The weather couldn’t have been more perfect on Saturday in southern Nevada, and I’m sure most horse owners jumped at the opportunity to saddle up after an unseasonably wet and cold winter. I spent the day at Horseman’s Park (5800 E. Flamingo Rd) with the Southern Nevada Gymkhana Association, watching their first event of the 2011 season. I’ve never watched gymkhana before, and the first thing that impressed me about this event was that it is much more than just competition. This is a very family-oriented atmosphere, where everyone from incredibly brave small children to savvy seniors compete in timed games on horseback. RV’s and trailers become campsites where people chat and prepare for their event, the warm-up arenas are a colorful whirlpool of horses and riders waiting their turn, and from the grandstands come cheers of support for every rider.
Gymkhana is a series of events in which riders compete for best time. The SNGA competition consists of three standard events (Keyhole, Barrels, and Poles) plus an extra event rotated in each month, like Flags or Figure 8. Anyone can enter and compete in one of five age groups, ranging from six and under, to 49 and above. Members vie for points toward daily and year-end prizes, but non-members are welcome too. In fact, if you just want to try your horse in an event or two before deciding if gymkhana is something you’d want to join, for a few dollars you can run for Time Only and see how you do. All breeds of horse are welcome, although stallions are not allowed. Check with the SNGA for complete details and rules for participation, and then come out and try something new and fun!
The Southern Nevada Gymkhana Association has been around for an amazing 50+ years, and its current President is Jacque Parker. She began riding at age seven and continued into her early twenties, then stopped to raise a family. But she returned to riding and competing again, and said “the passion doesn’t leave”. Parker and the all-volunteer staff for SNGA organize monthly events for its members, from January to May and then September through November, with an awards banquet held in December. She says that despite the huge amount of work involved, it has enormous benefits especially for the children, who learn the value of hard work and the reward of achieving their goals. Parker would like to see gymkhana in Nevada emulate the level it has achieved in California, with districts throughout the State and a State Championship. Says Parker, “I’d like to see it taken to a State level, and for (SNGA) to represent our City well”.
If you would like to find out more about gymkhana, you can find them on the web at http://www.southernnevadagymkhana.com/news.html or on Facebook under the community page SNGA. I highly recommend coming to one of their well-organized events and enjoying the fun, relaxed atmosphere and friendly competition, either as a rider or spectator. See over 100 beautiful pictures from this event on our Facebook page, “All Vegas Horses”.