Tilting-at-the-ring stems from the Middle Ages, where knights compete against each other on horseback for great entertainment for the European nobility.
Participation in these tournaments is reserved for noblemen and knights, despite the fact that they are trained in warfare, the tournaments often demanded the lives and mobility of the contestants. When King Henry II of France dies in 1559 of his injuries from a tournament, the sport is banned in the country.
The equestrian sport introduced to Denmark in the 16th century by Christian III and his son Frederik II is a more pleasant and harmless riders’ tournament for nobles and lords. What the nobility does the public will not be left behind and from the middle of the 19th century there are descriptions of tilting-at-the-ring at village fêtes.
It was not until the celebration of the Duke and Duchess of Augustenborg's silver wedding in 1845 that a large tilting-at-the-ring festival is arranged with the participation of 450 farmers and farm workers from the island of Als. The first real tilting-at-the-ring festival will thus be Duke Christian August II's gift to Duchess Louise.
If you are interested in knowing more, you can visit the only tilting-of-the-ring museum in Denmark at the yellow half-timbered house in Kirkegade at gain more insight into the history of the tilting-of-the-ring festival. The house is also the second oldest house in Sønderborg
Present day tilting-at-the-ring
Nowadays the riders compete for the title of King. To achieve the title you have to be able to master the art of riding gallop through a gallows and at the same time spear the ring with your lance. To begin with, the ring has a diameter of 22 mm, sitting in a bracket from two strings. If you succeed in collecting all 24 rings, you are through in the tournament. Now the competition becomes more difficult, since the hole within the ring decreases, until it is only 6 mm wide. The one who survives the most rounds is proclaimed king, although a crown prince and prince is also found.
The biggest tilting-at-the-ring festival in Scandinavia takes place in Sønderborg during the 2nd weekend of July. Here approx. 500 riders participate in an impressive parade, both before and after the tournament on the tilting-at-the-ring square. The parades on horseback is on Friday and Sunday from 11:00 o´clock were you can admire the beatiful horses and listen the many local and foreign bands playing in the streets of Sønderborg. Saturday evening an amazing tattoo-show is on at Sønderborg Castle - buy your ticket on Ticketmaster. The programme of the Tilting Festival in Sønderborg is available on the tourist office and the website www.ringriderfesten.dk approx. 3 weeks prior.
During the festival both children and adults are entertained. For example there is bike tilting-at-the-ring for kids, the traditional 'coffee table' for seniors and the famous tilting-at-the-ring lunches with up to 1100 participants. The festival square has carousels, stalls with the famous tilting-at-the-ring sausages and beer tents.
A guided tour on Tilting-at-the-Ring
Friday and Sunday in the weekend of the Tilting Festival in Sønderborg you can join our popular guide tour "Combined Town and Tilting Festival tour" in German/Danish.
On Tuesdays during high season, you can experience a bit of the tournament from the Middle Ages on the historic tilting-at-the-ring track at Sønderborg Castle. Here the riders compete while wearing real Middle Ages costumes.