What Is Gymkhana?

gymkhana​Gymkhana car videos are becoming increasingly popular on the Internet, wherein drivers complete a closed obstacle course similar to rally racing but on asphalt. But gymkhana didn't start in a car.

Technically gymkhana is a term that originated in India, and means something akin to 'gymnasium' or 'sporting club'. The type of gymkhana shown in racing car videos, however, borrowed its name from the equestrian version, which is also known as O-Mok-See, or simply 'pattern horse racing'.

O-Mok-See originates from the Blackfeet American Indians, who would prepare for battle with 'o-mak-see pass-kan', which means 'Riding big dance'. Riders would dress for battle and then ride away from their camp, only to return at speed, riding around the camp and then into the center, where they would ride in time to music.

Today's O-Mok-See (or 'riding big') features courses that test the bond between horse and rider more than outright speed. It's also an event that's possible in less space than a traditional horse race or rodeo. Here are just a few of the events you might see at an equestrian gymkhana event:

Barrel & Stake: Rider must transfer 3 long stakes (one at a time) between barrels and then return across the finish line. Riders are disqualified for dropping the stake or touching the horse with it.

Flag Race: A flag is stuck inside a can of sand, which in turn rests on a barrel. Riders must race to retrieve the flag and then return across the finish line, but are disqualified for knocking over the barrel or can.

Speed Barrels: Three barrels are put in a lane, 55 feet apart, and the rider must weave through the line, either left or right.

Equestrian gymkhana is a great event for fans of horsemanship of all ages, whether you're performing or just watching.

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