7 Reasons You And Your Horse Need To Try Mounted Games (Even If You’re An Adult)
Many of us adult amateur riders can’t help but long for the bygone days of Pony Club every time we see a Welsh cross go jogging by at the barn or at a horse show. You may not be able to turn back the clock, but you can still join in some of the fun by hooking up with your local mounted games club. Why should you dabble in a completely foreign discipline? We’re glad you asked.
- Adults welcome Mounted games are not just “kid stuff.” Most local competitions have adult divisions too, and there’s no need to have participated in mounted games before.
- Tall horse? No problem It’s also a myth that you have to have a 13-hand Shetland to be able to enjoy yourself. Although it does help to have a lower center of gravity, the beginner divisions designed for adults don’t require you to pick items up of the ground or do those running dismounts/remounts you may have seen younger riders doing.
- Come as you are There’s no special tack or equipment required to compete in mounted games. Many people ride in English saddles, but there are usually a few sets of Western or trail tack in the group, too. If you want to practice at home, you can usually set up the obstacles with items you have on hand, especially if you have a few traffic cones lying around.
- Color coordinate! Of course, if you’re looking for an excuse to buy new tack, mounted games are an opportunity to have some fun with color. Many teams dress up their bridles, breastcollars, reins, saddle pads, polos, and anything else you can think of with their favorite color combination.
- It’s cheaper than a clinic Horses participating in the games have to get used to a lot of weird stuff going on around them. You have the chance to teach them to let you carry small flags, ride them around barrels, and even pop balloons within earshot. In many ways, it’s not that different from a desensitization clinic, at a lower price. And don’t worry—you can start slow and simple and work your way up if your horse needs some help adjusting.
- Cross training for your horse Even if mounted games aren’t the full-time gig for you and your horse, there are a lot of skills he will develop that cross over to other disciplines. Mounted games horses develop a keen sense of the rider’s weight and with some practice, become very good at moving “off the seat,” with slight signals from your legs and hands. Western riders find the games are a good chance to develop or brush up on the horse’s neck-reining. Also for Western riders, there are even elements of the games that may show up in a trail class like precisely-timed transitions and navigating around a small area or obstacle, similar to opening a gate.Regardless of what type of riding you do outside mounted games, horses learn a greater sense of “tuning in” to their riders, as many games require them to both trot or canter quickly and to stand perfectly still, depending upon the rider’s request. It’s like fine-tuning the “on/off” switch in the horse; many sports just ask them to be “on” as they move forward to jump or ride a pattern, but mounted games will remind them when to ‘turn it off,’ too.
- Work those muscles Mounted games are good for developing your mind and body, too. You’ll learn to be both physically flexible in the saddle and to be confident enough about your seat and balance to lean out of the tack. This is especially beneficial for beginning riders, who can learn to develop their balance even though they’re not n the midst of a lesson.
- Newfound bravery When it comes down to it, it’s pretty cool to be able to say you and your horse can weave in and out of barrels while carrying a fluttering flag. Conquering new territory can give you both a confidence boost.
- Team spirit! Mounted games are one of very few true team activities you can do on horseback, besides team penning. It’s fun to cheer your friends on at competition, but wouldn’t it be more fun face the challenge of the egg-and-spoon race together? It’s also a great chance to make new friends, if you’re looking to join a team.