2007 and 2008 International Championships in Oman and India, respectively.