Mounted Games is an exciting form of equestrian sport in which fast games are played on ponies up to a height of 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm).
According to Wikipedia, “Mounted Games were the inspiration of Prince Philip. When Col. Sir Mike Ansell was Director of the Horse of the Year Show, Prince Philip asked if he could devise a competition for children who could not afford an expensive, well-bred pony, and in 1957 the Horse of the Year Show, then at Harringay Arena in North London, England, staged the first Mounted Games Championship for the Prince Philip Cup—it was an immediate box office success.”
We’re super proud to supply kit to the Scotland Mounted Games Team, and back in May they took part in the prestigious and world famous Royal Windsor Horse Show. We recently caught up with Scotland trainer Don Frame for a chat all about this exciting sport, the Scotland team, and hanging out in the Queen’s back garden!
Kudos: So I guess we should start at the start – how did you become involved with the pony club, Mounted Games, and how that lead to you becoming Scotland coach?
Don Frame: Well I’ve got four children – three daughters and one son – and my two eldest girls at the time were encouraged by friends to go along to a club. So we went up one night to Mounted Games training, and the girls just loved it. They were just 6 and 4 years old at the time. We became members of Lanark & Upperward Pony Club and just at that time a lot of kids joined, all around our girls’ age. So most of them have come through together, and a lot of them ending up doing Mounted Games, and they were all fantastic. If one managed to vault on a pony, it encouraged the rest to do the same. And before we knew it, in around 2012, I got asked if I would help coaching – and I’ve been doing it ever since. My eldest daughter, with Lanark & Upperward Pony Club, got to the Horse of the Year Show in 2015, which was amazing, and both my daughters made it into the Scotland team – which is something we never even thought about achieving, but they just got very good at it. And to cap it all, i then got asked this year to be the Scotland coach for this year and next year, so it’s been fab!
Are your daughters still on the team that you now coach?
No, you can only do it for two years – so both my daughters have been there and done it. Rachel was 2015-16, and Katie was 2017-18, and now they’ve asked me to coach. So it’s been great, we’ve loved it!
What’s the selection process for the team, then? Is it from trials, or are they selected from all the eligible pony clubs?
So all the pony clubs put forward who they think is of the right standard. We have a day at Morris Equestrian Centre, usually in March time, when they pretty much just ride all morning and we select the team from that. We also see them riding throughout the year, we see who’s riding well, but an awful lot rides on that day – we see who can cope with the pressure. I find it a very difficult day to be honest – not so much for the ones we select, but for the ones that we don’t. We know what it means to them all so it can be quite difficult. It’s hard letting kids down.
Already next year is looking tough – there’s loads of kids riding really well so it’ll be another very hard selection process.
And what’s the age range of the kids in the team?
It’s 13, 14 and 15 – and when they turn 16 they’re too old and ineligible.
So, do the ponies belong to the riders, or are they owned by the team? And how much do you think is down to the rider and how much is down to the pony?
The ponies belong to the children. So we bought a pony who was a really good games pony. She was used for both my girls – when Rachel finished Katie started to ride her.
I’d say the kids’ skills are about 50-60% of it. The ponies have a huge part to play as well, obviously.
So what sort of things go into a typical Scotland training session? Do you practice a specific game, or is it range of skills every session?
I’d say by the time they reach Scotland level, international level, they’ve done most of the games stuff, so generally we’d have a list of games that we’ll be riding at Windsor so we just work through them. We try and get together 4 or 5 times before we go down to Windsor, but it’s as much for me as it is for the kids, to see what position we’ll go in each race.
So what was your recent Royal Windsor Horse Show experience like?
Ah it’s brilliant. It’s such a tight timescale – you can be in and out of the arena in about 20 minutes, and in that time you’re cramming in 8 or 9 games. But we’re right in front of most of the Royal Family. It’s an amazing experience for them.
Is there a game that you and the team particularly like…or dread?!
Haha! Sometimes you think we’ve maybe not been running that race so well, but that’ll be the one they do exceptionally well on the day, and vice-versa and make a mess of another one you were confident about. So you never know. But to be fair, at Scotland level, they’re very good at all the races. These kids are fantastic – they’ve been riding for about ten years so they’re brilliant.
It must be exhilarating for you, to be taking part at such a high level. We’ve seen it ourselves at HOYS (Horse of the Year Show)…it’s another level isn’t it.
It is yeah, it’s brilliant. I remember one of the sessions this year…the speed they were riding at was incredible and it blew me away. The ponies definitely feed off the crowd and they go faster than they’ve ever gone before, so inevitably mistakes will happen and some kids will fall off, but it’s all part of the excitement.
So is there a show that’s the most memorable for you?
Ah it has to be Windsor for me. There’s just something spectacular about it. From the minute you drive in you feel this magic…I think it’s probably the fact you’re in The Queen’s back garden! It’s just brilliant. The first year we were there, we walked around, had a wee look about, and The Queen was just walking around among the crowd. It’s amazing!
Should anyone be reading this who might now be thinking about getting their own kids involved, what would you say to them?
Ah there’s so many great reasons to get involved. For sheer fun, for the child’s discipline; they learn to become part of a team. And as much as it’s brilliant when they reach the top level, the best thing about it is the friendship between the kids. It really is. The friendship element at a pony club is something else, you genuinely make friends for life. My girls have made lots of friends for life. My eldest is now at university in Liverpool and if any of her friends from the pony club are over that way, they still go and meet up.
And lastly, how are the team finding the new Kudos tracksuits?
I must say the tracksuits we got from Kudos are fab. The kids look brilliant in them. You gave us a few choices, a few different designs to choose from, and I ended up having the casting vote! But yeah the kids look brilliant in them.
Thanks so much to Don for taking the time to talk to us. We’re proud to be involved with all forms of equestrian sport, and every bit as proud to be associated with the Scotland Mounted Games team. Good luck to everyone up there for the rest of the year and beyond!
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