Many of us only know about the individual horse sports and a few of the more mainstream team sports - like Polo and Mounted Games. However, there are over a dozen other team horse sports played around the world dating back to the ancient civilizations that have molded our modern-day games.
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In Combined Driving, the horses and drivers compete in three phases that are purposely similar to Eventing – dressage, marathon, and cones. The fast and furious action of a marathon, the cross-country cousin, is largely attributable to the sport's explosion with the public in recent years.
Cowboy Polo is traditional Polo with a cowboy twist. Usually played in a rodeo arena, there are two teams of five equipped with western saddles and tack. Players use mallets with fiberglass shafts and rubber heads to move a large medicine ball down the pitch. The teams of attackers and defenders compete to hit the ball through the opposition's goal. The most points at the end of regulation wins.
Horseball is based on offense and defense with the objective of scoring goals. There are six team members – four players and two substitutes. Team members must make a minimum of three passes between three different players before scoring. The ball cannot be with a rider for more than ten seconds while they are on the attack. When the ball falls, riders must pick it up without dismounting the horse.
A Mounted Drill Team is a group of horses and riders that perform choreographed maneuvers to music in uniform – not dissimilar to a marching band. While teams perform for audiences as entertainment, there are drill team competitions. When in competition, a team is judged on spacing and alignment, timing and coordination, originality, difficulty, the attractiveness of patterns, speed, horsemanship, uniformity, manners of the animals, music, and crowd appeal.
Mounted Games are amazingly fast and played on ponies by people of all ages. The many different Mounted Games require a high degree of athletic ability, riding skills, hand-eye coordination, perseverance, competitiveness, and teamwork.
Pato dates back to the early 1600s and has been the national sport of Argentina since 1953. It is similar to Horsesball, although, at its inception, a duck in a basket was used instead of a ball - Pato translates to "duck game"! The violence associated with the game, both to the duck and the knife fights between the gauchos, led to Pato being banned several times. In the 1930s, the sport evolved and became an officially regulated and humane sport for the nation.
Two teams compete to score goals using a long-handled wooden mallet to hit a small hard ball through the opposition’s goal. Each team has 4 mounted players, and they compete to score the most goals throughout the match. The match is split into periods called “chukkas”.
Polocrosse is just what it sounds like – Polo meets Lacrosse. Each rider uses a fiberglass stick with a loose net attached to carry, pickup, pass, and shoot a sponge rubber ball. A team of six rotates two different groups of three throughout the match – an attackman, defenseman, and midfielder. The most goals scored at the end of the last chukka wins.
In a Ranch Sorting event, a team of two riders on horseback race against the clock to cut out the correctly numbered cattle and sort them into the correct pen, while keeping the other cattle back. There are ten calves at the end of one of the two pens. The teams must move the cattle from one pen to the other in order, starting with a random number that is called by the judge. The fastest time wins. If a calf gets from one pen to the other out of order, the team is disqualified.
During a Team Penning event, a team of two riders on horseback have sixty to ninety seconds to cut and sort three identified cattle from a herd of thirty. The three calves must be put in a pen at the other side of the arena while the other twenty-seven are kept back. The fastest time wins.
The sport of Vaulting combines dance and gymnastics on a moving horse. Vaulters may compete individually, in pairs, or as part of a team. In team competitions, up to three members of the team are on the horse at once doing a variety of moves! The horse is attached to a long line controlled by a trainer – called a longueur. The longueur controls the horse as it performs at a continuous gait in a large circle. Competition levels are broken down by the speed of the horses’ gait.
Jereed is a formerly deadly traditional and ceremonial Turkish sport where teams score points by throwing a now-blunt wooden javelin at the opposition. Teams stand on opposite sides of a field in their neutral zones. One at a time, a rider calls out the name of the player he plans on throwing his jereed at. As he retreats, the challenged player attempts to hit him with his jereed. This chase game goes on for two 45-minute periods. The team that scores the most points wins.
Sur-papkh is the ancient Azerbaijani version of Horseball. Two teams of four to eight players compete over twenty minutes to pass a papakha (sheepskin hat) between each other with the objective of scoring goals through a ring-shaped vertical hoop. There is also a version of Sur-papkh in which the objective of the game is to steal the opposing teams’ hats.
Buzkashi, which translates from Persian as “goat pulling”, is a Central Asian sport in which horses and riders attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in the opposition's goal during a timed match. The most goat goals win. Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, played on Fridays and drawing thousands of spectators. Buzkashi and its similar variations are played by several other Central Asian ethnic groups.
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