The British Horseball Association
Horseball In The UK
WHAT IS HORSEBALL
Horseball is the latest British
equestrian sport, recently imported from France. This highly
spectacular game has been compared to a cross between rugby
and basketball on horseback and was invented by Jean-Paul
Depons, a former riding instructor and rugby player. The
game was created as an excercise to improve skill and
discipline between horse and rider. Several concepts were
developed by the French Equestrian Federation, but only
horseball proved successful and, since its introduction, has
become a discipline in its own right.
The game is played on a fairly
small pitch and involves sudden spurts, rapid stops, half
turns and acceleration, therefore horses must be well
schooled and under perfect control. Riders must be
reasonably experienced and confident.
Despite the speed and physical
nature of the game it is fun to play and it is safe, and our
Association aims to keep it that way.
PRINCIPLES OF THE GAME
1. The Game
Two teams oppose each other. They are required to gain
possession of a ball, especially fitted with 6 leather
handless, pass it at least three times within the teams as
they race towards the goals and score by shooting through
the a hoop (1 metre in diameter) suspended on a 3.5 metre
poles. It is essentially a team game and any member can
score. At no time may the riders dismount, but passes may go
forwards or backwards and can be as short or as long as the
opponents permit. Speed is of essence.
2. The Teams
Each team is composed of 6 riders and horses. Only 4 from
each team are allowed on the field at the same time, but
substitutions are allowed during the match.
3. The Ball
This is a junior football (size 4) enclosed in a harness
fitted with 6 leather handles.
4. The Match
There are two halves, each of 10 minutes, with half time of
3 minutes. It is umpired by 2 referees, one on horseback and
the other on a chair at the side of the pitch.
THE MAIN RULES OF
a. The team scoring the greatest
number of goals wins the match.
b. Before the goal is allowed the
ball must be passed consecutively through the hands of at
least 3 of the 4 members of the team. At least 3 passes must
be made without dropping the ball before a goal can be
scored by shooting through the hoop.
c. The ball must not be retained by any player for more than
d. After a goal the game is
restarted with a throw-in similar to those on rugby. Two
players from each team form a line out (at least 5 metres
from the sideline). The side with the advantage throws in
e. If the ball or a player
carrying the ball or the ball goes out of play on the side
lines, the opposing team takes possession and the game
restarts with a simple
f. There are three forms of penalty depending on the level
g. All the rules are designed for
the safety of horses.
THE BACKGROUND OF
Some 20 years ago the French
Equestrian Federation were looking for something to develop
riding skills that could be used in a Manége, would be fun
to do and easy to learn.
Jean Paul Depons, a riding
instructor and a rugby player came up with the concept of
HORSEBALL which despite it’s English name was invented at
Castillion near Bordeaux.
Horseball has become an integral
part of the riding instruction in France, and the federation
is energetically promoting it at home and, more recently,
abroad. The country now boasts some 450 horseball clubs,
which compete in national and regional leagues. France has
won the European Cup on each of the occasions it has been
contested so far, including this year.
Elsewhere, progress has been slower, although it is now
gathering pace. Portugal and Belgium have the strongest
teams after the French and the most players. The game has
grown in England during the last five years since the French
introduced it in an exhibition tournament at the Horse of
the Year Show in 1990 and it is also starting to win
converts outside Europe, including Australia, parts of the
Middle East and the Americas.
The game has now been recognised
by the International Equestrian Federation, which is
considering including it as a core discipline. Leading
horseballers reckon this could pave the way for eventual
Horseball pits four players (who
can be of either sex) against each other. They compete in
halves of 10 minutes each- enough to tire both horses and
riders-on a pitch that is no more than 70 metres by 30
metres. The smallness of the pitch ensures that players are
always in close contact, much as in the forward play in
rugby and in contrast to polo in which excessive space
limits thrills to short bursts. The aim of the game is to
win the ball (a small football, fitted with six leather
handles); make a minimum of three consecutive passes of the
ball (forward as well as backwards, unlike in rugby) between
at least three team-members, without dropping it, and to
shoot it through a hoop 1 metre in diameter and 3.5 metres
off the ground.
In a game of reasonable quality,
the teams would expect to share perhaps 15 goals. After each
score, or if the ball goes out of play, play restarts with a
line-out contested by two players from each side. This is
one of the clearest opportunities to gain control of the
ball, so teams work hard on tactics to help win on their own
throw in, as in rugby. Otherwise, possession changes either
in the tackle or when the ball goes to ground. (There are no
Tackling usually involves
physical contact, though technically a player must grab the
ball without grabbing its carrier. The carrier must hold the
ball in one hand only while being tackled, but a challenge
can often be evaded simply by holding the ball on the side
away from the tackler. Effective tacklers overcome this by
shoulder-barging the carrier to knock him/her off balance,
at which point his natural instinct is to steady himself by
pulling in the extended ball-carrying arm, giving the
tackler a chance. When the ball is dropped the player has to
slide from the saddle and sweep it up, connected to his
charging steed only by the stirrups that are connected by a
belly strap – an act that requires much courage and is
thrilling to watch, especially when two opponents race
side-by-side to win the ball.
Apart from lineouts, tactics are mostly about attack.
Passing the ball within a loose diamond formation is the
best option. If the attackers ride to closely together,
defenders can force them as a pack away from the goal, if
they are too spread out, interceptions become easy as they
do if the diamond collapses into a straight line across the
width of the pitch. But, ultimately, games are won by
superior horsemanship. A horseballer must keep his hands
free, and rely almost entirely on his legs to control his
mount-to stop, turn and vary it’s speed. This, say
horseballers requires more skill than polo, in which players
rely on reins and a whip.
The English league is currently
expanding and has over two hundred members. This comprises
of a senior and junior league.
The European teams include the
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