Jousting and Equestrian Skill-at-Arms Lessons and Training

Table of Contents


  • Jousting Lesson and Training Overview         
  • Reasons for Training
  • About our Complete Course
  • Lesson, Training, Boarding Rates and Information
  • Camping and Lodging Information





Our American Jousting Alliance Training School is based upon years of experience and application. There can be found no better training in this style of jousting anywhere else in the world!

Some of the School's students have gone on to professional or semi-professional jousting careers. They come from all walks of life and every age group. They come from many parts of the country and the world including; Canada, New Zealand, Germany, England and Mexico.

Many more of our students return to their regular lives with new memories of their experiences while training. Some take back pictures and video to display and show friends. On occasion two or more friends will attend a training camp together for the fun of it! They do enjoy each other's company and the good natured competitiveness.

Our training methods and techniques have proven effective and safe. (As safe as jousting can be) over time. These methods and techniques evolved slowly over time. For this knowledge to have been gained, it has taken a great deal of time in the saddle, practical hands-on experience, trial and error, bumps and bruises and the burning drive to bring forth the best and safest jousting possible.

Instructor James Zoppe invites oyu to come on out, have some fun and take the step from thinking about trying this to actually experiencing it.

We have some very fine horses to ride and enjoy. All training is conducted with safety and respect among people and horses.

Below is a partial list of the range of our training and experience.

  • Medieval Sport Jousting
  • Medieval Equestrian Skill-At-Arms Games including; Ring Spearing, Shield Quintain Hitting and Spear Throwing
  • Choreographed and Show Jousting
  • Horsemanship
  • Sword Work - on horseback and ground
  • Sport Jousting Judging
  • War Horse Training for competitions and performance

 Reasons For Training

Some various reasons why our Students have trained with us at Alliance Headquarters "The second happiest place on Earth"

  • To have fun enjoying a longtime dream
  • To test their courage and resolve
  • To try something new and challenging on horseback
  • To take knowledge and know how back home to help train others for jousting tournaments and shows
  • To enjoy riding and horses
  • To learn more about how to perform, what to do and how to do it in a Jousting show or Act
  • To ride with others who have the same interest
  • To learn how to effectively and safely ride in full Armour for parades, event opeinings and other related activities
  • To compete in actual Jousting matches in an atmosphere of safety, experience and cameraderie
  • Bachelor jousting party
  • To compete and have fun in challenging Skill-At-Arms games
  • To test themselves from time to time in jousting matched with others
  • To have fun and learn how not to get hurt or hurt others in a challenging and potentially dangerous sport
  • To get an adrenalin rush!


I'm happy to talk with any interested party and help however I can.

"May Your Aim be True" 

Brief Biography of James Zoppe
Born into an Italian Circus Family in the town of Rochester, Indiana young James was destined to be brought up in the midst of the family Rosin back Riding Act. At age 10 his Father, Enrico Zoppe bought a 500-acre ranch in the small town of Soper, Oklahoma. Although life on the ranch was much different from life on the road, horses had already become an important part of James' life. He helped train his first ponies and horses. This led him to armadillos while riding bareback and helping to round up the cows from the fields and woods.
After graduation from High School James moved to Dallas, Texas where he studied with his aunt Yolanda Zoppe who trained him for the next  3 years in the art of bareback or rosin back riding and horsemanship. He progressed from performing in other troupe's Riding Acts to presenting his own rosin back act. Some of the acrobatic accomplishments he achieved while standing on a galloping horse were; somersaults back to the same horse, pirouettes, back somersaults from one horse to another.
While his troupe was presenting their act at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs, Kansas in 1979 they were asked to return the following year to present a Jousting Show. This began the jousting career of James Zoppe.
In 1988 James was invited to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center to discuss the possibility of co-producing a variety show entitled, "The Wild Wonderful World of Horses". Although this show did not materialize James saw the potential for live performances and film work with his horses in the L.A. area.
e was repeatedly urged by his friend and jousting student, Ken Steadman to write a set of rules that would enable people to safely sport joust with each other. This led to James writing the Book of Rules and Giudelines for the American Jousting Alliance in 1995.
He eventually bought a small ranch close to Frazier Park, California about 75 miles from Los Angeles. This became the American Jousting Alliance Training Headquarters.
James has been training people and horses for more than 30 years.  He has been jousting and training people to joust for more than 25 years. e has worked with actors from Universal Studios and Circus of the Stars. He also trained the percherons used in the film The Fisher King, among others, as well as presented hundreds of live performances.
About our Complete Course
 For those of you who want to take up jousting as a fun exhilerating hobby, the American Jousting Alliance offers a complete Jousting Training Program. This course is open to all riders and skill levels - men, women and youths! Complete courses can range in time from 6 to 12 days depending on an individual's riding experience and actual training time. The goal os for the rider to be able to safely participate in a jousting match at the end of the course.
Come train with us at our headquarters in beautiful Lockwood Valley, California. Nestled right in the middle of streams, majestic mountains and thousands of acres of the Los Padres National Forest, the ranch provides the perfect atmosphere in which to learn this exciting sport. Miles of hiking trails, several camping sites, areas for off-road vehicle recreation, unique shopping and even a 9 hole golf course are nearby which offer additional opportunities for even more adventurous fun or a little time to relax.
Training is customized and tailored to fit the goals of every student, however here is a general idea of what we teach.
  • Basic riding skills, if necessary
  • The importance of understanding the horse and maintaining a good relationship through proper knowledge of when to praise and when to correct
  • Controlling your horse while handling a ring lance, tournament lance and after a time, both lance and shield
  • How to accurately spear rings at a trot and gallop
  • How to accurately and safely throw a spear at a trot and gallop
  • How to accurately and effectively hit a shield quintain with a tournament lance
  • mdieval swordfighting, both on foot and on horseback, including various maneuvers that the horse can do to give a sword battle both excitement and diversity
  • Running various jousting courses with weapons such as sword, axe or mace as well as a lance and shield
  • Jousting! First courses will be run without weapons, then build towards a lance or shield then both
  • Hits on a live target with only the lance, then taking hits with only the shield, then both simultaneously
  • Knowing when to go for the hit and when to "pull your punch"   
  • Choreographed jousting - what makes hits look dramatic, which areas to hit on the shield and how to safely take a fall
  • Engaging in a full contact jousting match with another rider
One of the most important concepts in our training, whether for skill-at-arms or jousting, is to learn what to do in a situation should things not go according to plan, or should something unexpected happen. The safety and well-being of both the horse and rider are our priority. The thrill of the sport and fun you'll have learning it come naturally.
We have a fine group of horses at the ranch. Each has a distinct personality which we match to riders depending on experience and skill level. On occasion, we also offer trained jousting horses for sale. We work with horses of many different breeds and have found that the heavier draft breeds and draft crosses make the best jousting mounts. Their strength and size provide a means to more easily withstand the challenges presented by the hard, solid impact of lance on shield. Lighter breeds and crosses prove better suited for manueverability and speed in skill-at-arms games (there is always an exception to every rule and certain horses may excel where we don't expect them to)
Students are always welcome to bring and ride their own horse! We have plenty of room for trailers during your lesson or lessons. However for longer term training periods comfortable corrals are available for boarding your horse while you're here.
Regarding training times; you may check the Upcoming Training Dates section. If none of these dates work for you then let me know and we'll see what we can work out to better accomodate you.
Interested parties may contact James at Alliance Headquarters in Frazier Park, CA at (661) 245-4000 or e-mail him at  


Lesson Training and Boarding Rates

Individual Lessons                                                                                                                                                                               1.5 to 2 hours in length                                                          $55.00

Extended Training and 2 lesson days - price per lesson              $55.00
When people book 2 lessons per day (and this is the typical training plan for out of town or international travelers) the day normally goes something like this:

First Lesson begins approx 10:30                                                                                                                                                         First Lesson ends approx  12:30

Lunch break 1.5 to 2 hours

Second Lesson begins approx 2:30                                                                                                                                                  Second Lesson ends approx    4:30

Note: Should a group wish to book a training trip and they would like to customize their training to better be able to spend time sightseeing or whatever else, please let us know. We are always happy to work with our clients and their specific needs.

Note: For multiple training days a deposit is required.                                                                                                                        

Alliance Members receive a 10% discount on their lessons or training

We furnish trained horses, weaponry and all safety equipment.                                                                                                            Should individuals wish to bring any of their own equipment that is perfectly acceptable.

What to bring:                                                                                                                                                                                 Jeans                                                                                                                                                                                              Boots                                                                                                                                                                                           Leather Gloves (not too thick)                                                                                                                                                           Layers of clothing (at 5000 + feet, the temperature can change somewhat)                                                                                              Long Sleeve Shirt (for arm protection)                                                                                                                                           Sunscreen (in summer months)

Jousting Horse Training Rates                                                                                                                                                             

Jousting Training:                                                                                                                                                 Daily                                    $40                                                                                                              Weekly                               $175                                                                                                                   Monthly                               $550

Boarding Rates:                                                                                                                                              Daily                                    $12                                                                                                                    Weekly                                 $75                                                                                                                    Monthly                               $225





Camping and Lodging Information

Our training headquarters are located in Lockwood Valley, about 15 minutes west of Frazier Park, California, just off the Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.



Holiday Inn Express - 12 miles
Lebec, California

(661) 248-1600


Gorman, California

(661) 248-6411

Pine Mtn Rentals - 25 miles
(661) 242-2571



Ramada Limited
9000 Countryside Ct.
Lebec, CA 93243
(661) 248-1530



Best Western Liberty Inn
5521 Dennis McCarthy Dr.
Lebec,CA 93243
(800) 237-8750 / (661) 858-7777 (click "Lebec")


There are many campgrounds in the Los Padres National Forest, some just minutes away from our training site. For more information on camping contact the U.S. Forest Service:

Chuchupate Ranger Station
(661) 245-3731




Note: No horse training charge for students riding their own horse.