Not all SCA events have equestrian activities so the first thing to do is make sure the one you want to go to does and then find out who the EqMiC (equestrian marshal in charge) is for the event. This will be the person in charge of checking equine health papers, directing you to the horse areas, general safety, and rule enforcement. The EqMiC can answer your questions if you have any beforehand and offer guidance as needed. There may be other equestrian marshals at the event who can help as well and other experienced horse folks who are generally happy to lend a hand if you need it. Some events are one day only and some are longer. You can always just come for one day if you live close enough but we generally camp at all of the horse events because it is fun and gives our horses new experiences to make them well rounded partners.
Some sites will have stalls or pens available but most do not. You can keep your horses tied to your trailer, kept on a hi-line, or bring your own corral panels or portable electric fence depending on your preferences and your horses tolerance. We like using a battery operated electric fence charger for our horses at events and it has worked out quite well so far. If your horse isn't used to electric fences, be sure to acclimate them to it at home first. We use 2 inch wide white electric fence tape for high visibility and either step-in fence posts designed for electric fences, or T-posts with plastic adapters to run the tape through. This is a picture of our typical pen set up for camping events.
Make sure to bring everything you need to keep your horses fed and cared for! Many events are at somewhat remote locations so running out to the local feed store because you forgot hay isn't always feasible. The EqMiC should have a list of local vets in case of an emergency but it certainly doesn't hurt to keep your own first aid supplies handy. Water buckets, tack, grooming supplies, fly spray, and a way to pick up your horse's manure are also things you will need to bring. Most sites request that you clean up after your horses in the camping areas so make sure you bring a manure fork and a way to haul it away. There is usually an area reserved for dumping manure and dirty hay close to the horse camping.
Be aware that your horse may see a lot of new things for the first time so make sure to work on desensitizing at home as much as possible. Banners whipping in the breeze, people in noisy armor or long skirts, children running around, and tents are just some of the scary things they might come across. Make sure to practice riding in your garb too so you don't spook your horse with unfamiliar dangling fabric or leather straps. If you plan to decorate your tack or make a caparison for your horse, be aware that they might need a little time to get used to the sensation of flapping fabric against their legs and belly. This is Brujo (the black horse) at his first event and his first time seeing any of the mounted games. Robin, on the Haflinger, rode along with John and Brujo so he would have a buddy horse to show him that the games weren't scary.
What about clothes or disguising your modern horse tack? For the SCA, an attempt at medieval clothing is enough to get you through an event. A simple tunic and pants with a pair of sturdy boots is often your first garb but put in as much research and work as you want. We try for at least a close approximation to something a mounted archer would wear depending on what geographical area and time in history we are trying to represent, although some days it is just too hot for anything fancy or layered. We usually put a fancy saddle blanket on over our normal every day one and are working on slowly upgrading our bridles by making our own. Our saddles are still modern but can be fairly easily disguised with draped fabric covers or tying on some pieces of fur. Here is Michelle and Alpo on a hot day in a fairly simple look.
If you just don't have anything to wear, there is usually someone at each event who's job it is to help out newcomers. They will lave loaner clothing you can borrow and can usually be contacted ahead of time through the event information found online. Many events also have vendors that you can start to build up a wardrobe by shopping from if sewing your own isn't something you want to do. If you are coming to one of the events we are at, send us a message and we'll be happy to help you out too. We make all of our own clothing and gear so we always have spares we can bring.
So, you know what to wear and a bit about what to bring, now what about what goes on? For a typical weekend event, you will probably arrive on a Friday. Check in at "gate" where you will sign waivers and pay your site fee. You may show your Coggins papers here or may be directed to the EqMiC who will make sure they are up to date. Once checked in at gate, you will be directed on where to set up with your horses. Get your horses settled and your camp set up. Typically if there are already other equestrians there, someone will check and see if you need help and show you where to get water for your horses. Many of the equestrians in our local groups like to socialize together after getting set up o you might make some new friends pretty quickly.
The next morning will be a rush of feeding your horses, getting dressed, and then either tacking up right away or you might go to morning court depending on the schedule. Court in the morning is usually general announcements about the day and sometimes horses are invited to stand near the back to add ambiance. This is a good opportunity to either lead or ride your horse around so they can get a good look at all the new things. Know your horse and what they can handle and don't be afraid to take them back to your camp area if there is just too much going on for them to settle. We want everyone to be safe and knowing when to back down in a stressful situation with your horse is always more important than riding around in your fancy garb.
You'll need to show proof of authorization to ride before mounting up. if you are not already authorized, speak with the EqMiC and they can work with you on getting your basic rider's authorization. You will be required to ride with them until they feel comfortable letting you go on your own. Authorizations for different things are required as well. Mounted games, mounted archery, mounted combat, and jousting are different things you might see at an event and have their own authorization requirements. To read up on these and the rules for equestrian activities, go here: https://sca.org/officers/equestrian/pdf/equestrian_handbook.pdf You don't have to compete in any of the activities so there is no pressure to do so. It is fine to just come out and get your horse used to everything and meet some new friends if you don't feel up to competing yet.
Different kingdoms may have different rules so it is always good to check if you are not sure. Currently, Ansteorra (Texas and Oklahoma) just use the society rules. If you are active on facebook, you can usually find groups on there for your area. There is a group for Ansteorran Equestrians that can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/179079218870/ and one for SCA Equestrian at https://www.facebook.com/groups/SCAEquestrian/ You can ask questions in these groups and find lots of information as well as event announcements. If there is a local group holding practices close to you, you can find out about that there as well. We aren't hosting official SCA practices yet but plan to in the spring of 2020 after we have built some of the games and gotten set up with marshal and insurance requirements. Once that is taken care of, anyone with a horse is welcome to join us for practices and no membership fees are required.
There will be lots of other activities and sometimes classes going on throughout the day. After all of the various competitions are done and the day is starting to end, there will be feast and evening court. You can choose to bring your own food or buy feast, where you will be served food prepared by volunteers. Make sure to bring your own "feast gear" which is generally a cup, plate, bowl, and silverware. You can get quite fancy with this depending on your budget and preferences. Court in the evening is usually where the various winners are announced and awards are given out. Horses usually don't go to evening court. You don't have to go to court or feast and many of us prefer to stay near our horses to keep an eye on them but it can be interesting to attend.
Sunday is usually just packing up and breaking down to leave. Be sure to pick up any trash at your campsite and clean up after your horses. Most events require you to pack your trash out with you so be sure to pack trash bags for this. The EqMiC is required to stay on site until the last horse leaves so be mindful of this and pay attention to what time the site closes. If you need help, just ask a fellow equestrian. We all try to help each other out as needed.
For more information about the SCA and how to get started, check out www.sca.org and look for the Newcomer's Portal. I hope this has provided some helpful information and you get to enjoy your first event soon! Keep up with us at www.facebook.com/texaskhanate where we post what events we will be at and when we are teaching mounted archery.