For 38 days last fall, 2001 World Champion Steer Wrestler Rope Myers was unreachable. Rumors circulated, friends wondered and his children were asked by classmates if he’d been thrown in jail.
|Full Metal Jousting features competitors aiming 11-foot, solid-wood lances at their opponents. Putting the lances accurately on target proved to be one of the most difficult challenges for the contestants, according to ProRodeo cowboys Rope Myers and Nathan Klassen. Photos courtesy of HISTORY/Zach Dilgard. |
Truth is he was just off filming a new show – Full Metal Jousting – for the HISTORY channel. The show pits 16 competitors in an event many have seen at renaissance fairs and dials up the intensity several notches. While filming took place in October and November outside Jackson, Miss., the weekly one-hour show will finally hit the airwaves beginning on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 10 p.m. eastern time.
“Hosted by renowned jouster Shane Adams, the 10-part series features full-contact jousts with competitors going head-to-head on horseback in brutal tests of strength, endurance and courage,” according to a HISTORY press release. “High-speed cameras capture every punishing blow as jousters charge and collide at 30 miles per hour. The last man standing takes home a $100,000 cash prize.”
A bulldogger – and occasional tie-down roper – Myers knows a thing or two about horses running 30 miles per hour. However, he was used to bailing off them, not hanging on while someone aimed an 11-foot, wooden lance at his chest.
“There were a couple of times when I wondered what I’d signed up for,” said the 42-year-old cowboy from Van, Texas. “I got to looking at some jousting competitions on the Internet and it looked pretty intense. You really have to prepare in your mind for that first blow to the chest. Even then, there’s nothing like taking that first blow to make you realize the intensity of the sport.”
Myers was joined on the cast by PRCA bull rider Nathan Klassen of Oklahoma, who was motivated by the final prize.
“I saw an ad for it on the ProRodeo website and it said the winner would get $100,000. I thought, ‘I sure could use $100,000.’ So, I sent in the application and went from there.”
The sixteen contestants lived and trained together with coaches who have competed at the upper levels of the sport. A few of the contestants had participated in jousting in choreographed routines at renaissance fairs or dinner theaters, but none had previously competed in jousting as a sport.
“Every contestant there came in with some advantage, some little thing they did better than everyone else,” Myers said. “While some guys had done jousting in those other venues, no one there had competed for their livelihood before like I have. I think that was my advantage. From my days of competing in rodeo, I know what it’s like to have your income riding on whether you win or lose.”
Winning or losing wasn’t the cowboys’ main concern in the early days of training, however.
“What surprised me the most was how difficult it was to hit a moving target with the lance,” Klassen said. “I really thought it would be easier.”
Myers agreed, adding that not only was the target moving, but it was several feet to one side.
“That made it very difficult to track the lance,” he said. “After some practice, we got to a point where we were able to do it at a pretty high level. I think anyone who is familiar with jousting at fairs and dinner shows, will be surprised at how intense these competitions were. The jousting we were doing was just on a whole different level than those exhibitions.”
For Myers, the toughest part was just leaving his wife, Candice, and four children at home alone for more than a month.
“I didn’t really have any contact with them while I was there, so that was difficult,” he said. “It was so much more difficult on my wife, because she had to take care of everything around the house and with the kids for that time.”
Of course, it was Candice who first saw the casting call for the show and encouraged her husband to apply.
“She made her bed, so she had to lay in it,” Myers said jokingly.
Klassen, 34, said his wife, Jessica, was on board with the show, but he got the expected eye rolls from his mother.
“She thought riding bulls was bad enough, and then I decided to try jousting, too,” said Klassen, who’s earned $81,000-plus since joining ProRodeo in 2001. He’s spent much of his time in the past five years training horses and Jessica runs barrels. “Once I went through the casting call, I think my whole family was pretty supportive.”
While Myers and Klassen don’t share much in common when it comes to their rodeo careers, they each appreciated having the other around during filming.
“It was a big help to have someone there who had a similar background,” Klassen said. “We competed on opposite ends of the arena and he’s won a world title, but we were both rodeo cowboys. It was nice to have something like that in common with someone else on the show.”
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