Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gymkhana a History of a Popular Equestrian Sport

Gymkhana is the action packed, precision sport of the equestrian world that is one of the most exciting family oriented equestrian sports in the world. Gymkhana classes are timed speed events such as Barrel racing, Keyhole, Figure 8, keg race (also known as "down and back"), flag race and Pole bending.

Gymkhana has many interesting meanings.

To start, the word is derived from the Hindi and Urdu word for "racket" court. Gymkhana is also an Indian term which originally referred to a place where sporting events took place. This meaning then altered to denote a place where skill-based contests were held, such as in the sports of equestrian, gymnastics, and sports car racing. In India, the term gymkhana is commonly used to refer to a gymnasium.

In the United Kingdom, the term gymkhana now almost always refers to a multi-game equestrian event performed to display the training and talents of horses and their riders. Often the emphasis is on children's participation.

Gymkhana for the equestrian had its beginning with the English military. During the Colonial period, the English military used horses for both transportation and military maneuvers. On Sunday afternoons, the Calvary would compete in horseback games to sharpen their horsemanship for war. Through the years different events have been added, some of which originated in Europe and others which were developed in this country. Ring Spearing, an event that is still part of Gymkhana in some areas, resembles the knight in medieval days riding full charge with his lance aimed at his enemy. The British Bengal Lancer engaged in Tent-Pegging, using his lance to unearth the tent pegs of the enemy, bringing down the tent on his adversaries. Pole Bending can easily be seen as good training for a Calvary charge through dense forest. The Rescue Race and Cowhide Race were originated by the Native American Indians as a way to rescue their comrades in battle. Similarly, the Speedball Race may have derived from the Native American Indians counting "coup" in which they would touch their enemies without harming them. The Pony Express Race, of course, simulates the old time Pony Express rider who delivered the mail between St. Louis and Sacramento in the Old West.

Below is a list of just some of the events you might find in a modern day Gymkhana.

Bending Poles are one of the most common races today. A line of about four or five poles is set up, and the horse and riders have to weave in and out of them as fast as they can, turn round the last one, and bend back to the finish line. This can be played in teams as a relay race and the first team all home wins. If they miss bending round a pole they have to go back and do it again, the only penalty they incur is wasting time. This teaches the pupil to control his mount, as well as turning.

The Egg and Spoon race is another favorite. The participants each get an egg on a spoon and have to go from the start to the other end (usually around the last bending pole), and back as fast as they can without dropping the egg. It is often played with potatoes instead as they don't break when landing on the floor, but beware of horses that eat anything. This is a wonderful event for teaching beginners to sit quietly on horseback and though the pony may be moving their seat moves fluidly with that of the horse. It is also an ideal exercise for riders with a 'hot seat' as they learn to sit still.

A favorite among pony clubbers is the Pairs race. One rider starts on the pony, goes as fast as they can to the other side, where a partner waits. They then help the partner mount and get back to the finish line as fast as possible. A variation of this is to have one start the race, dismount at the other end, and the partner has to mount and race back with no help from the dismounted rider. This is often a difficult thing to do on an excited pony, and can be especially fun when the game is played bareback. They will learn how to mount and dismount as well as how to work as a team.

The Sack Race is played the following way: they all line up at the start, and gallop to the opposite side where sacks are waiting for them. They dismount, jump into the sacks and hop back to the finish line. The first one home wins, and surprisingly this race is often the longest as ponies play up because the person leading them is jumping up and down and unsettling them.

                                                                    Gymkhana pattern

In recent years Gymkhana has been steadily gaining in popularity. New events have been designed for competition between riders which bring into play the abilities of the rider and the speed and handiness of the horse. A good Gymkhana horse must have the speed of a race horse, the turning quickness and agility of a cutting horse and the control and responsiveness of the stock horse. In general, control of the horse and of oneself in the saddle is an added benefit of learning to play these games.

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