A most interesting story about Horse Soccer caught the writer’s eye in the Billings Gazette, coming to us all the way from Montana. Undoubtedly, the great majority of horse people have not yet heard of this new game for horses and their riders, but hopefully it will catch on as a new fun sport.
Already, people are pursuing the game for a broader audience in Montana. While it won’t be a part of the Olympics any time soon, it is quite possible to envision a broad audience catching horse soccer fever.
The Billings Gazette article highlighted an active game underway in a Lockwood arena on a hot summer day in August. The riders participating during the event came from Laurel and other nearby locations, and all joined in the exhibition fun. All of the young riders appeared to be mounted on full-size horses, but the appropriate word for the animals in horse soccer may be “ponies” much like “ponies in a polo match.”
According to the rules,
Riders controlled their ponies with reins and leg cues, but only the horse can touch the 50-inch soccer ball. Only their nose nudge, leg push or kick can move the ball through the goal posts for a point.
Blocking another horse is legal. Stealing the ball is prized.
Just a short minute or two into the Lockwood arena horse soccer match, the parched summer earth began to swirl with dust whirls and sounds of fun, cheering, horse whinnies and snorts and running hooves. The horses were focused on the riders and the ball. It seemed as though the horses knew exactly what was required of them. It is easy to imagine that the horses could enjoy this game as much as their riders.
According to Chelsea Picchioni who comes from Roundup, her American Saddlebred horse Zorba is a star at horse soccer. Picchioni says,
He lives for this game. He knows how far the goal is. He’s figured the game out, and I don’t think there are many horses like that.
It wasn’t long before the spectators got into the game. As the horses maneuvered across the playing field, shouts of “Ride him!” and “Get it Get it!” and “Yeah great going!” were ringing out to the riders. The horses certainly became encouraged and they picked up the pace.
The dust was thickening about the horses’ legs and they appeared to be floating. They pitched their ears forward to the ball and almost seemed to anticipate the next moves. Riders were sweating now, and their horses were puffing. Yet the atmosphere was one of fun and glee. Riders were cracking nonstop player challenges and jokes. All was great camaraderie.
Appaloosa breeder and trainer Lesli Glen sat with the onlookers during the game, doing a whole lot of teasing, laughing and score keeping. Friendly “insults” are part of the match. She watched as one of her students and, at 13 the youngest rider on the field, let her horse hold back. Glen shouted to her, “Ride him, ride him to it.”
And so the horse soccer game continued, going into sudden death and, finally, coming to an end. The competitors had exercised their horses and themselves, had heaps of fun doing it, played a serious game for points and had established the winning team for the soccer game that day. All the while everyone had a good time.
The riders and spectators were smiling and bustling about with the tasks of cooling horses and preparing to head home. Faces were filled with good healthy color and excitement. What fun everyone had that afternoon.
Also view this video: vimeo 16140235
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