QRIC Media Release: Racing integrity staffer’s horse hobby straight out of the history books
Wednesday 5 July, 2023
Like all of us, Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) Sample Collection Officer Amanda Challen likes to unwind during her time away from work, but her hard-hitting hobby isn’t what most people would call relaxing.
Ms Challen is a champion jouster, who will soon compete in her biggest tournament of the year, at Caboolture’s Abbey Medieval Festival.
Her years of horse-riding experience, which led her to her job with the racing regulator, has also given her the skills to take on this unique and challenging sport.
Ms Challen said she was introduced to jousting by the owner of her mare’s sire eight years ago.
“My horse’s dad was also a jousting horse and they asked me if she’d like to joust, too,” she said.
“I didn’t know anything about jousting, so I said they could try her out and she loved it!”
“The following year, they decided to put me in armour to give it a go myself, and we’ve been jousting ever since.”
Jousting is not for the faint of heart, with two riders charging at each other on horseback, the sound of thundering hooves, riders holding lances that are more than three metres long, designed to send their opponent to the ground.
The person who strikes, breaks their lance on their opponent or knocks their opponent to the ground the greatest number of times over three rounds is the winner.
An experienced rider, Ms Challen undertakes a complex training routine to prepare for competitions, including practising in 35 to 40 kilograms of spring steel armour, which is custom-made and designed to protect vital areas including her head and chest.
“I ride out amongst groups of people at the beach to get my horses used to having a big audience,” she said.
“And I practise targeting by hitting a quintain, which is a target that spins out of the way when I hit it with my lance.”
Ms Challen has been working as a QRIC Senior Sample Collection Officer throughout Queensland’s biggest racing event of the year, the Winter Racing Carnival.
Her role is to ensure that samples are collected from the horses in line with strict protocols and procedures, so the samples can be analysed by the Racing Science Centre laboratory as part of the QRIC’s prohibited substance control regulatory service.
She manages to juggle this important role with her hard training schedule, meeting with her medieval group fortnightly to practise jousting riding and technique.
“The Commission has been supportive in letting me have every second Sunday off to train with my group, as well as getting time to work with my horses most days before work,” Ms Challen said.
The Abbey Medieval Festival hosts the biggest jousting tournament on the Australian calendar.
“It’s all as historically accurate as possible – apart from me being a female knight, of course – so it teaches people what it was all about back in the 15th Century,” Ms Challen said.
“I definitely feel a lot of nerves before heading out to compete, but once I’m out there and have my lance in my hand, it’s game on!
“The fact that I get to do something with my horse that we both love, is fantastic – I can’t see her once I have my helmet on, so it’s all done by feel, which means we have to work as a team the whole time.”
Ms Challen will compete at the Abbey Medieval Festival this Saturday July 8 – Sunday July 9.
Media Contact Nicole Rowles 0467 955 412