Gymkhana returns: Horse games back after six-year hiatus

PASO ROBLES — Gymkhana, which literally means, “games on horseback,” has returned to Pioneer Day after a six-year hiatus.

“We started back again last year, I retired, but they bugged me and bugged me, so I came back,” said Gymkhana Chair Margo Abatti, who then made it very clear that while yes, she’s the chair, she does it with a lot of help.

Keeping in the spirit of Pioneer Day, which has the slogan, “leave your pocketbook at home,” the event requires not only many hands on deck the day of the event to keep the everything running smoothly and safely but at least $3,000 must be raised prior to the event in order to make the event free and open to all.

“Half a day at the arena is $2,500 and it’s about $1,000 for the prizes,” Abatti said. “It’s costly to rent state fairgrounds but we like to keep it on the same day so people can go to the parade then come down here and have some fun.”

There are three events that take place: single stake, poles, and barrels. There were approximately 60 entries on Saturday from lead line to 18 and over with most of the entries being local, either from Paso, Atascadero, Shandon or Creston. The entire event is limited to San Luis Obispo and Monterey County residents.

“I think we had a really great turnout this year,” said Abatti.

Among those who turned out were some real players in the Gymkhana scene including the “Hurl Girls” as Abatti fondly referred to them.

Mother Johna Hurl is the fastest senior rider in the state, daughter Kayla is No. 4 in the state and daughter Katelyn is the proud owner of the fastest horse in the state.

“We’ve been coming to Gymkhana since the girls were 4 and 5 and they look forward to it every year, they really do,” Hurl said.

© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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