Stick-Horse Rodeos

Yard sales, bake sales and raffles. Is your riding club tired of hosting the same old boring fundraisers? Add some spice to your money-making programs by putting on a stick-horse rodeo or playday. These easy-to-do events can change a ho-hum fundraiser into the hottest event in town, and can be geared toward any age group from toddlers to adults.

With just a few modifications, you can incorporate many standard horse-show events into a stick-horse playday, such as grand entry, gymkhana classes, jumping and trail classes. All you need for the event is a fair-sized arena and a little creativity. Contestants should supply their own mounts, and even those confined to wheelchairs can join the fun by competing in relay races, gymkhana events and the trail course. These contestants just need to attach their stick horse to the front of the chair.

Ideas for the various classes are unlimited. For instance, the grand entry could be done with just a few "riders" carrying their regional and club flags, or they can be leading the entry with every contestant following behind. For halter classes, break the group into categories, such as store-bought, home-made or customized. For the leadline class, have a child ride the stick horse while an adult leads them around at the walk and trot. Or, reverse it and have the adult ride and the child lead.

There are dozens of gymkhana classes which can be used, from pole bending and barrel racing to boot and relay races. If you don't have barrels, try using plastic trashcans, 5-gallon buckets or plastic milk jugs. For pole bending, fill milk jugs with sand and insert a stick or plastic pipe in each jug.

Jumping classes are always fun to watch and can be anything from a simple two-jump hunter-hack class to a full grand prix course judged by time and faults. For hunter-hack, contestants must walk, trot and canter on the right lead, as well as jump. If the class is for youngsters, keep the jumps simple. But for older competitors, let your imagination soar and design some fun, challenging stuff. If you don't have access to standard jumps, be creative and make your own from large logs, hay bales, garden fencing, lattice or tires. Just be sure the jumps aren't too high, and that the jump poles will fall if hit.

For a real challenge, design a trail or obstacle class. The obstacles are easy to make and limited only by your imagination. There are plenty of things around the barn that can be transformed into challenging obstacles, and they don't have to be limited to the kind real horses would work. One stick-horse show, included a child's tunnel that everyone had to crawl through, even the adults. Some simple obstacles would include trotting over poles, backing through a "W" or "Z" pattern, a small jump, carrying an object from one point to another, checking the mailbox and putting on a slicker without dropping the stick horse. A rope gate can be made by filling two 5-gallon buckets with sand and placing a stick in each. Tie a 4-foot rope to one of the sticks and put a loop in the other end.

The obstacle class makes a great challenge-type event where you can have several clubs or teams competing for a special award or title. This also provides a way for non-horse folks to participate.

Hosting a stick-horse rodeo is as much fun to put on and watch as it is to compete in. The event gives everyone from the community an opportunity to participate, there are minimal worries about someone getting hurt, it can be held indoors and you don't have to provide stalls or trailer parking. And, of course, you can still have a bake sale and raffle as part of the event.