No matter your skill level or age, working with horses is a fun and healthy form of exercise. Each equestrian sport challenges riders’ bodies and minds in various ways.
While you may be familiar with some of the more popular disciplines like show jumping or racing, there are plenty of lesser-known but equally exciting individual and team equestrian sports where kids can challenge themselves and learn new skills. If your child isn’t interested in many traditional sports or is looking for a new challenge, perhaps it’s worth exploring one of these exciting activities.
We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting equestrian sports available for all ages and skill levels. Get inspired to try something new!
If your child has dreamed of playing Quidditch, this horse version might be for them! Horseball is a cross between basketball and rugby, and combines strategy, speed, and team spirit. (Alas, there are no wizard’s capes.)
Using a ball with six leather handles, teams of four must make three passes, between three different players, before attempting to score a goal in the tall vertical hoops located on either side of a large field.
The sport improves balance, flexibility, and horsemanship skills, and can be played by all ages.
Audrey-Ann Bérubé Boivin, 21, from Écuries Les Cèdres in Quebec, has been playing horseball since she was thirteen. She coaches two teams, and was pre-selected to represent Canada at the 2020 World Cup in France (since delayed.)
“Horseball helps beginner riders push themselves,” said Bérubé Boivin. “I’ve seen many shy kids and teenagers who lack confidence completely change in a single season of horseball. They become more relaxed, comfortable, and hold themselves confidently on their horse.”
The Association Horse-Ball Québec has been responsible for horseball in Quebec since 2005. It’s delegated by Horseball Canada to act on the national organization’s behalf and develop the discipline throughout the country.
Horseball photo courtesy of Yves Nadeau.
Related read: How to teach kids to throw correctly
Is your child interested in gymnastics? How about giving it a go on the back of a horse!
Vaulting is a recreational and competitive sport where vaulters progress to performing acrobatic and dance-like movements atop a cantering horse.
This all-ages sport combines coordination, balance, flexibility, and rhythm.
“Vaulters learn to have the agility and athleticism of gymnasts, the grace and expression of dancers and the balance and feel of equestrians.”
Jeannine Bastien and her 14-year-old daughter Melodia have been involved with vaulting since Melodia first tried it as a toddler. Bastien, a riding instructor, taught Melodia the fundamental basics and they now take more advanced training with Sonja Koch at Horses of the Sun in Vars, Ont.
Melodia said that she was never interested in team sports or competitive riding, but enjoys the challenges of vaulting, such as working on perfecting a shoulder stand.
“I can now stand the canter without the security rope!” Melodia said excitedly. “I love the freedom.”
Bastien has witnessed her daughter’s hard work developing the physical and mental strength necessary to mount and stand at a canter. “I am proud that she can set personal goals and attain them,” she said.
For more information and to find your provincial vault organization, head over to Vault Canada.
Photo of Melodia vaulting at age five courtesy of Jeannine Bastien.
3. Extreme Cowboy
Extreme Cowboy (shown in the image at the top of this page) was developed by Craig Cameron, a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He wanted to offer riders of all ages and skill levels a fun competition emphasizing proper horsemanship, versatility, and a deeper partnership with one’s horse.
A challenge course for both horse and rider, Extreme Cowboy is an obstacle course with elements including jumping, crossing bridges, opening gates, carrying a flag, or dragging a log.
With divisions for kids as young as seven and right up to 55+, you’ll often find whole families enjoying the sport together.
The Extreme Cowboy Association is the recognized association that guides the sport. Canadian organizations, including those in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, are also listed on the association’s website.
Extreme Cowboy photo courtesy of Tom von Kapherr Photography.
If your child is looking for a team sport that combines speed, racquet skills, and fun, polocrosse might be for them!
Developed in Australia in the 1930s, polocrosse pairs traditional polo with lacrosse. It’s primarily played (for now) in Western Canada. The sport is unique in that an entire family can play at the same event—and often on the same team. There are divisions for all ages and skill levels, from beginner (which is usually played at a walk/trot) to fast-paced competitive divisions.
Polocrosse in Canada is governed by the International Polocrosse Council. While there’s currently no website for Polocrosse Canada, you can find clubs through the Greater Edmonton Polocrosse website.
Bonus fun fact! Lacrosse has been Canada’s official national summer sport since 1994.
Polocrosse photo courtesy of Great Edmonton Polocrosse.