It’s an exciting weekend in Cluny as today saw the beginning of the national 3-day horseball championship for ladies. Did I say ladies? From what we saw this afternoon there is nothing ladylike about it. It’s a fearsome combination of polo, basketball and rugby.
Four players from a team of six battle it out to get the ball into the net. For safety there are strict rules: the rider with the ball dictates the direction of play. To avoid head on crashes any tackles must be made by coming up from behind. To obtain possession the ball can be intercepted during a pass or wrenched out of the grasp of a rider. To prevent goals the defendant’s horse can be used to shoulder the attacking horse out of the scoring area.
A team must pass the ball between a minimum of three players before a goal can be attempted. If the ball is dropped it must be picked up at a canter. A player cannot keep the ball more than 10 seconds.
All this goes to make a fast and furious game. Apparently the Argentinians used to play it with live ducks from the 1700s and it was banned as there were too many fatalities. It was revived again in 1940 and by 1953 it had become the national game of Argentina.
But the French like to think they invented horseball in the 1970s and have made this game their own. International mixed competitions began in 1992 and to this day the French remain unbeaten. Women-only teams began to compete in 2003 and likewise they have never lost a game.
There will be 76 matches over the three days and the team for the next international competition will be chosen from the best players. There will also be a prize for the smartest looking team and the most competent horse and rider.
Once again the Equivallée at Cluny proves itself to be one of the the best venues for horse events in France. The equestrian village has boxes for the 400 horses who will need 40,000 litres of water and 20 tons of straw. Meanwhile the riders and their teams will be entertained and provided with dinner each night. After a game of horseball I would think a hot bath would be in order too.