Mounted games is probably not the first equestrian discipline that springs to mind when you think about horse sport, but its affiliated organisation (Mounted Games Association of Great Britain) is currently developing at a speed that the sport is struggling to keep up with. Chrissie Mayes finds out why
With a growth rate of approximately 20% each year, just what is it about mounted games that is attracting new members, and prevents old ones from moving on to pastures new? Why mounted games?
1. Double trust
The relationship between pony and rider is the most crucial aspect of games. It is not just about the rider trusting the pony to start, stop and turn quickly on command; the pony has to reciprocate the connection. Allowing a rider to vault on and off, and hang off their side at speed, requires massive trust from the pony.
Putting a sock in a bucket may seem on the surface a simple task, but to aim at speed, leap off mid-canter, lean down while your pony turns around you, vault without breaking pace, and hand over to your team mate in mid flow takes skills that can only be perfected with time and patience. Balance, hand-eye coordination, agility, timing, and the ability to read a situation, are just some of the myriad of skills required.
In the ring riders are highly competitive, but beyond the ropes there’s a strong camaraderie and sense of friendship. MGAGB may be growing, but it is still one big family, that welcomes newcomers with open arms. Riders compete hard, and definitely play hard too.
4. Team sport
Although other opportunities are on offer, such as pairs and individuals, for the majority of riders it is competing as a team with your friends and colleagues that gives that extra layer of pleasure. Every team member contributes to the success of the result, and everyone has an equally important role to play.
5. Competitive opportunities
Mounted games offers opportunities at all levels. If you want to ride for pleasure and fun, you are catered for. But for the more competitive riders, the call of international competitions including European and World Championships, drives riders to hone their skills to perfection for the satisfaction and pride of representing their countries.
The sport never stands still and riders love the constant moving challenges they face. Whether it is working with a new pony, or developing new skills, there is always something to learn.
7. Correct and move on
One mistake does not necessarily mean game over. Learning how to correct quickly can be the difference between winning and losing, and is yet another skill to add to the list. Drop a pole in jumping and you can’t go back and correct it; in games — you can.
Winning a race is all about crossing the line first, having completed all the obstacles appropriately. In this respect it is clear-cut, and does not rely on a subjective view. Although the rules may be black and white, there is always plenty of colour within the arena.
One emotion all riders share, regardless of level, is passion. This shines through the partnerships with ponies, relationships with other riders, and genuine love of the sport. Winning is the ultimate driving force, but not the whole picture.
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10. Exciting future
As the 20% growth rate demonstrates, the future is definitely rosy for mounted games. With a redefined league system, new international competitions and novices being catered for through high profile competitions, mounted games is moving forwards in leaps and bounds.