The World’s 10 Most Unusual Horse Sports

With the long summer months pretty much upon us, we all want to get outdoors and spend as much time with our horses as we can. While long rides are great fun but if you’re always doing the same thing it can get pretty boring, for both you and your horse. You could give an equestrian activity such as reigning, show jumping or polo a go but what about trying something far more unusual instead?

I thought it might be fun to put together a list of some of the more unusual things you and your horse can do together. While you may have heard of some of these sports I bet there’s one or two that you’ve never heard of before! You’ll also find some very old favorites too.

Horseboarding

No that’s not a typo I really did say horseboarding!! Starting back in 2004 this relatively new extreme sport which involves a horse and rider towing a board rider on a mountainboard has now become popular across the globe. It’s a multi-discipline sport that requires complete control of both riders who are in constant communication with each other. The horse rider needs to keep the correct position as well as speed and the board rider needs to keep their board stable while adapting to the speed and changing direction of the horse and rider. Horseboarding is also very popular as a competitive sport where rider and boarder can take part in Horseboarding Drag Race and or Arena Horse Boarding competitions, both disciplines award the fastest time and highest speed competitors.

  • Horseboarding Drag Race – This is a head to head event where teams compete in heats that are run over a 100 meter drag strip. Two teams compete in each event with the winner going through to the next heat. Eventually, a knockout stage will decide the overall winner.
  • Arena Horse Boarding – Competing against the clock, each team has to navigate their way around a twisting course making sure they avoid a series of obstacles (known as gates).

If you live near a beach you might be interested to know that an earlier inception of horseboarding involved a surfboard instead of a mountainboard.

Interested in horseboarding you can find everything you need to know on the official website.


Horse agility

I bet you’ve all heard of dog agility but, be honest, how many of you have heard of horse agility? That’s what I thought, not many, and when you consider that the sport was started back in 2009 that’s not really a surprise. There’s not a huge amount of difference between dog and horse agility except scale!

One of the great things about horse agility is that you don’t need to travel anywhere to compete, all you need is a horse, a long lead line and a yard. Yes, you can attend events organized by the International Horse Agility Club (IHAC) but there are also Online Horse Agility events where you build the course (the plans are published on the IHAC website) then film yourself negotiating it before submitting it online. With the youngest competitor being only 4 and the oldest being in their 70s, horse agility is most definitely for everybody. It’s also perfect for strengthening the relationship between you and your horse.

Horse agility is open to everybody regardless of where you live or how old you are so what are you waiting for, check out the IHAC website for details on how to get started.

Horse Agility is for everyone, especially horses!

Vanessa Bee, Founder Horse Agility and The Horse Agility Club

Jousting

Tournament of St George © 2019 Andrew Boykov

Once the sport of choice of medieval knights across Europe jousting has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years and now even has its own world championships. It’s actually changed very little from the sport it was in its heyday, riders still wear medieval armor and the lances, which are made of solid pine, are 3.6 meters and have a steel spear tip.

Two riders will compete by riding towards each other and striking each other anywhere from the bottom of the shield to the top of the helmet. They’re separated by a divider, called a tilt, that is designed to protect the horses from being hit and with a closing speed of 40kph (25mph), it’s easy to see why it’s needed.

To find out more check out the World Jousting Championships’ website.


Mounted archery 

While we’re still on the subject of medieval horse ‘sports’ why not try your hand at mounted archery. In medieval times it wasn’t so much of a sport but more of a way of life, either in battle or for hunting for food. After the development of machinery it died out, that is until the Mongolians revived it purely as a sport after their independence from China in 1911.

These days mounted archery is purely a sport and is growing in popularity, especially in America and Europe where competitors are trying to have it included in the Olympic Games. Being run over a 99 meter course with a single moving target it’s a real test of skill as the rider has to, not only complete the course in 20 seconds or less but they also do it while steering their horse with their legs. Points are not only awarded for speed but also how accurately they hit the target.

If you want to find out more about mounted archery why not check out the association’s website?


Ride and Tie

2000 Big Springs RnT Archives © 2019 Ride and Tie Association archives

A highly popular endurance sport, ride and tie was created in the US in 1971 by Bud Johns who was the public relations director at Levi Strauss & Co. at the time. Levi’s wanted a rugged sport to promote a new line of outdoor clothing. Bud, a keen historian, remembered reading a historical record of the sport and thought it would be perfect for Levi’s. He organized the first event the same year and the sport has grown from there with many countries holding their own events.

Ride and tie involves a team of two riders and one horse. Both set out at the same time with the rider deciding when to tie the horse up and then carry on with the race on foot. When the first runner reaches the horse they then ride the next section of the race, again they’ll decide when to tie the horse up for the first rider to continue on horseback again. The horse must be tied up at least six times and will also have to pass vet checks along the course. The course can be any distance from 32km (20miles) to 160km (100miles) but is generally 32 to 64km (20 to 40 miles) and will have between 10 and 50 teams.

You can find out more about ride and tie from the Ride & Tie Association.

Ride & Tie combines the grit and determination of ultrarunning with the challenge and excitement of endurance riding, all in one sport.  When it all comes together, and you have run your best race, and the two humans and their equine partner all cross the finish line in good shape, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. Placing is less important in this sport than just having everything go well. Competitors of all ages from 8 to 80 have discovered the exhilaration of ride & tie. It changed my life when I discovered it over 30 years ago. Give it a try!

Annette Parsons Ride & Tie Association

Tent Pegging

© 2019 USTPF

Believed to originate from the days of Alexander the Great, tent pegging has never really gone out of fashion and is more popular now than it’s ever been. International Championships take part every year where competitors from across the globe come together to compete.

Sometimes called Skill at Arms it was originally developed as a training technique for mounted soldiers to hone their battle skills and accuracy and hasn’t changed much since its inception. The objective is for the rider to use a sword to pick up small pegs (with loops attached tot he top of them) from the ground as they ride past at speed. Riders can also use a lance to pick up rings at head height.

Any horse can take part in tent pegging but they do need to be able to gallop in a straight line. In America, the Quarter Horse and Arab are the most popular breeds while other countries favor breeds with a good mix of Thoroughbred and Arab blood.

If you interested in find out more about tent pegging check out the United States Tent Pegging Federation’s website for all the information you’ll need.


Equicaching

With handheld GPS devices being relatively affordable and easy to buy these days new sports such as equicaching (or geocaching on horseback as it’s also known as) have emerged. Still in its infancy there’s no association or regulatory body for it yet but there are plenty of organized events around the world, or if you’d prefer you can organize one with a few friends.

The idea behind it is simple, it’s a treasure hunt on horseback – now what could be more fun than that! Much the same as geocaching, somebody will hide some ‘treasure’ (known as cache) and then, in most cases post the coordinates online. The treasure hunters will then use their GPS devices to follow the coordinates to the cache. Once you’ve found it there should be, along with a logbook, a small item or two of ‘treasure’. You don’t have to but it’s generally understood that you’ll write in the logbook to record that you’ve been there. The etiquette of geocaching and equicaching is that if you take an item that’s been left you should replace it with something else for the next person – it doesn’t need to be much, even a little bit of braided hair from your horse’s tail is good.

Equicaching is a great way to explore new locations and enjoy long rides with like-minded people. Some organized events will have races where teams will compete to see who can find the cache first.

While there’s no association dedicated to equicaching it’s an extension of geocaching which has an official website with over two million cache sites around the globe.


Horseball

You may have heard of horseball and think of it as a modern sport but you’d be very wrong, like so many other equine sports horseball is much older than you might realize, having been played around the world for centuries, albeit under different names. In Asia, it’s called Buzkashi which means goat pulling (even today they use the carcass of a goat) while in South America it’s known as Pato which means duck (although they now use a ball with handles it was originally played with a live duck).

A cross between polo, rugby, basketball and Quidditch (okay maybe not but if Quidditch was a real sport it would be), horseball is played with two teams of four riders and two substitutes. The aim is to score a goal by passing the ball to at least three different riders before throwing the ball through a vertical hoop. No rider is allowed to hold the ball for more than ten seconds and if it’s dropped then the rider isn’t allowed to dismount in order to pick it up.

It’s an extremely fast-paced sport that has been called Quidditch on horseback, if you’d like to know more about it then the Fédération Internationale de Horseball, the international governing body for the sport, will be able to help you.


Le TREC

© 2019 TREC USA

If you like riding in the open countryside, orienteering and obstacle courses you’ll love Le TREC, or Le Techniques de Randonnée Équestre de Compétition (which translates to mean Equestrian Competition Hiking Techniques). Originating in France towards the end of the last century it was designed to test equestrian trail guides. It’s now become a very popular sport in its own right that tests the horse’s obedience as well as how well he’s been trained along with the navigation and riding abilities of the rider.

Held over three phases or stages that each requiring different abilities, the overall goal is to establish a horse that is obedient, well-rounded and capable of dealing with anything a trail can through at them.

  • Phase 1 – Parcours d’Orientation et de Régularité – Known as POR, this phase (which can cover anything from 12km/7 miles to 45km/28 miles) is designed to test the riders orienteering skills. Regular checkpoints either require the horse to be checked by a vet or the rider to check in. Points are lost for things like missing checkpoints, veering off the course or losing your record card. 
  • Phase 2 – Maîtrise des Allures or Control of Paces (or CoP) – This phase is more challenging than you might think, a 150m/165 yard by 2m / 2 yard lane is marked out on the ground and the rider has to gallop up in a straight line then walk back. They’re judged for the controlled nature of the gallop and smartness of the walk and can lose points for not maintaining a straight line.
  • Phase 3 – Parcours en Terrain Varie (or PTV) – A course with up to sixteen obstacles that all need to be completed within a set period of time. Each obstacle is worth a maximum of ten points and you’ll lose points if you’re too fast, or your horse misbehaves. The obstacles are a mixture of jumps and tests such as trailer loading, opening and closing gates, etc.

Le TREC is growing in popularity and many countries now have their own competitions. If you want to know more about the sport then check out the TREC USA website.


Polocrosse

As you’d expect from its name polocrosse combines polo and lacrosse. It began as a training activity for riders who weren’t yet old enough to play polo as well as a way to build team spirit during practice. Riders aren’t allowed to hit the ball but instead use long lacrosse poles to pass it to other riders on their team. 

Each team is only allowed three riders on the field per chukka and they’re not permitted to change horses at all. A chukka lasts six minutes and a match will have either 6 or 8 of them.

Since it began back in the 1930s polocrosse has gone from strength to strength with many countries now holding their own competitions. If you want to find an event near you or are looking for a club to join then you should check out the International Polocrosse Council’s website.


Conclusion 

Next time you’re stuck for something to do with your horse why not try one of these fun sports. If there’s an unusual sport that you think I should have included please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Recommended products 

Over the years I use have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recent Posts