barrel racing patternGymkhana is an exciting, family-oriented equestrian sport in which riders compete in a number of different events. Each event is made up of a set pattern of obstacles, and the riders are timed as they race around and through the obstacles. Gymkhana is a fast-growing sport that anyone of any age or riding level can enjoy.

Why I like Gymkhana

I like gymkhana because some events require skill and some require speed. This is great for my young horses because they learn different event patterns and also learn to listen to me. It also creates a great bond and trust between us. Events such as pole bending require my horses to learn to flex and bend, listen to my leg cues, and respond to me from start to finish. This makes my horses think about what they have to do. I feel horses that compete in gymkhana are very talented and can multi-task since they have to be skilled in all the different events.

The California Gymkhana Association

The California Gymkhana Association (CGA) offers riders the opportunity to compete in gymkhanas throughout California. CGA has a variety of different programs in which participants can compete against riders and horses of similar ability, and riders can earn awards at all skill levels, from Future Champion to Hall of Fame. CGA also supports both horses and ponies, and it has a divisional competition at the state level for each. To learn more about CGA and to find out about gymkhana shows for 2009, visit

Gymkhana events

CGA gymkhanas are made up of 13 different events. Two of the most popular events in gymkhana are barrel racing and pole bending.

Barrel Racing

The barrels are arranged in a cloverleaf pattern and you ride around them as shown in the diagram to the right. You can head toward either barrel. If you start with the right barrel (as shown in the diagram), your second and third barrel will be to the left. If you start with the left barrel, your second and third will be to the right.

Pole Bending

Pole Bending I. The poles are arranged in a line and you weave around them as shown in the diagram to the right. You can start your ride on the right side of the first pole (as shown in the diagram) or on the left side. After turning the last pole, you return home by weaving back through the poles.

Pole Bending II. This is another version of pole bending. You first ride along the side of the poles to the sixth pole. You turn the sixth pole and weave back down through the poles. When you reach the first pole, you ride around it and weave back up through the poles to the sixth one. Finally, you turn the sixth pole and head back down along the side of the poles.

Other gymkhana events

Big T
Figure 8 Flag
Figure 8 Stake
Hurry Scurry
Quadrangle Stakes
Speed Ball
Speed Barrels
Single Stake

Find the patterns for all 13 events in the CGA Rule Book online at (pages 41 – 53).

About the author
Holly Ricotta has been riding for over 35 years. Holly is a Multi-Champion barrel racer in both California and Arizona. Through her business, HR Performance Horses, which is located in Los Angeles, CA. She offers coaching, training, and clinics in gymkhana and barrel racing to riders of all ages and levels. Visit her website at E-mail Holly at