Career

Northland's jousting grandma in shining armour

'Lady Victoria' recently represented New Zealand at a jousting tournament in Australia.

By Julie Jacobsen

Northland's Vikki Subritzky (56) is a grandma - and a jousting star

I’ve always been mad about horses. I got my first horse when I was seven. I remember hearing the stock truck drive up one night and unload her. I named her Girlie and spent a week riding her before my mother informed me that the truck had picked up the wrong horse and another truck was coming with the right one.

I was heartbroken. When the other horse arrived, you couldn’t get near him. He was a big, wild-eyed bay and didn’t last long.

Years later, after I separated from my husband – he was one of those men who thought women should stay at home, look after the kids and support her husband – I realised I could do anything I wanted to do, so I did. I made a decision to do cool stuff and at the same time challenge myself.

I had been studying theatre when I saw the local museum was planning a medieval market day. I thought it might be fun to do some jousting, so I rang and asked if they’d be interested, and they said they would. Another local guy and I borrowed some armour, did a bit of training and the museum had their biggest turnout ever.

I immersed myself in it for about four years. I trained with a group down in Wellington, sometimes travelling with my horses, at other times just flying down, but I’m not a real medieval buff like some people.

My jousting name is Lady Victoria, but I get called a ‘KnightMare’ and the Auckland lot call me the ‘Wild Woman of the North’. My kids’ friends call me the ‘Vikkinator’.

All up, my armour probably weighs about 30kg. I bought some of it second-hand and made some of the soft kit pieces, like the heavy jacket that I wear under it. It’s a 14th-century replica, so it’s not the ‘real’ full plate, shiny jousting armour. That costs something like $20,000 and is way over my budget!

Because I spend most of my jousting time in male costume, I’ve bought myself a nice medieval dress. It’s a pretty, girlie thing I can wear when I’m not on the horse.

Jousting is scary fun. I once made the mistake of looking at someone’s lance coming towards me and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ You have to be extremely focused. You have to ride your horse while you’re also carrying a lance and trying to hit someone who’s trying to hit you, and a shield.

Vikki also runs a farm stay from her small equestrian centre at Pataua, near Whangarei.
Vikki also runs a farm stay from her small equestrian centre at Pataua, near Whangarei.

My favourite shield is one that depicts two stars and a crescent moon – to look like a happy face – with my motto ‘Ancora amparo’, which means I am still learning.

Holding the lance can be tiring, especially if it’s windy, but if I have a tournament coming up, I’ll just go and shovel metal or find some manual labouring jobs around the farm to do as part of my training.

You don’t need a fast horse, but you do need a brave horse. I do things like mustering stock and cross-country jumping with my horses as well because a horse that knows how to deal with cattle charging at it will be able to deal with someone in armour clanging towards it with a big stick.

I’ve never been badly injured – just bruises and strains – and I don’t think I’ve inflicted anything more than the odd bruise. Sometimes, I’ll be jousting against guys on big horses who are twice my size and weight; they don’t give us women any quarter. They hit us as hard as they hit each other. With a bit of luck, I’ve got better riding skills than them.

I got into stunt riding a while ago as well, training in Roman riding – where you stand on two horses and run with them. It’s not easy.

I would train and then come home and think, ‘Oh, I can’t do it.’ That went on for a while, then one day I had a light-bulb moment and I said to myself I could do it... and that was a turning point. After that, it all came together.

At the moment, I have 10 horses on the farm, which has been developed along sustainable living lines, plus a small herd of cattle.

I often have Wwoofers (willing workers on organic farms) staying to help out with chores and we’ve got bunkhouse holiday accommodation for people who want to spend time with the farm animals, milk the house cow or goat, and have riding lessons or do treks.

What do the kids think of their mum and her exploits? They think it’s great that I’m following my dreams.”

Quick fire
Who would you most like to be marooned on a desert island with? Captain Jack Sparrow.

The song that makes you cry? Honey by Bobby Goldsboro – it makes me think of my grandma.

My favourite way to relax is… Sleeping.

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