St Albans gymnasts sought to compete against Cossacks in trick riding contest
- Credit: Photo supplied
The acrobatic abilities of local gymnasts are being sought by a former circus performer for an international competition involving the famous Russian Cossacks.
Karl Greenwood, an ex-Verulam School student whose family hails from St Albans, runs The Centre of Horseback Combat at Gaddesden Estate in Herts with his wife Zana Cousins-Greenwood.
The couple teach trick riding and horseback archery.
They have just returned from Moscow after visiting the Cossacks in order to establish the UK as a competitor in an international trick riding competition.
Karl said: “They were amazed to find trick riding in the Cossack style here in the UK, and will be visiting to train together and to learn horseback archery here.
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“We learnt loads of course, but it was not entirely one way and we were pleased to teach a British trick or three to the Cossacks.”
Karl, 46, and Zana, 35, are trying to establish a British team from gymnasts and riders from St Albans and throughout the UK in time for the first international competition in July.
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Gymnasts from the district will be offered free training in the form of scholarships at Horseback Combat.
Karl said: “This is a not-for-profit endeavour, and we will be giving up our time and training venue for free to get this to exist.”
He is particularly keen to have gymnasts join the team, as it is easier to teach someone to ride than teach a rider how to perform tricks on horses.
Karl and Zana have extensive experience as the duo previously worked in a circus in Spain – Zana is a trained trapeze artist, fire eater and stilt walker, and they performed aerial acts together.
After returning to England, they appeared in medieval-style jousting competitions around the country, including at Warwick Castle.
Karl said: “Then we opened a school for trick riding, stunt riding and horse back archery as a sport. We are based on the Gaddesden Estate, which is a well-known film location, so they are happy for us to provide stunt horses for filming. We have had our school here for four years.”
He said the Cossacks “are the best in the world and are the most famous trick riding team. They were last in the UK at the Queen’s Jubilee.
“The sport itself is called Dzhigitovka (pronounced jiggy-toff-ka) and consists of traditional military exercises very similar to the British sport of tentpegging, where riders use swords, lances and revolvers, plus a trick riding section.
“Trick riding in Britain has always been an art/discipline/show and never - as yet - a sport like this.
“This opportunity is a world first in so many ways - the first ever International Equestrian Dzhigitovka Federation being formed, the first international competition, the first establishment of a British Dzhigitovka team, the first visit of the Russian Cossacks to learn horse archery.”
For more information on the British Dzhigitovka Association see https://www.facebook.com/bedtra/
To see more about the combat centre go to: