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When did the gymkhana tradition start (google has failed me)

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  • When did the gymkhana tradition start (google has failed me)

    So... Via research, I've been able to ascertain the Pony Club's beginnings to 1929/England. But when did gymkanas/mounted games start? At around the same time? Prior to that at local horse shows/fetes?

    Per wikipedia, mounted games were first included in England's Horse of the Year show in 1957, but that doesn't quite mean that it was the first time mounted games took place, ever, in England.

    Anyone know?

    ETA: I was remarkably unclear when I phrased my question (at least, for my purposes... ;-) . My real question is "when were gymkhanas (mounted games) first held for Pony Club-aged/type kids in England?" (Did it precede Pony Club (est 1929) or was it added after?)

    Wikipedia claims that gymkhana, means something close to "racket court" but is now used, in India, to mean gymnasium. They also mention that, by the 40s, gymkhanas were "common" for kids, but it doesn't speak to when the events first began (nor does any other source I can find...)

    Thanks for the answers; it's all interesting stuff. And I've had a blast watching gymkhana videos on YouTube. Some adorable, some AMAZING, and some (unintentionally) hilarious stuff. It's probably worth a best-of (YouTube gymkhana videos) thread of its own, although perhaps for those who've never been to a gymkhana ;-).
    Last edited by KayBee; Jan. 6, 2012, 09:32 PM.

  • #2
    It always sounded something Indian to me.

    I am sure the tradition dates back til the dark ages of mounted warfare...


    But I guess you are looking for the peaceful application only.

    Comment


    • #3
      Gymkhana is in wiki as being Anglo Indian, sort of an offshoot of a gentlemen's club and they even have a little sepia print of a Club ca 1890. It's mentioned in National Velvet, set in the 20's and printed in 1935.

      No gymkhana in The Maltese Cat - that's all polo AFAIK. Maybe another Rudyard Kipling story might have a mention. Anybody know any more 19th century authors specializing in equine topics?

      1889 Plain Tales from the Hills, google Rudyard Kipling horses gymkhana,

      still looking for more . . . at least two mentions in that collection of short stories written from 1884 to 1889 and set in India.

      I'm done - if you google history of gymkhana in India you may not get a whole lot of equestrian specific events etc, but it's still pretty darned interesting. Wellington so far the oldest club at 1855.
      Last edited by ReSomething; Jan. 6, 2012, 12:49 PM.
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      • #4
        I would imagine it came (like Jodhpurs and Numnahs) from an adaptation of the Indian way of doing things.

        Pretty sure the British military would have watched Indian tentpegging and other military practice sessions and thought 'hey, that looks a blast'. Gymkhana and Gymnasium must come from the same origin, so I would imagine that in Indian Gymnasium is the place where people train for fitness/strength and Gymkhana is the place where animals train?

        If a man (and it always was men) was sent to work in India, either for the government or the military; wives went to. Where wives went, children either went too or arrived. I'd imagine it was a good way of teaching kids to ride and fun (for kids and adults!) and so when they came back to England such games were expanded on/adapted/formalised.

        The Brits were in India from the 1850s to the 1950s so that would probably fit with the above first mentions etc. I imagine it took about 50 years from the first wave of Brits in India because there would have been so much social prejudice to overcome- can you imagine women, or girls, learning to vault?! They were barely allowed to ride astride at that time. Partly because of this, I'm not sure how it would have really been formalised without the pony club, hence the popularity not growing until later in the 1900's.

        Really interesting question. Does anyone know the answer?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Doodlebug1 View Post
          I would imagine it came (like Jodhpurs and Numnahs) from an adaptation of the Indian way of doing things.

          Pretty sure the British military would have watched Indian tentpegging and other military practice sessions and thought 'hey, that looks a blast'. Gymkhana and Gymnasium must come from the same origin, so I would imagine that in Indian Gymnasium is the place where people train for fitness/strength and Gymkhana is the place where animals train?

          If a man (and it always was men) was sent to work in India, either for the government or the military; wives went to. Where wives went, children either went too or arrived. I'd imagine it was a good way of teaching kids to ride and fun (for kids and adults!) and so when they came back to England such games were expanded on/adapted/formalised.

          The Brits were in India from the 1850s to the 1950s so that would probably fit with the above first mentions etc. I imagine it took about 50 years from the first wave of Brits in India because there would have been so much social prejudice to overcome- can you imagine women, or girls, learning to vault?! They were barely allowed to ride astride at that time. Partly because of this, I'm not sure how it would have really been formalised without the pony club, hence the popularity not growing until later in the 1900's.

          Really interesting question. Does anyone know the answer?
          Those games are much older than that, really.

          Maybe not in the exact version, but they have a long tradition in cavalry training.


          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EwIjmbcXp0
          somewhere at 3 min, I think the knights go to work.
          (I was there, that weekend )

          Comment


          • #6
            Google is your friend - supposedly mounted games date back to the Mongols. Lots of rough riding with stuffed calves and such. Native American did it as soon as they adopted horse cultures. Knights did tilting.

            The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides were patterned after Indian regiments around the turn of the century, it's logical the Indian name would get used for horsemanship games in England. and PC was established in England.

            Now if they'd thought it up here in the US we might have something more like Cheyenne Frontier Days and they'd be little buckaroos!
            Last edited by ReSomething; Jan. 6, 2012, 04:40 PM.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
              Those games are much older than that, really.

              Maybe not in the exact version, but they have a long tradition in cavalry training.


              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EwIjmbcXp0
              somewhere at 3 min, I think the knights go to work.
              (I was there, that weekend )
              Yes, obviously every nation has their cavalry exercises and they are clearly very old. The question as I understood it was more how the work Gymkhana and the associated move from cavalry to kids sport came to being.

              I did kinda assume that people knew the Indians weren't tent pegging to amuse the Brits.

              But well done for attending some re-enactment. I'm glad that made it all clear to you. Personally I prefer ones where there is some degree of skill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=knRpvurKuqU

              But the fact remains that Gymkhanas weren't called jousting, or Djigitovka. Apologies for not including the legacy of the indian mounted warriors. I have been to Rajasthan and ridden the Marwari horses and learnt quite a bit about the Rajputs and their horses and military training, I just chose to keep it relevant to the question. My bad.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Doodlebug1 View Post
                Gymkhana and Gymnasium must come from the same origin, so I would imagine that in Indian Gymnasium is the place where people train for fitness/strength and Gymkhana is the place where animals train?
                Gymnasium originates with the Greeks.

                Gymkhana has Indian origins.

                Whether they are coming from the same proto-linguistic roots or are similar because of the mixing of the two cultures (think Alexander the Great's invasion and subsequent effect on culture on both sides), I have no idea. But in terms of most direct/commonly attributed lineage, they do not have the same origin.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by HappyVagrant View Post
                  Gymnasium originates with the Greeks.

                  Gymkhana has Indian origins.

                  Whether they are coming from the same proto-linguistic roots or are similar because of the mixing of the two cultures (think Alexander the Great's invasion and subsequent effect on culture on both sides), I have no idea. But in terms of most direct/commonly attributed lineage, they do not have the same origin.


                  Well that was an expensive linguistics degree wasted!!

                  Thanks - cool info.

                  Amazing co-incidence, one to remember in the 'useless but vaguely impressive facts' archive!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You want to complicate it? Gymnasium actually comes to us via Latin, not direct from Greek

                    I'm sure there is some sort of shared connection/root in there, but I would lay money on it being the Greek influence in India vs the other way around.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Doodlebug1 View Post
                      Yes, obviously every nation has their cavalry exercises and they are clearly very old. The question as I understood it was more how the work Gymkhana and the associated move from cavalry to kids sport came to being.

                      I did kinda assume that people knew the Indians weren't tent pegging to amuse the Brits.

                      But well done for attending some re-enactment. I'm glad that made it all clear to you. Personally I prefer ones where there is some degree of skill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=knRpvurKuqU

                      But the fact remains that Gymkhanas weren't called jousting, or Djigitovka. Apologies for not including the legacy of the indian mounted warriors. I have been to Rajasthan and ridden the Marwari horses and learnt quite a bit about the Rajputs and their horses and military training, I just chose to keep it relevant to the question. My bad.

                      LOL, I was just one of the tourists. But it was really cool.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Regarding the etymology, I was always told (in childhood spent in Endland) that Gymkhana came from the Indian words for 'ball' and 'court'. Useless info, but there you go.

                        As for the earliest date of gymkhana games, I think that would be very difficult to establish as they are likely to have evolved gradually in a variety of contexts. You might consider Medieval tournaments a form of gymkhana, for example. I would be very surprised if children didn't take part in mock tournament activities, though perhaps not in a performance environment. I think the issue you're really looking at is the changing role of children in society that really emerged in the 20th century. Young people have a much more public role now than in earlier times.
                        Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
                          Those games are much older than that, really.

                          Maybe not in the exact version, but they have a long tradition in cavalry training.


                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EwIjmbcXp0
                          somewhere at 3 min, I think the knights go to work.
                          (I was there, that weekend )
                          Before that. Those games came from the Mongols.
                          ... _. ._ .._. .._

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                            Before that. Those games came from the Mongols.

                            Like I said, as old as mounted warfare.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The OED is your friend on matters like this:

                              "Etymology: Said to be a refashioning, by assimilation of the first syllable to that of gymnastics , of Hindustani gend-khāna ‘ball-house’, the name given to a racquet-court."

                              Less Alexander, I would wager, and more 19th century colonial mangling.

                              The earliest date it has for use of the word gymkhana is 1861; the first reference involving children's games is:

                              "1933 A. Blewitt Ponies & Children viii. 120 Nowadays gymkhanas have become very much the fashion."

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                                Before that. Those games came from the Mongols.
                                Isn't the question NOT when did men start hurling bits of goat at each other from the back of a horse? BUT when did the modern mounted games tradition that is commonly called a gymkhana start?

                                As Lost at C and I have said, it's as much a question about the development of leisure as a concept, the relaxation of attitudes to women and their attire and the development of the Pony Club. All modern things.

                                Let's face it - men trying to beat each other on horseback started if not the first day, then the second day that man first got on a horse. It's called testosterone.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Aha, I see OP has elaborated on post #1. Well, here's a link http://www.britishbiscuittins.co.uk/gymkhana.html dated 1898, not too easy to see but there is a lady aside, crowds etc. Looks very much like a Fair of some sort.

                                  I would think that if OP were to haunt Historical Societies she might begin to find showbills. Also note that I found a reference stating that equestrianism was first seen in the Olympics in Paris in 1900, dropped and then re appeared in 1912.

                                  Pony Club mounted games appear to be an evolution of existing sport, adapted to suit the PC mission.
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                                  • #18
                                    http://www.pcuk.org/uploads/HISTORY_..._PONY_CLUB.pdf

                                    The Institute of the Horse was the original name of the British Horse Society.The BHS was founded in 1947 in the amalgamation of two organisations - the Institute of the Horse and Pony Club, and the National Horse Association of Great Britain.
                                    It was running gymkhanas before it founded the Pony Club.
                                    ... _. ._ .._. .._

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Whoopee! Thanks to ReSomething and Equibrit, I now have a foundation for the fiction I'm concocting. Of course, I'll be fudging the timeline a bit, but not that hugely.

                                      Thanks, all for the insights and info.

                                      Originally posted by ReSomething View Post
                                      Aha, I see OP has elaborated on post #1. Well, here's a link http://www.britishbiscuittins.co.uk/gymkhana.html dated 1898, not too easy to see but there is a lady aside, crowds etc. Looks very much like a Fair of some sort.
                                      I want that biscuit tin!

                                      Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                                      http://www.pcuk.org/uploads/HISTORY_..._PONY_CLUB.pdf

                                      The Institute of the Horse was the original name of the British Horse Society.The BHS was founded in 1947 in the amalgamation of two organisations - the Institute of the Horse and Pony Club, and the National Horse Association of Great Britain.
                                      It was running gymkhanas before it founded the Pony Club.
                                      Yay again. I was hoping that (if I'm assuming correctly and Equibrit hails from somewhere among the British Isles) someone across the pond would read my post and have some knowledge to share.

                                      Thanks for the link. Interesting stuff...
                                      Last edited by KayBee; Jan. 9, 2012, 10:04 PM.

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