Gymkhana draws young and old

Kylie RoweCountryman
Gymkhana draws young and old
Camera IconGymkhana draws young and old Credit: Countryman

With the recent Mt Magnet Gymkhana being held in mid-October, the Murchison Gymkhana Association round wrapped up for another year.

The year began with the Yalgoo meeting being held over the Easter break, followed by Meekatharra, Newman, East Gascoyne and, lastly, Mt Magnet.

Gymkhana days are scheduled for school holiday breaks to allow children attending boarding school to join in the fun.

Families travel for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of kilometres to attend these occasions.

Sub-juniors must be 10 years and under, and juniors must be 14 and under.

Anyone over the age of 15 has to compete as a lady or gent rider.

Competition is strong in all divisions, and many a hard-fought battle is contested while trying to retrieve an apple from a bucket of water or throwing oneself from a horse to chase a can in the middle of a circle.

Popular events include the bending race (pole bending), flag race (dropping four sticks in the drum at high speed), jumping, musical cans, Texas keyhole, egg and spoon race, sack race, and the hotly contested barrel race, which often has a prize value from between $500 to $2000 for the fastest time.

For the adult riders are the fast-paced walk, trot and gallop, and hurry scurry events where riders and horses get to pretend they are in the Melbourne Cup for the day.

The Murchison Gymkhana Association Inc. was formed in 1969, and 44 years later is still going strong, with many of the original competitors still participating as judges, while their children and grand-children battle for leading riders.

Clubs in the association compete annually for the Buff Coumbe Memorial trophy, which is donated by R and M Bell from Meekatharra.

This is a fitting tribute to a man who loved gymkhana and was an integral member of the association.

In 2013, the Buff Coumbe Memorial Trophy was won by the East Gascoyne Club, with a large injection of points coming from the Fowler Family of Milly Milly Station.

Another important trophy is the Timothy Ford Memorial Trophy, which is donated by John Ford in memory of his son.

The award goes to the sub-junior who has won the most points throughout the year without getting a first ribbon, therefore giving essential encouragement to young riders.

In 2013 the Timothy Ford Memorial Trophy was won by Jess Mutter, who is following in her mother Dallas Mutter (Gillam's) footsteps.

The only thing missing is the legendary horse Matches, who Dallas used to ride.

Leading riders in each division for the Murchison Gymkhana Association in 2013 were leading gent Quentin Fowler (East Gascoyne), leading lady Simone Jones (Mt Magnet), leading junior Cob Fowler (East Gascoyne) and leading sub-junior Dane Fowler (East Gascoyne).

Gymkhanas are important events throughout the Murchison region as they bring together riders, spectators, and the all-important volunteers for a much-needed social occasion.

After the day's competition, a barbecue is enjoyed and the festivities often continue well into the night around the various campfires.

Learner gymkhana riders of the past can now be seen throughout the State competing at the highest level in such equine pursuits as polocrosse, camp-drafting, barrel racing, endurance and rodeo.

It is a tribute to these events that these high-level riders are often seen back in the Murchison with their children in tow, participating in the wonderful sport of gymkhana.

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