Ten unusual equestrian sports

Ten unusual equestrian sports

Ever wanted to try something new with your horse or pony? Try these ten unusual equestrian sports from around the world, and find a new hobby!


Originating in the Steppes and played throughout Central Asia, this sport has the speed and roughness of Polo with one difference – instead of a ball and sticks, the aim is to get a headless goat carcass through the goal. Rules vary per region, but the basics remain the same. Each half will be 45 minutes long, with a 15 minute break. Four or five people are allowed on the field per team, but substitutions can be made throughout the game. Each team is limited to 10 players. Most riders do not own their horses, they are instead owned by wealthy patrons or breeders. Top riders will decide who they want to ride, and the honour is so they great they are not often refused.

Competitive Mounted Orienteering

An important part of training for cavalry units, it is now developing as a sport in North America with some events happening in Europe. Similar to orienteering, competitors will be given a map, compass, route choices and control points they must check in to. Ridden events also include elements of horsemanship, providing routes with gates and jumps as well as easier routes for leisure riders. The UK focuses mainly on endurance riding, but some orienteering or treasure hunts are appearing across the country.


Horseball is described as a mixture of polo, rugby and basketball. Playing in teams of four, a team must score a goal by passing the ball over 3 times to 3 different players. The defending team can defend the goal, use their horses to push the opposition off their line, or grab the ball out of their hands. Think of it as Quidditch on horses instead of brooms! If a ball is dropped, anyone can pick it up as long as they are galloping. This is not a sport for the faint of heart.


Seen in many films, jousting is undergoing a revival. In 1999 the World Champion Jousting Association was formed, and a number of professionals have emerged to take the title. Across the UK theatrical jousting companies are forming, who attend events held at many National Trust locations. Some of these, including those based at Warwick Castle, also offer courses to help train riders in medieval events. Competitive jousting focuses on accuracy, with armour being reinforced in certain areas. The jousting stick is made of balsa wood, with points being scored when the armour is hit in key areas. It is fast and dangerous, but any horse can compete!

Mounted Archery

Mounted archery has been used in war by every country in the World. Despite the expanse of land between them, Asia, Europe, India and the Americas developed similar approaches, using short bows, steering horses with their legs so they can aim and fire as they ride. After disappearing for a number of years, Mongolians revived it as a sport after their independence. It is now growing in Europe and America, with competitors’ hoping to get it included in the Olympic Games. A course is 99 metres long, and has a single moving target. A rider must complete the course in 20 seconds, hitting the target as accurately as possible.


The father of horseball, this game is far rougher than most games ever played. So rough in fact it has been banned numerous times in Argentina as gauchos were trampled underfoot, and others would die in knife fights! It was also played with a live duck; that has now been replaced with a ball with handles. Teams of four must aim to score a goal through the hoop at the end of the pitch. While holding a ball, the rider must hold his arm outstretched so the opposition team can try to snatch it away.


A mixture of polo and lacrosse, it was a game developed to help youngsters train for polo whilst building team spirit. Each match is made up of 6 or 8 chukkas, each 6 minutes long. Only three from each team can be on the field per chukka, and no one can change horses as they do in Polo. Instead of hitting the ball, the team have long lacrosse poles, so they must pass quickly to their team mates to score goals. This reduces the contact of polo, and increases the speed. It is extremely big in Australia, and the Pony Club also have teams in the UK.

Ride and Tie

Created in America, this is the ultimate in endurance for the rider. A ride and tie team is made up of three members – two riders and a horse. At the start of the race, one rider will set off on the horse while the other runs. At a distance they decide, the rider on the horse will stop and tie the animal up, then set off on their own run. When the first runner comes upon the tied horse, she will then ride the next section of the course. The horse must be exchanged at least 6 times, and clear the vet checks on course. As these races can be up to 100 miles it is important you are all fit.

Team penning

A sport with its origins in cattle ranching, this is all about speed and precision. A team of three must split three randomly picked cattle from a herd of thirty in under 60 seconds. Not only must they split the right beasts out, but they must also get them into a pen on the opposite end of the arena. All three riders must work together to undertake the set roles, so they can pen quickly.

Tent pegging

Starting as far back as 4 BC, this sport was developed to help cavalry achieve precision when in battle. Whilst holding a sword the rider would have to pick up pegs with small loops on the top off the ground at speed, or rings at head height with a lance. It was named as an official sport in 1982, and new groups are emerging outside of the cavalry and mounted police to take part in the International Championships. The UK has the Sussex Peggers competing in and promoting the sport. Horses would need to be fast, and straight to compete.



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