Hall of Fame Trainer
Racing

What is Gymkhana?

A good definition of Gymkhana would be precision, obstacle horse racing. The ideal Gymkhana horse has the speed of a race horse, the turning quickness and agility of a cutting horse and the control and responsiveness of the stock horse. However, any horse that is willing to listen and respond to its rider can learn Gymkhana and win. Its all about responsiveness and whether to walk, trot, or run, stop, turn, side pass, jump, or wait. It's a safe, fun way to learn how to ride a horse.

The word Gymkhana is thought to have originated in India, likely meaning games on horseback. The English military, during the Colonial period used horses for both transportation and military maneuvers. On Sunday afternoons the Calvary would compete in horseback games to sharpen their horsemanship.

Speedball 1991 Show

That's how Gymkhana began.

Through the years different events, some of which originated in Europe, have been added and others were developed in this country. Ring Spearing, an event that is still part of Gymkhana in some areas resembles the medieval knight 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, to bring 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 originated with the Native American Indians as a way to rescue their comrades in battle. Similarly, the Speedball Race may have been derived from the Native American Indians counting 'coup', during which they would touch their enemies without harming them.

Kelly Adams Polebending

The Pony Express Race, of course, emulates the old time Pony Express rider who delivered the mail between St. Louis and Sacramento in the Old West. In recent years, Gymkhana has been steadily gaining in popularity. New events have been designed which bring into play the abilities of the rider and the speed and handiness of the horse.  A number of events such as Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and the Keyhole Race can be found at gymkhanas throughout the United States.

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