Carly Haight and Shatan clear a jump during a game at the Los Altos Hills Horsemen's Association's Playday May 22.
In the early morning light, a line of horse trailers began arriving at the Los Altos Hills Riding Ring on Purissima Road to participate in a "Tack Trade and Playday" hosted by the Los Altos Hills Horsemen's Association May 22.
The horsemen's association puts on at least one playday each year to raise funds for its non-profit organization. This year, the day included a tack trade and barbecue lunch. Profits will help cover the cost of the group's insurance and ongoing efforts to keep the riding ring available for public use.
The playday part of the fund-raiser involved a series of games and relays during which riders on horseback could meet one another and challenge each other with their skills. Many of the activities were designed to improve balance and horsemanship abilities and to enhance the bond that develops between each rider and his or her horse as they face new and unusual events together.
The association organized 24 games, including an obstacle course, limbo on horseback, a jumping race, red light-green light, barrel races, a relay race that involved bobbing for apples and pole bending (zigzagging between poles).
Other favorites included riding at a walk, trot or canter without dropping a potato or an egg from a wooden spoon, riding with a cup of water without spilling the contents, partnering with another horse and rider to race while holding a 6-foot rope between them, and riding bareback with a $5 bill between one's thigh and the horse's back.
The last rider with his or her $5 bill still in place left the ring with all of the participants' bills.
The horses' favorite game was probably the carrot-eating relay race.
About two dozen riders, varying in age and gender, participated. The majority of riders were preteen and teenage girls.
Parents, friends, siblings and other spectators enjoyed the entertainment and provided encouragement.
Horses of many ages, sizes and breeds were in attendance: Arabian, Peruvian Paso, Thoroughbred, Quarter, mixed breeding and ponies.
Ponies had the advantage in the limbo game, but the larger horses did better in the jumping games.
Between events, one horse that hadn't yet participated untied himself, entered the riding ring and entertained everyone with his antics.
LAHHA members have scheduled a Junior Horsemanship Clinic July 15-17 at the riding ring. For more information, log on to www.LAHHA.org.
Jolon Wagner is a Los Altos Hills resident and a member of the Los Altos Hills Horsemen's Association.