What is Gymkhana for Horses?

Gymkhana is an equestrian event that consists of different games on horseback. The events may consist of speed pattern racing and timed games for horse and rider. In the Western United States, Gymkhana may also be referred to as “O-Mok-See”.

Many of these events are geared toward beginners and fun.

What Types of Events are Included in Gymkhana

Events such as barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole race, keg race, flag race and stake race may be included. The events are designed to test and display teamwork and coordination between horse and rider.

Additional mounted games may include: pony express, carton race, ball and cone, bottle shuttle, bang-a-balloon, and many others.

Games can be ridden as a team, a pair, or individually.

How riders are judged

Riders are given penalties or disqualifications for touching, knocking over, or dropping objects.

Although rules may vary from show to show, the follow rules are typical:

  • Each rider is allotted 1 minute to complete the given course
  • Upon entering the arena, the rider should show control of their horse before the judge will start the timer.
  • Rider will run the course and upon finishing, must bring their horse back under control and acknowledge the judge to wait for the signal to exit.
  • Penalties and points will be assessed based on run time and navigation of obstacles
  • Riders can be disqualified for going off course, loss of control of the horse, inhumane treatment (i.e. excessive spurring or jerking of reins), taking too long, etc…

What’s Needed to Practice?

Depending on the patterns, the following common props can be used to learn and practice for Gymkhana.

  • Barrels
  • Verticle Poles (you can make your own by filling a coffee can with cement and sticking a pvc pipe in it, or stick a pvc pipe into a cone)
  • Cones
  • Blocks and poles for patterns that include small crossrailes
  • Buckets and Flags

Benefits of Learning and Competing in Gymkhana

Gymkhana offers many training benefits for both horse and rider.
- The patterns and games are made to show off teamwork and precise control between horse and rider
- Helps with focus and memory
- Helps with balance and straightness
- Helps develop control through precision in steering, stopping, mounting and dismounting and maintaining pace
- Something fun and different to do with your horse

Picture Reference

Gymkhana With Your Gaited Horse?

Of Course!

Just for the mere benefits listed above, Gymkhana can be a great activity to do with your gaited horse.

For those not comfortable with cantering or galloping their gaited horses, most intermediate gaits will still be faster than the typical trotting horse’s trot, so you can still be competitive.

Plus, it creates something new and different to freshen your horse’s mind. Especially if you’ve been doing the same activities with your horse for a while.

There are lots of resources online to learn more about Gymkhana. Also, I encourage you to check in your local area to see which clubs may offer competitions.

Common Gymkhana Patterns

Photo Reference


Wikipedia, Gymkhana (equestrian), retrieved 2/21/2018

Lessons in TR, Gymkhana Games and Patterns,, retrieved 2/21/2018


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