SHERIDAN — Shane Adams was just 4 years old when figured out how to hitch a ride on the family’s Arabian stallions.
It was an ingenious method. He tied baling twine around the barn door first, then climbed up into the hayloft with it.
From there, he used the twine to let the horses out of the barn. He sat, crouched like a cougar waiting to land on prey, until the Arabian stallion he wanted passed by.
Then he jumped down on the back of that horse, just like Robin Hood might have done, if he were 4 and wanted to steal away on a forbidden horse.
“One day my mom was washing the dishes and she looked up, saw all the horses going down the front lane — which is not in a paddock — and then, all of a sudden really screamed when she saw her 4 year-old son on her 4-year-old Arabian stallion riding away,” Adams said.
It wouldn’t be the last time Adams engineered a wild ride on an Arabian stallion either.
“I remember being a 4-year-old child sitting on the living room floor with my grandmother behind me, watching an Errol Flynn movie with Robin Hood,” he said. “And Robin Hood comes to save the Black Knight. In that film, there was this jousting tournament, and the Black Knight turned out to be you know, King Richard.”
The jousting particularly drew Adams’ young eye.
“I raided the kitchen cupboards for tin foil, and I started making myself my own cardboard armor,” Adams said. “And then I hopped on one of my parent’s Arabian horses.”
By now, the Arabian stallions were kind of used to Adams landing on their backs from above, but they weren’t sure what to make of Adams suddenly jumping on with a suit of full tinfoil armor.
“(The Stallion) didn’t like it,” Adams said, laughing. “He didn’t like it at all. The shininess, the crinkliness, the fact that it was falling off — I looked like a 4-year-old cowboy wearing a glitter costume, and it was all over my horse, and I was all over the road.”
But Adams didn’t quit getting on the Arabians just because he was thrown off that day.
As a matter of fact, these days he gets knocked off his horse on a regular basis. Adams is the founder of a modern-day group of knights in dented — if not shining — armor. He’s living out a childhood dream that’s taken him around the world.
Adams holds 17 international jousting titles and was featured in the History Channel’s “Full Metal Jousting” in 2012.
Adams recently brought his team to Sheridan for the Sixth Annual Tournament of Knights, which raises funds for Chaps Equine Assisted Services. The nonprofit puts horses to work in a variety of therapeutic settings for people both young and old.
Growing up, Adams tried several approaches to realizing his dream of becoming a knight.
“I never thought that childhood dream could ever become real,” Adams said. “But then, at 14 years old, I saw a dinner show. And I thought, ‘Oh, you know, I could join the circus and travel the world and perform in theatrical presentations.’”
So, he literally ran away and joined the circus.
But after a while, he realized that still wasn’t really what he was after. Next, he joined the Medieval Times, which he describes as a medieval dinner/tournament castle in Toronto, Ontario, as well as other places.
“I was there for about three years,” Adams said. “But I realized that I was not living my true childhood dream of being a knight in shining armor. I was just a knight in shining polyester and tinsel. And the shows were all choreographed.”
Adams didn’t want to pretend to be a knight anymore. He wanted to actually become a knight.
“So, I started my own company called the Knights of Valor, and that kind of changed the course of my life,” he said.
At First It Was About Not Painting Canada Yellow
Shortly after forming his group, he was invited to represent Canada in the first ever, International Jousting Championships in North America held in Estes Park in 1997.
“I was like just in awe that somebody would have actually organized a real jousting competition,” Adams said. “I told them I didn’t have any experience jousting for real, but that I’d love to be there to attend the event to watch and maybe bring the event back to Canada as a promoter.”
But, when Adams arrived at Estes Park in Colorado for the competition, he discovered his name had been added to the jousting list for Canada after all.
“I wasn’t about to paint Canada yellow,” Adams said. “So, I borrowed a horse and some equipment and went into the joust competition with my very limited experience of theatrical jousting.”
Adams came home from the competition with a broken hand, four broken ribs, and the world championship title. He’d beaten all the contenders, even those bigger and more experienced than he.
“As big a shock as it was to everyone else, it was an even bigger shock to me,” Adams said.
The win got him an invitation to the Nottingham Jousting Association’s training facility in England, where he was trained by one of their top jousters, Phillip Humphries.
“We became friends, and he told me that they knew right away that I was the person to beat just by watching the way I rode,” Adams said. “So, it was a good thing I used to ride a lot when I was kid. Long story short, I went back the year after, not expecting to win again, but without any injury whatsoever — not even a broken nail or a bruise — I won the second time. I won the world jousting championship.”
A Jousting Tournament Of His Own
After that experience, Adams formed the World Jousting Championship Association, and started putting on tournaments. At its height, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were somewhere between 40 to 70 competitors in nine different countries.
Adams was also tapped for a television show on the History Channel, “Full Metal Jousting,” where trainees vied to be the last man standing after a series of weekly jousts, for a total purse of $100,000.
“That was the cherry on top of my career,” Adams said. “It really was. But I didn’t let it change who I was. I’m still a little kid, even to this day, living that childhood dream (of being a knight).”
Adams hopes to keep the knowledge of jousting alive across North America with the shows he is doing at county fairs and fundraising events like CHAPS’ annual Tournament of Knights.
“The fact that I’ve let the world know that the sport still exists today with the TV show, that’s the cherry on top of my career,” he said. “There’s only a few people in the world — in the equestrian world of today — that have the ability to do what we do. It’s not just, you know, riding a horse over a jump. It’s not just a horse in the dressage arena … (or) doing a reining pattern. This is man and horse working together in a competitive sport, full contact, against another team of man and horse, knowing that somebody is going to hit the ground. It takes a different type of person to be able to do that, to want to do that.”
Adams is among those few
, willing to break their bones for a childhood dream.
“If I have the chance and the freedom and the world that we live in today to be able to live that childhood dream, I’m going to live it,” Adams said. “Because there’s so many people around this world that we live in, in today’s society, (who) can’t even talk about their dreams. They don’t even know what their dream is.
“I’m definitely a risk taker, but for me, I’m going to look at the impossible straight in the face, and make it possible.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.