What in the world is a ‘gymkhana?’

14-year-old Kassidy Brown races her horse, Jet, through a pattern called the “Cloverleaf Barrels” in the gymkhana competition at Addison County Fair and Field Days on Tuesday. The fair continues through Saturday.

NEW HAVEN — Lori Brown may run the Field Days event with the strangest name, but she said it’s also one of the more inclusive and family-oriented competitions on the program: the gymkhana.

On Tuesday gymkhana celebrated its 10th anniversary at Addison County Fair and Field Days.

Pronounced “gym-,” as in where you go work out, and “-khana,” rhymes with “nirvana,” the term hails from 19th century India and denotes something along the lines of an assembly where skill-based contests are held.

In the horse world, gymkhanas consist of multiple speed and precision-oriented events. Each event requires riders to maneuver their mounts in a specific pattern around barrels or poles, as fast as possible. The top six finishes in each age group in each event receive points, which are tallied up at the end of the night to determine the overall champion and reserve champion. Champions and top finishes in each event received small cash prizes.

Brown, from Pittsford, rode in her first gymkhana when she was 12, and said both of her daughters have grown up in it.

Tuesday night, it showed.

Emma Brown, 16, and Kassidy Brown, 14, both competing in the “Junior” division (age 11-17), emerged from the gymkhana as reserve champion and champion, respectively.

Both started riding horses when they were 2 or 3 years-old.

“Or, if you count in utero…” Lori said.

The Browns love the competition and train for it year-round, but “anyone can do it,” Lori said, adding that the event is “inclusive of all ages, levels and breeds.”

At Tuesday’s event, a few of the very young “Peewees” — those 10 and under — were accompanied into the arena by an assistant who led their horse through the pattern by the reins. The youngest competitor was just 3 years old.

“I’ve always been on horses … since before I could steer,” Kassidy said.

Kassidy, who started her night off strong, riding into second place in the Cloverleaf Barrels with a time of 18 seconds flat, said she’s practiced this pattern at least once a week since practically before she can remember.

She still gets an adrenaline rush every time.

“The nerves and excitement hit you right as you come out of the gate,” she said. She said she noticed a couple things she could’ve done better, but overall felt great about her first ride of the night.

Kassidy was nervous for Pole Bending, the second event, because her horse, Jet, isn’t used to the pattern.

“I don’t know what he’ll do, but that’s the fun of it,” she said.

Pole Bending did prove to be a challenge, but Kassidy came back from not placing top six in that event by placing top three in all the rest — Double Bowtie, Cat’s Cradle and Horseshoe Barrels — to claim her first place in the junior division. Her sister was a close second.

“They did amazing,” Lori said.

Though they’re in it for the competition, Lori and Kassidy both noted how important it is to feel connected to their horses.

“I have a really great bond with my horse,” Kassidy said. That bond, which Lori said is “hard to put into words,” is what made her want to share horsemanship with her daughters.

Kassidy said she’ll teach her kids to ride as well. “I do love this … I’ll definitely keep doing this,” she said, before running into the ring to retrieve a hat a previous rider had dropped while galloping to the finish.

The sense of family and community was apparent throughout the evening, in the stands and the announcer’s booth, as well as in the arena.

“Especially this year, it’s just being able to get people here, it’s about being together,” Lori said.


By the end of the night, Sophia Roy and Oaklynn McDurfee were named champion and reserve champion of the peewee division, while Michaela Ross clinched the number one spot and Justin Martindale was the runner up in the senior (18+) division.

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