Are you hoping to re-live your Pony Club days and participate in some fun gymkhana games? Equo’s essential guide outlines the gymkhana basics…

A gymkhana is an equestrian event that involves racing other competitors during a variety of different timed games. Gymkhana events are usually good fun for both horse and rider and help to improve the combination’s control, agility and fitness.

During gymkhana games, riders will concentrate on improving their speed, stopping ability, turns, mounting and dismounting at speed and picking up objects while mounted.

Gymkhana events, also known as mounted games, are often associated with children and organisations such as the Pony Club, as they encourage group involvement and participation. The Pony Club holds mounted games across the United Kingdom, and riders may even qualify to compete at big equestrian events such as the Horse of the Year Show.

A good example of a typical gymkhana game is the ‘flag race’, which involves cantering up a straight line, picking up a flag as you pass it, repositioning the flag in a different location, turning around and catering back as fast as you can. Another well-known race is the ‘bending race’, which involves weaving in and out of poles as fast as you can. The ‘walk, trot, canter’ race is also a popular game, whereby competitors walk to one end of the arena, turn around and trot back, before turning around and cantering to the finish line. These races have been designed to exemplify a rider’s precision, control and in some cases teamwork at a fast pace.

A variety of other props are involved in gymkhana races. These include cones (typically set up in a line, about eight metres apart, so competitors can bend between them), thin poles (again, these can be used for bending races, or flags can be attached to an end for flag races), a sack (competitors canter up the arena, dismount, get into a sack and race back to the finish line), plastic cups (these can be balanced on top of cones and moved along as riders canter past) and buckets (a handy alternative to a mounting block!).

When participating in gymkhana games it is important that riders compete in a big enough arena, in order to allow adequate room to turn, dismount and canter safely alongside other competitors. It is also important that horses and ponies alike are comfortable with the equipment used, especially if it needs to be picked up.

Looking for upcoming competitions? Search events near you.