Everyone is familiar with popular speed events such as barrel racing and pole bending. Naturally, the winning models in those classes are usually in “fast” poses – think Stingray, Secretariat, American Pharoah, and the like. But what if you want to enter gymkhana with your pleasure-type model? Skill events are the answer!
There are many gymkhana events where skill trumps speed. Perhaps the most popular ones are Bareback Dollar Bill (AKA "Ride-a-Buck" or "Sit-a-Buck") and Egg ‘n' Spoon. Others include Musical Sacks, Tennis Racket, Balloon Bust, Ball or Ring Toss, Stepping Stones, Water Glass, and Australian Pursuit. Instead of “racing” to the end of the arena to complete a task, event organizers may specify a trot only. While the distinction between skill and speed games isn’t always clear-cut, if tasks are accurately completed, speed doesn’t matter. Such games are fun and accessible for all types of horses, ponies and longears, including pleasure mounts.
At play days or 4-H events, either English or Western riders may participate in these fun games. Riders may wear their show attire or appropriate plain schooling attire. Either show or gaming tack is allowed. Riders who focus on pleasure and equitation may not have separate gaming tack, as they only ride in fun games, not barrel racing or other speed events. Leg protection isn’t often seen on horses, as they don’t run or turn fast, although using leg protection is certainly acceptable.
In keeping with most model show rules, some type of prop is required with your entry. Therefore, games without props, such as Red Light/Green Light and Simon Says wouldn’t be good choices. For most of these events, props are minimal. We’ll explore five games here. Remember to include a description of the event along with your entry.
Events and Props
Taylor is keeping her dollar bill safely under her knee at the lope. She has changed from her show bridle to a mechanical hackamore for this fun class.
To start theBareback Dollar Billclass, also known as "Ride-a-Buck" or "Sit-a-Buck," the judge places a dollar bill under each rider’s leg (either left or right, but consistent among all riders). Usually it goes near the rider’s knee, with enough paper extending out to be visible. This is a more challenging location than mid-thigh. Riders shouldn’t wear chaps, as they can give an unfair advantage with their added grip. Typically, riders proceed on the rail at a walk, jog/trot, and lope/canter as requested, with their dollar bills toward the inside of the ring, so the judge can see them. When a bill falls to the ground, the rider is eliminated. The judge may call for extended gaits or a posting trot to see who remains as winner and gets to keep all the dollars. To make your model entry more interesting, you can strategically scatter a couple of bills on the ground showing that some other riders have already been eliminated. Print the likeness of bills that are approximately ¾“ in length.
Austin's spoon is level and his egg is secure - even at the extended lope. It looks like some other riders have already lost their eggs!
Egg 'n' Spoonis also a class held on the rail. Each rider holds a spoon and balances an egg – usually uncooked – on it. As riders drop their eggs, they are eliminated and go to the center of the arena. Remaining riders continue to perform at all three gaits, as requested by the judge, until only the winner remains. Adding a couple dropped or broken eggs in your arena helps set the scene. Make sure your rider doll holds the spoon level, because an egg would roll right off a tilted spoon!
You may be able to find tiny eggs and spoons with dollhouse accessories or you can sculpt your own from epoxy. To make a broken egg, squirt a blob of yellow acrylic paint the size of a small pea onto aluminum foil and allow it to dry thoroughly. Add tacky glue (or any glue that dries clear) over and around the “yolk”. Clip two or three small bits of white paper, and stick these “shells” into the glue. When dry, carefully peel the egg off the foil and bend the paper to look like pieces of shell.
Stepping stones is traditionally a Pony Club game, but it’s a fun one that anyone can do.
Stepping Stonesis a popular Pony Club event for teams of four. However, it can be done individually, too. Six "stepping stones," such as tapered plastic or metal buckets, are placed upside down in a line with a bucket-width for spacing. They are the same solid color – usually a primary color or black. The contestant rides to the "stones," dismounts, runs across them by stepping on each one, remounts and crosses the finish line. Riders must hold the reins, but aren’t required to take them over the neck.
For models, miniature wooden flower pots are a good replica. For Traditionalscale dolls and models, use pots that are 1” tall with a 1” wide opening. Paint them in your choice of color. You may glue them to a long, narrow basswood board if desired.
Kaitlyn has already popped her first balloon and aims for the second one in an individual event.
Balloon Bustcan be run in a number of ways, individually or in teams. Sometimes riders blow up a balloon, sit on it and break it against the saddle, then ride to the finish line. More commonly, blown-up round balloons are attached to a wooden board on the ground. The rider carries a “spear,” such as a thick dowel with a brad protruding from the end. In teams, each rider pops a balloon. Individually, the rider would pop them all.
The clusters of plastic balloons used as party favors or cake toppers can make good props for this class. Remove them from their stems and attach them to a strip of basswood, spacing the balloons at least a balloon-width apart. For separate ones, use shorter pieces of wood. Museum putty or sticky wax is great for a quick way of holding them. A popped balloon can be fashioned from a real balloon, a bit of elastic therapy exercise band or similar rubbery, colored material.
LV Integrity has a great trot for Australian Pursuit. He’s already passed Fantasia Del C in a class combining Western and English riders.
Australian Pursuitis a trotting race. To designate the perimeter of the “track,” barrels or poles are set up in a large square within an area. This prevents riders from cutting corners, as they must ride on the outside of the markers. Passing must be done to the outside. If a horse breaks to a lope/canter, the rider must come to a complete halt before again picking up the trot. Any horse that is passed is eliminated. The horse that doesn’t get passed is declared the winner.
Now you should be able to use your trotting or slow loping/cantering models in creative – yet realistic – skill games!