Wednesday 4 February 2015

Requirements: Arena & Equipment

For a competition to take place there needs to be a suitable arena set up to play in. In the Irish Pony Club most competitions take place in rural locations in Leinster, as majority of clubs such as Meath, Louth, Shillelagh, Laois and Kildare from Leinster. However there are a few clubs every year which have to travel long distances to compete such as Duhallow from Cork and Galway. To make it a bit fairer, some years qualifiers are played in Galway or Cork so that they don't always have to do the travelling.

There are four qualifiers before the RDS takes place in August. These are played in grass arenas, usually in Charleville, Monastereven and Galway. Most competitions are played on grass arenas. There are many reasons behind this. Obviously it cannot be run on hard concrete as this would be very dangerous if a rider fell. It would also damage the pony's feet, especially if they are not wearing shoes. Another alternative to grass could be sand. One of the reasons that sand is not used more often is because of it's size. Games arenas need to be certain widths and lengths and majority of sand arenas would not be suitable. There is a sand arena in Punchestown that is sometimes used for trials or MGA however the competitions cannot be held in the same place every time. It also costs more to rent a sand arena, compared to fields which are mostly owned by players' families anyway.
In the winter sand arenas would be more practical as grass can become muddy very quickly, unlike sand, and can also freeze. If the grass becomes too wet it can also be dangerous as the speed could lead to a pony falling and injuring themselves. Luckily in Ireland we have lots of space and rich grass to both train and compete on. As Ireland is a relatively small island too, the furthest people have to travel for competitions would be around 3 hours by car compared to places in America or across Europe where people could spend days travelling beforehand. This not only saves us money on fuel but means less green house gases are released into the atmosphere.

The final thing needed for a competition is equipment. Many games require the same equipment which can be very handy as they can be used again and again instead of having to buy different equipment for each race. It also saves the arena party who have to put out each piece of equipment between the races. 
Majority of the equipment is made from plastic or woods, with the exceptions of mugs and socks. Each piece is also painted or coloured too to make it easier to see for the rider during the game. Some ponies may shy away from equipment if they have never seen it before or are wary of it but after time will become used to it's appearance.

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Saturday 31 January 2015

Requirements - horse and rider

In comparison to other areas of horse riding, mounted games can be relatively cheaper. In order to participate not much is really needed other than a pony and tack, however there are a few rules regarding uniform and before each competition tack inspection takes place to make sure there is no problems or dangers regarding the tack.

 In the Irish Pony Club it is mandatory to wear a riding hat, as it is in majority of other areas of horse riding. The hat must be of certain standard (skull cap) and have a black hat cover on top. As well as a hat, when in competition riders must wear cream jodhpurs, jodhpur boots, a white shirt, a hairnet, the pony club tie and a club jersey or bib to represent your club. Wearing your club's colours is also very important when it comes to scoring as this is how the line judges differentiates between the teams. Some people also wear "joddy clips" to hold down their jodhpurs over their boots.

Apart from personal appearance there are a few other things needed to participate. In order to play you must be on a team with at least 3 others. In the IPC there are 3 age groups: U10, Junior (10-13) and senior (13-16). The cut off date is the first of January and you are not allowed to play in a category that you are too old for, however you may play under age. Games is for all ability's so you don't have to be great to start either.

Along with the rider there is of course the pony. Most ponies used for games are rather small in height to make it easier for the rider to vault. U10 ponies tend to be around 10 - 12 hands (4 inches to every hand) however U10's are not expected to vault. Junior and Senior ponies tend to be a bit bigger, around 12 - 14 hands, with senior ponies normally bigger than Junior ponies too as the extra height can mean a faster pony.

Each pony that is ridden in games has to be trained in order to do each game. This is done slowly at first, then increasing speed steadily. Some ponies can be scared of different equipment at first as they may have never seen it before, but when they are
shown it will begin to get used to it and realise that it won't hurt them at all. Communication is very important and builds trust in the sport too. The rider can train the pony to slow down "woah" and to pick up pace by saying "go" or clicking with your tongue at the pony. Ponies can feel tension and nerves is a rider and can become more relaxed when talked to.
 Games ponies tend to be very fast and have the ability to turn sharply when needed. There is no specific breed of horse for the games and the ponies don't have to be pedigree either. This is why games is very popular among younger kids as they can use their own pony and practice at home with similar equipment.

Ireland is known for it's horses and agriculture. Over recent years games have become increasingly popular in some countries. Each year in the RDS people from outside Ireland (such as Italians) come across to Ireland to watch and look out for new ponies. Some people are willing to pay large sums of money and will make offers on ponies that they feel have potential. There are many people in Ireland such as Alan Keoghan who buy ponies for small amounts of money, then train and sell them on for profit. 

Friday 30 January 2015


Mounted Games is a sport played across the whole world. The season is divided up into different leagues for MGA:  the winter league and the spring league. There are also opportunities to represent Ireland at Europeans, World pairs and world individuals, although it can be very difficult to qualify to make a team.
The World Individual Championships and World Team Championships for MGA both began in 1986. Ireland first held the World Team Championships in 1998 and is due to hold them again in 2016. The Europeans were also held in Tattersalls in 2013.

Since 1986 England has been a keen contender in the games, hosting the World Individual Championships from 1986 - 2008.  During these years England has won the competition several times, 86 times out of 98 possible times. England's success is also evident in the World Pairs Championships, the European Team Championships and the World Team Championships.

Ireland have won the World Team Championships in 2010, The European Team Championships in 2013 (U17) and 2014 (Open), World Pairs Championships 2012 (open) and 2014 (U17), World Individual Championships 2013 (U17), and 2014 (U17). In the past 4years, Ireland have won the European Individual Championships 4 times.
From these results you could suggest that Mounted Games is becoming more popular in Ireland due to more recent successes. You could also suggest that the U17 age group seems to do the best, maybe showing future potential.

 Since the beginning of the International Mounted Games competitions it is very obvious that England have won the most titles. A clear reason for this could be that the sport was first started there by Prince Philip. The sport began in England and then spread further out across the world. England has also held the most international competitions too.
Apart from this ,there are many other reasons that could be behind the success of the county. England's climate tends to consist of warm summers and cold winters. Due to climate change, the amount of snow falling in England over the past few decades has decreased, which means that the horses and ponies can be ridden and trained through winter. The warmest month of the year is July, where Mounted Games season is in full swing. This means longer days, so longer training sessions than winter. The temperature in England for July is an average 19 degrees Celsius, which is good for training and competition sessions.
The English climate can consist of cold and warm weather which can be an advantage when competing in foreign counties as it is easier for horses and riders to adapt to change in weather, compared to countries such as Norway who experience extremely cold winters and may struggle in very hot conditions.

In the Irish Pony Club there is only one main season which begins around June and finishes at the Curragh race course in October. However, if they wish, players under 15 years of age may choose to present themselves for  international trials in January to travel abroad to Scotland, Wales and England in May. The winter and spring is spent training every weekend for the occasion. The highlight of the season is at the RDS horseshow where 6 teams from across Ireland compete on the Saturday and Sunday after completing four qualifiers to earn their place at the show. This show is definitely the highlight of the each year due to the intensity of the qualifiers leading up to the weekend competition and the large crowd that congregates every year. The atmosphere is electric and really is an unforgettable experience.

Saturday 24 January 2015

The Games

Mounted Games is a series of games played of horseback. The number of games in a competition can vary from anything from 10 in a session to 20. Scoring is carried out by line stewards who watch for white hat bands signalling the final rider. When it comes to this point, the line steward must watch out to see who comes first, second, third and so on. Normally there is at least 2 line stewards as some games can be very quick and hard to judge. Different points are awarded for each place and after each game has been played the points are added up to see who has won the competition. If there is a tie at the end, a tiebreaker race is played between the teams on tied points and the results from this determine their results over all.

Each game tends to last anything from 2-5 minutes, depending on the game. This can vary however as if a mistake is made it is mandatory to fix it before carrying on, for example if you drop a piece of equipment you must pick it up before moving on.There are eliminations too if you obstruct other teams or break the start line. The line judges are in charge of this also.

There is a huge selection of games played across the world by all ages. Based on difficulty level, certain games are only played by certain age groups, or at a lower level may have just  been simplified.

There are two main organisations in Ireland that participate in the sport, however neither play the exact some games.
MGA, which is for all ages play about 30 games between team games, pair games and individual games.
The Irish Pony Club which is for players under 16 years of age on teams of five and pairs, play roughly 20 games for seniors (13-16 years).

However many of the games that both organisations play are very similar, with just a different name. For example, association race and pyramid are very similar.

Each game requires a different skill, whether it be to vault, jump off the pony, pick up something, turn fast, run with your pony, or place something on top of something else. Many games when played with teams, require passing of a baton or another piece of games equipment such as a mug or bottle. Different riders can find different games difficult as each person can have their own preferences. Some ponies also will challenge the rider or might spook from a piece of equipment if in doubt, so the difficulty level can be increased by the pony's temperament.


The following are a list of games played by the MGA

Agility Aces          Association race      Bang a Balloon
Bank Race             Bottle Shuttle           Carton race
Flag Fliers                 Four flag             Founder's race
HiLo                         Hug a Mug              Hula Hoop
Jousting                   Litter Lifters            Mug Shuffle
Pony Express           Pony pairs           Ride and Lead
Sock &Bucket       Speed weavers       Sword lancers
Ball and Cone        Moat and Cast          Three Mug
3 pot flag race     Tool box scramble        Triple flag
Two flag                   Victoria cross        Windsor castle


The Irish Pony Club play a separate set of games. The games list for the IPC at senior level is as follows:

PYRAMID                   BOTTLE        
5 MUG                          FISHING                 PONY CLUB   
ROPE                    QUOTES & CONE             3 MUG
TACK SHOP                 5 FLAG                  3 LEG SACK
TYRE                           BALLOON            SOCK & BUCKET


Friday 16 January 2015

Background Information and History

Mounted Games is an intense sport played all over the world. Beginning in 1957, Prince Philip wished to produce a sport where children without expensive show ponies could still participate. To do this he created the idea for “Mounted Games” or “Pony Games”, where four riders would play a series of different games on horseback on a team of four.  These games were also aimed at spectators to enjoy the thrilling experience too.

As a result in 1957 Mounted Games was played for the first time at the Horse of the Year show, where the competitors play to win The Prince Philip Cup. Since then the event has become an annual occurrence at the show and the sport has spread worldwide.

Today different branches from Pony Clubs across the world have developed and improved the games played first in 1957, with approximately 40 different games in existence. Every year the world championships take place for teams, pairs and individuals. Ireland held the European Championships for the first time in 2013 in Tattersalls.

Friday 9 January 2015


Hi, I'm Jenny and I'm TY student. This is my blog, which is about Mounted Games. In the blog I hope to post about the history and geography of the sport to help people learn more about it - all photos are mine unless stated otherwise