If you think mounted games are just for kids, guess again. When Jessica Leonard, a young rider who lives in Kentucky, heads out to a mounted game competition with her pony, Sparrow, someone else comes along to compete—her dad, Dave! Dave rides his own pony, Reba, and is a member of a senior mounted games team called the Crash Dummies.
The United States Mounted Games Association holds competitions all over the country and it gives riders of all ages an opportunity to play fun games on horseback. The games are usually done in relays of four riders racing against other teams, but there are also competitions for individuals and pairs. There are more than 25 races to try and all of the races involve speed and accuracy.
Races include the litter race, in which riders on horseback spike an object like a paper cup with a pointed pole and then have to throw it in a trash can. There’s the balloon race in which riders gallop by a balloon and have to spike it with a pointed stick to burst it. And there’s the hilarious three-legged race in which pairs have to gallop together, jump off their ponies, stick one leg each into a sack and then run joined together back to the finish line with their ponies. These games are fun!
The Mounted Games Association has three divisions of riders.
The Master’s division is for riders of any age who are skilled at the games and who are ready for the fast pace of this tough division. The 4-Ever Young division is for older riders who know how to play the games and just want to have a good time. The Novice division is for younger riders and competitors new to mounted games.
Jessica’s a mounted games pro who is in the Master’s division. Her dad is a 4-Ever Young rider. Recently we caught up with the pair at the 2007 Bluegrass Open at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Open is an international event, because teams from the United Kingdom and Canada competed, too.
Jessica’s team, the Flying Colors, was made up of friends from Pony Club. Dave’s team consisted of Pony Club parents like himself.
“I first heard about mounted games because Jessica competed in Pony Club mounted games,” explains Dave. “I watched Jessica do it and I thought it looked like fun.”
“I had done a little trail riding in the past, so I could ride. When I heard that the USMGA was holding some local clinics I signed up. That’s where I learned how to play the games.”
Dave’s favorite games are the balloon race and the jousting race in which you carry a sword and have to hit a target.
“I like the games with speed,” admits Dave. “I’ve fallen off a few times though. I slid off my pony while competing in a pole bending race. My leg hurt a little, but I kept on competing. The next day I had my leg X-rayed and I found out that it was broken!”
Dave says he practices mounted games several times a week.
“I have a good time practicing with my dad,” says Jessica. “I give him basic riding tips and he gives me games tips that he’s learned at clinics. We help each other.
“Most of my teammates have parents who compete in mounted games as well. Some of their parents are on my dad’s team. “It can be really funny to watch them sometimes,” admits Jessica.
“I would encourage more adults to play mounted games,” says Dave. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Here are some of the games that the teams play:
Socks and Buckets
Hug a Mug
To learn more about mounted games for riders of all ages, visit the United States Mounted Games Association at www.usmga.us.