Nothing gets Tim Tobey’s blood pumping more than when he mounts his steed with lance in hand and charges his opponent. The Elmira man, also known as Sir Timothy of Shrewsbury, has been a professional jouster for the last 12 years. “I joust on horseback for keeps: it’s not for show. It’s not like Medieval Times Dinner Theatre – it is a rough-and-tumble, hard-hitting, high-impact, knock-the-other-guy-off-his-horse sport,” said Tobey inside his study at his home, which is decorated with numerous swords, axes, full suits of armour and a medieval-style table and chair fit for King Arthur himself. He belongs to the Knights of Valour, a group of local knights that has been entertaining audiences across North American with demonstrations, tournaments and shows of horsemanship, bravery, and chivalry. Tobey has always had an interest in the medieval era. A self-taught armourer, he began crafting his own swords, helmets and chainmail well before he started jousting. He built his first full custom suit of armour 16 years ago and has never looked back.
It’s a time-consuming hobby, as building a full suit of armour takes a lot of skill and the proper tools. Tobey makes all his suits in the garage of his home. He uses stainless steel because it does not rust; since most tournaments and fairs are outdoors, when it rains the show must still go on. It is also proven to be tougher and more durable metal for riders to use when they are hit. Tobey admits making his chainmail suits is just like knitting: he puts together shirts or full suits with a pair of pliers while watching television.
“It is quite a repetitive process and it looks like I am just sewing the rings together. Once I get into a rhythm I can be done quite quickly.”
After visiting his first jousting tournament in Guelph, Tobey approached the organizers who took him on as a squire, training him to become one of the team’s most decorated knights. Over the last 11 years he has won an impressive array of medals, ribbons and titles competing in various states.
After a gruelling six months of training, learning to ride and hold the lance just right, he obtained his jousting quest by unhorsing his teacher and team leader Shane Adams. Tobey is the only jouster known for this impressive title and is considered head or senior knight as he has been with the team the longest.
“I have always been interested in medieval times, I guess it’s the armour and the weapons and the lifestyle that went with it,” said Tobey. “I just really get into it.”
Tobey shares his passion for the days of yore with his whole family and has a few up and coming knights in the house of Tobey, including his son, 20-year-old Aaron who recently was knighted Sir Lawrence of Essex.
“He is a real natural at it; he has been watching me his whole life and he had no trouble taking to the sport. I spent six months of training, but he didn’t need any training he just jumped into the saddle and was a natural.”
Aaron admits he was surprised he took to the sport so quickly, saying he had a good teacher in his dad. It seemed to be just a natural progression from being a squire in 2002 to becoming a jouster and eventually a knight.
In his spare time he learned to ride and competed in games against his brothers. In 2009 Aaron got his first chance to joust at a tournament in California where he was unhorsed by his father. Undeterred, Aaron continued to work at the sport and was knighted as one of the Knights of Valour in 2010. In the start of the 2011 season Aaron had his first unhorsing but continues to hone his skills in efforts to obtain his ultimate goal: unhorsing of his father.
“It is very rare, in Canada, to have a family line continue the tradition of knighthood and I am very pleased Aaron has really taken to the sport,” said Tobey. A full-contact sport, jousting is really no more dangerous than any similar activities, explained Tobey, adding he knows fellow knights who suffer more injuries playing hockey. “Aaron is a perfect example: two years of jousting and he has not been badly hurt, but last week he was fooling around with some friends and broke his foot.” Typical injuries for jousters are dislocations and bruising that can be quite severe depending on where he is hit.
In January Tobey was jousting at Madison Square Gardens in New York doing a promo for the upcoming Full Metal Jousting television show for the History Channel in the U.S. The reality show takes a group of people who have never jousted before and trains them to become competitive jousters as they battle one another for the top spot.
During one take he was hit in the arm with the lance, the only direct shot he has ever taken in his life and it was “unbelievably painful.”
“I have dislocated my shoulder and some other bad bruises but this was by far the worst hit I have ever taken.”
It is not all battles and fights for the knights, however, as they hold numerous educational school shows in southern Ontario tying into the Grade 4 medieval history classes.
“We show the kids two forms of jousting, an earlier form with just chainmail and shields and a later version that is full-plated armour. We perform sword fights and games on horseback and hold educational seminars with the kids where they get hands-on experience with the armour, horses, and weapons.”
The Knights of Valour have a full schedule this spring and will be travelling across Ontario promoting the sport.
“This is just a hobby; this is what I like to do when I don’t have to go to work.”