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Zeelandic horse riding: Tilting at the ring

1 October 2017 | Translation for the Royal Belgian Draft Horse Studbook


Original text (Dutch) and pictures: Ann Muys

Tilting at the ring is thé national sport in Zeeland. Every village in Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland has its very own tilting at the ring society. The young as well as the old – but mostly the young – take part in the competitions with lots of enthusiasm. Thanks to these events, Zeeland as of today still houses numerous Draft Horses.


The top rankings are always occupied by Draft Horses. After all, no other horse breeds have the ability to canter in such a perfectly straight line as a Draft Horse can. To score well, most competitors want to spear as many rings as possible (max 30). This will be easiest when riding a Draft Horse, although a steady hand and a sturdy concentration off course are very important as well.

Rules of the game

The competitors gallop bareback around a circular track and try to tread a ring (positioned in the middle of the track) on the end of a lance (3 kg) they are holding in their hand.

All horses need to be braided and the participants have to be dressed completely in white. The ring is hanging in an iron tube which is held in place by a rope that is tied between two big poles. The bottom of the tube hangs at a height of exactly 2.20 meters above the track. The ring that has to be treaded, has a cross section of 38 millimeters. When the ring is speared, the competitors deliver it to the ring runner at the end of the track while holding the lance backwards. At official events, each participant has a maximum of 30 rings to tread. When he successfully treads them all, he receives the highest score possible.

Competition tracks are always 36 meters long and 1 meter wide. On both ends of the track large poles are positioned holding up a rope at a height of 1.2 meters. On both sides, the horses can catch a breath in a resting area.


In case of a tie at the end of the event, there is a showdown. The remaining participants keep on giving it their best trying to spear smaller and smaller rings. While the cross section of a normal competition ring measures 38 millimeters, a showdown starts off with a ring of 36 millimeters. The participants that manage to tread it move on to the following task: spearing a ring with a cross section of 26 millimeters. This continues on with rings measuring 20, 14 and 10 millimeters. Even though it might seem impossible., even the smallest possible ring (10 millimeters) occasionally gets speared.



In conclusion

Every tilting at the ring event traditionally ends with a Zeelandic ritual. The winner will get “gejanust”. This means the other participants will carry the winner to a spot right in front of the poles where they will throw him or her up in the air tree times – high – higher – highest.

The amicable atmosphere, the enthusiasm and the amusement tilting at the ring competitions create – only thanks to the draft horse – deserve more attention. Lots of children have the time of their lives at these events riding the draft horses in surroundings they are familiar with. All of this makes tilting at the ring a very wholesome form of recreation.

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