Mounted Games

Jackie LeMastus and her mount, Black Ice, display the much-needed balance for Mounted Games competitors. Some games include racing at high speeds and dropping objects in low buckets. The object must go into and stay in the bucket for the team to stay in good standing.

Equestrians from all over Middle Tennessee will lace up their boots, tighten down their saddles and make last-minute equipment checks before participating in a Mounted Games clinic and competition at Clearview arena in Shelbyville on Jan. 26-27.

Horse and rider duos will learn from the U.S. Mounted Games Team Coach Clive Jones on Saturday, Jan. 26, and then they will be able to apply the knowledge they learned at a competition on Sunday, Jan. 27.


What are Mounted Games?

Mounted Games is an international sport that began approximately 50 years ago in England. The sport requires skill, agility, speed and balance. To do well, both horse and rider must be athletic as the competitions require bending, jumping and vaulting from the ground back onto horse and vice versa at fast speeds.

According to its website, the United States Mounted Games Association [USMGA] was formed to inspire, encourage interest and increase participation in Mounted Games across the country.

The mission of the Mounted Games Association is to increase the number of riders involved in Mounted Games, improve the quality and number of U.S. competitions and to enhance the image of equestrian games as a spectator sport. USMGA aims to provide niche in equine sports by making Mounted Games, a relatively inexpensive horse sport, available to the general public for the advancement and understanding of the equine industry.

 “Over 25 years ago, Mounted Games came to the United States and USMGA was formed,” said Tennessee Mounted Games Chair Christian Love. “A few years later, Pony Club [an organization founded to teach riding and proper horse care] adopted Mounted Games as one of their disciplines.

“Many of our riders – including my daughter Zoe – did get introduced to Mounted Games through pony club, but definitely caught the Mounted Games excitement and wanted to do it in a more competitive and structured environment,” Love said. “This is when they found USMGA. The club is a national organization.”

Love said competitions are held all over the country from Ocala, Florida, to Ohio and sometimes even farther north.

“We are trying to form a strong Tennessee group due to the fact that we have so many awesome riders, wonderful ponies and supportive families in our area,” said Love. “As we grow in numbers, we can hold competitions here in Middle Tennessee as well as monthly practices.”


What happens at a Mounted Games competition?

Mounted Games is like a series of relay races but on the back of a horse. According to Love, all of her team members would agree that it’s the most fun you can have on horseback, as well as a great team sport that offers fierce competition.

A Mounted Games competition features more than 30 different races over a weekend of competition. The most popular games in the United States are:

•        Joust - A rider with a long lance gallops down the lane while aiming the tip of the lance at a target. After the target is hit they hand off the lance – usually at full speed – to the next rider who repeats the process until all four targets are knocked down.

•        Litter - Cartons are placed on the ground at one end and a trash can is placed in the center of each riding lane. Each rider rides to the end, and as they are turning their ponies around, they are also leaning off the side of the pony to pick up the litter with a litter stick. Once the carton is on the stick, they race back dunking the litter into the trash can and hand off the litter stick to the next rider to repeat the process.

•        Toolbox - In this event, the riders each race to the end, jump off their ponies, grab a small rubber tool from the ground and leap back onto the ponies after turning around, all while never slowing down. The tool is then deposited into the toolbox. Each Rider will repeat the process until all tools have been placed into the box, and then the toolbox is carried across the finish line.

“Mounted Games, is just as much a competitor sport as it is a spectator sport,” said Love. “The audience gets as much excitement and has as much fun cheering for their team and the riders on the field. It is also truly a sport for everyone: all ages, all horses – as long as they are pony size – and all backgrounds.”

The USMGA has multiple levels of competition to fit all ages and skill sets of riders to ensure safety. All riders start at the beginner level and work their way up. English-style riding is required in Mounted Games, but western-style riders will be allowed to participate in the upcoming clinic. However, they will start at the beginner level.

“We are going to allow western riders to participate at the January clinic and competition at the starter level, but they will soon learn that there is a reason all riders ride English in Mounted Games,” added Love. “The horns on the western saddle get in the way of most of our sports.”

There are two main saddles in the equestrian industry. Western saddles have horns on the front of the saddle, whereas English saddles are flat in the front.

Love said that for ponies to compete in Mounted Games, they have to be in top condition.

“The ultimate care is taken of our ponies,” said Love. “The level of care given to the ponies compares to that of a highly athletic horse or human athlete. This includes special care given to conditioning, nutrition, joint care, training and veterinary care.”

“Mounted Games riders have no grooms, and since riders and horses must reach a very high level of cooperation in order to be successful, they learn to take extremely good care of their mounts,” said Paul Greiling, president of the USMGA. “Riders and horses form very close bonds, and because no whips or spurs are allowed, they learn to use body position and their legs to encourage the horse.”


If you go

Beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 there will be a clinic meeting, introductions, a video, meal and a question and answer session with clinician Clive Jones. The event will be held throughout the weekend at Clearview Equestrian Center, located at 2291 US 231 South in Shelbyville.

The clinic will be start at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, and will be taught by   Jones. Jones is a Welshman who has been involved with Mounted Games since 1988, and he has coached hundreds of riders from all around the world. He has coached four international teams to win the renowned World Team Championship competition, including the USA team, in 2015.

Round one of competition will begin at 1 p.m. and run until 6 p.m. on Jan 26. It will start with beginners and end with advanced gamers. From 6:30-8:30 p.m., there will be a meet and greet with Jones and the students.

Round two of competition will pick up at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27 and run until approximately 3:30 p.m. Awards will follow the last race. If riding, boots are helmets are required.

It is free to come learn from Jones as a spectator on Saturday. The competition portion is also free for spectators.

“If you love a challenge and a good gallop, Mounted Games might be the right sport for you,” added Love. “We are excited to see Mounted Games grow in Tennessee as well as nationwide.”

To learn more about getting involved in Mounted Games in Tennessee, contact Christian Love at For more information about additional competitions, clinics or joining USMGA, visit the organization’s Facebook page or its website at

More information on this weekend’s competition can be found under the USMGA website. The clinic is called, “Mounted Games Clinic & Frigid Digits Competition.”

Clearview Equestrian Center offers lodging for both horse and riders, RV hookups and top facilities for equestrians including an indoor and outdoor arena and trail riding. For more information, visit  

Faith Few can be reached by email at