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Top Gymkhana Tips

August 22, 2012

Children compete in a ‘ride and lead’ gymkhana race. Photo c Bob Embleton

Danielle is a freelance BHSAI (Reg’d) instructor. Here’s what she has to say:
“I did gymkhanas as a child and loved them – then I moved on to show jumping. It was all that I was interested in until I bought a horse that I couldn’t control. He was a fantastic hunter who flew over everything but I had no brakes . I started having a few dressage lessons and then I was hooked! I have taught at Peak Pony Club for about 14 years and teach dressage, XC and SJ. I also do the gymkhana training for the club. Mostly we do fun games and encourage all members with suitably sized ponies to take part. Everyone has fun but we encourage the members to be competitive. We like healthy competition and a bit of rivalry between teams.”
Danielle’s top tips:
  1. Learn to get on and off your pony from both sides – this saves valuable seconds in a competition, and dismounting on the wrong side is harder than it looks!
  2. If possible, learn to vault on. Have someone hold your pony’s head the first time you try this.
  3. Get your horse/pony used to the equipment. You don’t need to invest in lots of expensive equipment, but practising with bending poles and cones will really pay off.
  4. Teach your horse/pony to stand still whilst a pony comes towards them. This is crucial for when one team member completes their go and rides back towards another with a baton or piece of equipment. The pony waiting to go mustn’t be scared of the other pony nor be aggressive. Stand your pony at a starting line. Then have someone ride towards you and then past you to familiarise your pony.
  5. Practise skimming bending poles, keeping as close as possible to the pole instead of making big, time-wasting movements.
  6. During a relay race, hold the baton at the bottom with the other end firmly pointing upwards or out to the side so the other team member can grab it easily.
  7. Learn to neck rein and ride/steer with reins in one hand. If neck reining, have your hands further up the pony’s neck than normal.
  8. Practise!
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