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Originally developed to improve riding skills in a manège, horseball was dreamed up 20 years ago by a French rugby-playing riding instructor, and caught on in England in the 1990s.

Teams of four play two 10min chukkas, aiming to make three consecutive passes using a football-sized ball with leather handles, before shooting it through a hoop.

Players retrieve a dropped ball using the precarious-looking technique of sliding from the saddle and scooping it up by hand, helped by a strap connecting the stirrups.

The game is played in an indoor or outdoor manège the size of an international dressage arena, key elements being accurate rugby-style passing, good tackling, team tactics and athleticism. Although the sport played by equal numbers of men and women, the physical demands mean that men dominate at international level.

Horseball Fact File
  • Selling point: one of the few sports where a rider can represent his country without spending megabucks
  • Where: across England
  • When: April to October, training days held all year round
  • Entry: normally £27.50 per tournament
  • Participants 2002/2000 season: 350/150
  • Current age range: 8-54
  • Extra gear required: standing martingale (£18), four overreach boots (£9), four bandages (£15-20), stirrup strap (£15-£35)
  • Restrictions: junior league players (16 and under) must ride ponies less than 148cm, open league mounts (any aged player) must stand more than 148cm
  • Where in the world: France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, UK
  • Future prospects: many more “have a go” days are planned, as well as better opportunities for non-league matches

Contact: Jim Copeland (tel: 020 8441 1799) or visit www.horseball.org.uk