Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gymkhana horses

Yesterday afternoon I went a gymkhana sponsored by the Aurora Horsemen's Association. I hadn't been to a gymkhana in decades and didn't really know what to expect. However, with a class list filled with things like barrel racing, flag racing and poles, I thought I'd see a lot of horses dressed more or less like this guy. Note the barrel type saddle with over n under whip hanging from the horn, breastcollar and boots on all four legs.
His bridle has a curb bit and colorful roping reins. He is also wearing a noseband and tiedown.
I also expected to see some sliding mouth Western gags.
There were a few of those, but not too many.
This was the only mechanical hackamore on the showgrounds.
Although many of the horses wore curb bits,
there were at least as many in snaffles.
Most of the horses with snaffles also had running martingales like the paint mare below.
Some of the bridles were pretty inconspicuous.
Others were covered with bling!
This little grey pony wore an English bridle.
Most of the competitors used roping reins. However not all roping reins are created equal. Some were very short. Others went to the other extreme.
I was surprised at how many riders were using split reins.
Another one.
And one more.
This saddlebred looking horse competed in the barrel class with romal reins. I'm pretty sure if you did this at a model horse show the tack police would want to see your entry disqualified. I can't tell you how many times I've heard model people say that you must use roping reins in barrels/poles/gaming classes. Well, it's just not so. Although not a national level competition, this gymkhana was sponsored by a local association and was part of a year long circuit. Realistically, it reflects the level of showing appropriate to many non-event specific models. Lots of horses wore something other than roping reins. As far as I could tell, it had no effect on either placing or performance.
In fact, as I perused the official event rules, there was very little mention of tack and all of that was in regards to the showring classes rather than the gymkhana division. There were two regulations in regards to rider clothing. That was that all riders must wear boots with heels and straps on tank tops had to be at least two inches wide. That's it.
I was surprised that junior riders were not required to wear a helmet. Most of them did anyway as did a few of the adults.
Lots of the riders used barrel type saddles like this one.
However, there were also a lot of general purpose, working type saddles.
Another one.
Kiddy saddle with hooded stirrups. Note also that this horse is barelegged. A lot of them were.
So, that's the gymkhana tack report--it's definitely a mixed bag with no one right or wrong look. My own gymkhana models will continue to be dressed like the horse in the first picture. That's a classic gaming look, and it's what most model judges expect to see. However, I do hope that people realize that it's not the only acceptable look, particularly if your model is described as competing on the local level. Split reins, bare legs and working type saddles shouldn't be cause for disqualification.

More gymkhana pictures to follow!


  1. Great photos Jennifer! :D

    I just wanted to add quickly, that gymkhana horses do not even have to be western styled! I am trying to bring a little more awareness through my show entries that here in Australia, pretty much all Gymkhana's are run through pony club and 99% of horses will be kitted out in full English attire. You are not allowed to change tack during the day (as it is checked in the morning) so you have to do everything from games as you have been saying here, to showjumping + dressage/hacking (in the form of a best rider class)

    Here is a photo of me and my horse Frosty competing in the barrel race at a gymkhana. I am using an all purpose synthetic english saddle, and leather bridle (snaffle bit and hanoverian noseband) and front splint boots.

    And here is Shamrock, my gymkhana pony, and unfortuantely I don't have a photo of him doing any of the games, this showjumping event is part of the gymkhana here in Australia.
    Quite a lot of effort is put into making the horses and ponies look their best, as there is a best presented award at the start of the day for each age group.
    Hooves blacked, mane and tail braided, he also competed for 4 years and I never used boots or shoes on this pony either.

    Sorry to go off track a little, but just wanted to point out - that if you have some english tack, some imagination and some time to show judges the documentation to prove it -> you can definately show your models in gymkhana classes in full english attire!

    -- Elise

  2. This is another great blog, Jennifer. I wish more performance judges would visit it - it's still so frustrating to hear judges saying things like "you would NEVER see that" regarding tack for various classes. Never say never!

  3. Thanks, ladies! Elise, I couldn't get your links to work, but I would love to see your pictures. If you ever want to write a guest post (or posts!) about Australian competition, I would *love* to feature it here. The hobby is international but it does often seem that everyone is expected to abide by American rules...

    Erin, I am so glad you get where I coming from. I hate, hate, hate to see an otherwise excellent entry penalized for a perceived tack error that isn't really an error! I have my own theories on why this is so prevalent in the hobby, but it seems obvious to me that education is the best cure. I'm all about using this platform to bust as many myths as I can, and I'm just glad that some people actually bother to read the things I write!

  4. I would be honored to write any articles on the australian equestrian scene, as quite a bit of it is rather different in the way of how the events are run, and the required tack.

    I don't expect everyone to adopt the rules that we use, but maybe it could help bring some awareness that although we do some things differently, that doesn't make them wrong!

    -- Elise

  5. LOL. I just saw this page and was interested in the gymkana information. I only have a dressage saddle...saving for a trail saddle. What do you think the Kit Carson Riding Club people will think of me riding the keyhole or other slower games in the dressage saddle??? Oh my goodness!!

  6. Did I pass the test?? :) The first two pics of the Sorrel gelding is my boy Luke and I. Good eye on our tack! Circle y barrel saddle/impact gel pad and I used a broken mouth gag on him. I don't use tie downs anymore but kept that for sentimental reasons. Luke is now 20, I believe he was 16/17 in that picture. He is registered Appaloosa. :) I sure do love him! I stumbled across your blog looking at bits. Come out and do some speed events sometime! :)