Gymkhana is the action packed, precision sport of the equestrian world. A good Gymkhana horse must have the speed of a race horse, the turning quickness and agility of a cutting horse and the control and responsiveness of the stock horse.
The word "Gymkhana" is thought to have originated in India, probably meaning "games on horseback". The English military, during the Colonial period, used horses for both transportation and military maneuvers. On Sunday afternoons, the Calvary would compete in horseback games to sharpen their horsemanship for war. Thus, Gymkhana had it's beginning.
Through the years different events have been added, some of which originated in Europe and others which were developed in this country. Ring Spearing, an event that is still part of Gymkhana in some areas, resembles the knight in medieval days riding full charge with his lance aimed at his enemy. The British Bengal Lancer engaged in Tent-Pegging, using his lance to unearth the tent pegs of the enemy, bringing down the tent on his adversaries. Pole Bending can easily be seen as good training for a Calvary charge through dense forest. The Rescue Race and Cowhide Race were originated by the Native American Indians as a way to rescue their comrades in battle. Similarly, the Speed-ball Race may have derived from the Native American Indians counting "coup" in which they would touch their enemies without harming them. The Pony Express Race, of course, simulates the old time Pony Express rider who delivered the mail between St. Louis and Sacramento in the Old West.
In recent years Gymkhana has been steadily gaining in popularity. New events have been designed for competition between riders which bring into play the abilities of the rider and the speed and handiness of the horse. A number of events such as Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and the Keyhole Race, can be found at gymkhanas throughout the United States.