'Full Metal Jousting': James Fairclough Jumps Into Jousting, Hits the Ground Hard
The son of a famed four-in-hand driver, show-jumping competitor James H. Fairclough II -- a k a "The Hammer" -- was called to joust in last Sunday's episode of "Full Metal Jousting" on History.
It was something he'd been looking forward to since joining the cast of the reality-competition show.
"I thought it would be awesome," he says, "something fun to do. Show jumping gets boring after a while; you need a change. I'm an extremely competitive person; and I always saw jousting on TV, whether it was 'A Knight's Tale' or other movies or whatever, and thought, 'That would be fun to do.'
"I had a great opportunity to be here, someone's going to pay you to do it. I had a chance to win $100,000, no better reason to do it. I'm young enough and, I guess, dumb enough, to get on a horse and joust somebody."
At five-foot-nine and 145 pounds, red-team member Fairclough is one of the smaller men in the competition. For his joust, his coach chose one of the biggest horses, the 18-hand Superman (18 hands translates into six feet tall at the withers, the point of the shoulder, which doesn't include the extra height of the neck and head).
The coach of the opposing black team chose Crispin, one of the shorter horses in the stable of jousting master and show host Shane Adams, who observed, "There's quite the possibility that James may hit the ground."
But Fairclough didn't make it to the joust, since during practice aboard Superman, he and his practice mate, theatrical jouster John Stikes, were both unhorsed. While Stikes was able to get up on his own, Fairclough was not so fortunate.
"When we had our impact," recalls Fairclough, "it was really hard. When I hit the ground, my head got cut open. That's when I got knocked unconscious. The initial impact of the lance was fine, but as soon as I hit the ground, I was out. I had no idea what happened.
"I didn't know which way was up. The armor and everything -- when you're unconscious, all rubber-legged, you can't get up. I needed some help getting up. I've hit the ground many, many times in show jumping. I have to say, nothing has happened quicker. I've never fallen off a horse that quick in my life.
"I've been bucked off, spun off and dumped off really quickly off jumps, but nothing compares with how quickly I came off there. The best way I can explain it is, somebody tied a rope to a telephone pole and the other end to my waist and said, 'Go gallop down the long side,' and I hit the end of it midway through."
When Fairclough's helmet was removed, his face was covered in blood from a scalp laceration, which later required staples. He was also diagnosed with a concussion, which put him out commission for a week, resulting in Stikes being tapped to do the actual joust (which he lost to fellow theatrical jouster Matt Hiltman).
Fairclough is even using this screen capture of his bloody face as the avatar for his Twitter account, @FaircloughII.
You could interpret that as bravado, but one thing's for sure, Fairclough is not scared off from doing more jousting in the future. If it becomes a big-time professional sport, he's game to don the armor and pick up the lance again.
"Without a doubt," he says. "I need a break from show jumping every now and then. I'm extremely competitive, and I love the sport. You need a break every now and again. The ability to have a little bit of a stress reliever -- putting a suit of armor on, riding down and hitting somebody -- is kind of nice."
Asked which he likes better, the riding part of the hitting part, Fairclough laughs and says, "I love the hitting part, to be honest. I like proving people wrong. When I showed up to the training week, and everybody looked at me, I had my britches on and my polished boots, and they were laughing and snickering to themselves ... we lost guys really fast.
"The guys who were laughing and making fun of me for my britches and polished boots, those were the ones who were dropping out like flies."
As for the future, Fairclough says, "You'll see a lot of drama. As we get better and better in practice, you'll see some big hits. As you see in the preview for this week, there are some big hits coming up."