By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The first session of the third annual Family Fun Gymkhana Winter Series will be at 10 a.m. on November 4 at the Taber Agri-Plex.
“Gymkhana is sport competitions or games done on horseback,” Tracy Iwan of the program said. “This family fun winter series starts at the beginning of each month starting in November and runs through until May. We give points throughout the season for everyone that participates as well as points for competing in the different competitions during the day. At the end of the season points are counted and a high-point champion is picked for each age category.”
Iwan says that this series is a family-friendly event that has different age categories: Tiny Mites, which are six years and under and are mostly led by their parents; Peewees, which are 7-9 years old and can be led by a parent if they wish; Juniors, which are 10-14 years; Seniors, which are aged 15-21, and for those over 21 and parents there is the Dinosaurs category.
“We have activities such as Keyhole, Cupid’s Arrow, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Big T, Peppermint Twist, Hurry Scurry, Flag Picking, Butterfly, Horseshoe and a few others,” Iwan said. “We normally run four or five games each event date but change it for each day which four competitions are done.”
The group, Iwan says, meets once a month mostly on the first Saturday of each month starting November with the final month being May. An event is only cancelled if the weather is bad or if it is too cold to be taking horses to town, Iwan says.
“The program exists because there is a group of us that wanted to have something for our kids to do during the winter and needed a fun way to exercise our horses and we wanted to open it up to other families as well to do the same,” Iwan said. “We picked Taber because it is the most central spot for the families around the area to come to and it’s also one of few indoor arenas in the area. The community has been very supportive of this program we normally have around 26-32 participants and have a number of family that comes to watch and cheer on the group. The great thing about the community members and families that attend they all cheer on each other and it’s great to see the enthusiasm of everyone.”
For more information about the Taber Gymkhana Winter Series, visit the Taber Gymkhana Winter Series Facebook page. Iwan says that people can register for the program through there and the entry fee is $25 per day. The fee, Iwan says, goes towards prize payouts for the day and towards arena rentals.
“The program is open to anyone in southern Alberta that wishes to participate,” Iwan said. “I believe it is important for everyone’s health and wellness being with friends and family and with horses helps with everyone’s mental health and a person’s connection with their horse is hard to describe other than a horse is a special family member, and as we’ve seen with some that have high anxiety or stress working with and having fun with your horse seems to reduce a lot of that stress and anxiety. The impact on those who are participating are that these participants are getting out of the house or away from the farm and are coming to town for a little exercise and interaction with other families. This keeps the kids off their technology and stimulates the brain and keeps them active.”