Gymkhana brings horses and riders out for competition

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Sterling - posted Tue., Aug. 16, 2011
Practice allows horses and riders to get comfortable before their timed events.  Photos by D. Coffey.
Practice allows horses and riders to get comfortable before their timed events. Photos by D. Coffey.

Kurt and Aryes Clague backed their horse trailer close to the practice arena at the QuarterH Farm in Sterling for the gymkhana on Aug. 13. The timed horse competition was a family affair for the couple. Their 3-year-old, Elijah, rode Copper, a mini pony that stood 30 inches high. Aryes rode Throttle, and Kurt rode a 2-year-old stallion by the name of Burn. Sister-in-law Christa Kenney rode Andy, and her daughter, Jamie, rode Trigger, a 10-hand-high pony. The littlest Clague was corralled in a playpen of his own beside the trailer, where an adult could keep a close eye on him.

The Clagues and 30 other riders registered for the day-long event that was open to riders of all ages and skill levels. Riders could chose to compete in the open, novice, youth and walk/trot divisions. The timed events included barrel and pole racing, a mystery trail timed event and a mystery speed timed event.

Barbara Hubbard was there with her American quarter horse, Pepper. Hubbard has been riding for 30 years, but Saturday's competition was her first gymkhana. Like any athlete, she wanted to raise the bar and compete.

Jeremy Reid rode his Appaloosa, Jamie. They've been riding for five years, competing in gymkhanas for the last three.

Lisa Herman, who owns the QuarterH Farm with her husband, Brad, ran the event. She said the important thing was for riders to have fun with their horses. “It doesn't matter what you look like,” she said. “It doesn't matter if you ride Eastern or Western. There's no pressure.”

“Gymkhana encompasses many things that better your horsemanship,” Brad Herman said. It requires coordination, dexterity and versatility, he said. Rider and horse have to get along. Control and trust go hand-in-hand.

The mystery trail event required horse and rider to go through a cowboy curtain made out of a blue tarp torn into strips. Left- and right-hand turns, moving around barrels, zig-zagging through poles, some jumps (depending on class) and walking over a blue tarp laying flat on the ground were all elements of the timed event.

Quite a few horses balked at the cowboy curtain. Some riders had to lean in and push the curtain aside so the horse could see through it. As one novice struggled to get her horse through, Herman called out, “Squeeze that horse.” The horse obliged, none the worse for the wear.

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