A tradition that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages and which is still popular in parts of Sønderjylland.
Deep concentration etched on his face, the elderly man surges forward on his horse, his lance poised in his hand. In front of him hangs a ring, and with a mix of experience and precision he manages to guide the tip of the lance through the ring.
We’re at a tilting at the ring tournament in Sønderborg on the island of Als. Tilting at the ring is one of the trademarks of Sønderjylland, and every town, especially on the eastcoast, has a so-called tilting at the ring festival.
Tilting at the ring dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, when the extremely perilous sport of jousting was replaced by this less lethal type of training. In Denmark, King Christian IV was extremely enthusiastic about tilting at the ring as a competitive sport.
Today, participants compete to be the best at galloping down a course with a lance in their hand before thrusting the tip of the lance through a small ring that gets gradually smaller as the competition proceeds.
Tilting at the ring is especially popular in the eastern part of Sønderjylland, where many towns have their own event. This often has the nature of a town fête, where you compete during the day and unwind in the beer tent in the evening. The festivities are marked by the very popular so-called tilting at the ring sausages, and each year a number of butchers in the region compete to make the best sausage.
One of the biggest tilting at the ring festivals takes place in Sønderborg every July. In addition to the competitions themselves, there’s a wide variety of other forms of entertainment. The most impressive event is the huge procession through the streets of the town in which around 500 horses and riders take part.
At the historic course in front of Sønderborg Castle, a display of tilting at the ring takes place every Tuesday during summer. If you visit Sønderjylland, you can get an insight into what goes on at Tilting Museum in Sønderborg. It is situated in one of the oldest houses in the town.