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History of The “Gymkhana”

The history of the gymkhana is centuries old. Thought to be a term derived originally in India referring to a “place of assembly,” current English-speaking countries refer to a gymkhana as games on horseback that demonstrate the training and talents of horses and their riders.

According to, “Some of the earliest events involved the famed Mongol horsemen of Genghis Khan, whose competitions included picking up small flags off the ground by sliding around and under the rider’s mount while it was at full gallop. Native American riders often raced courses through the rocky desert terrain and reportedly, in a show of skill and bravery, rode close enough to galloping buffalo to slap their side before riding away.”

The sporting games were very popular in England during the 1940s and continue today throughout Europe as well as India and Pakistan.

The California Gymkhana Association was founded in 1972 by enthusiasts and remains very active today.

Gymkhanas are also held in the automotive world. Automotive gymkhanas became popular after World War II and are currently popular in Japan where they have large courses to accommodate the competitions.

Types of Gymkhana Games

Here in the United States, gymkhanas tend to take on a family and festival appeal. Some of the current games you may find at a Gymkhana include:

  • Barrel Racing
  • Pole Bending (where a rider and horse weave a serpentine path around vertical poles in the ground)
  • Various Timed Sprint Events
  • Obstacle Courses
  • Skill Contests (such as racing out to a tall cone and balancing an object on top of it before racing back)
  • Contests exhibiting flying lead changes, sliding stops and more.

The beauty of a gymkhana is that families with folks of all ages can enter and enjoy. We are lucky to have such a fun event every year here in Hidden Hills.