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Tips for Playing Mounted Games
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Dunking Tips

Any games player can improve their dunking skills by practicing some of the drills and tips given below. Riders do not need any other games player to practice dunking. Just find a bucket and a variety of items to practice dunking. Try different angles of release in the bucket until you are confident of your dunking skills.

  • Practice bending as low as possible down the side of the pony. Advanced riders should be able to put their hands inside the bucket at a canter while dunking.
  • Practice leaning off your pony and having him move in a straight line towards a bucket or cone first at a walk and then a trot.
  • Lean down for the dunk early. Don't wait until the last moment. This allows the rider to prepare for the dunk early and also allows the pony to adjust his balance before the rider needs to dunk.
  • Practice dunking different items such as tennis balls, socks, fruits and vegetables, etc. Each item bounces differently and should be handled carefully.
  • For dunking drills, use smaller and smaller buckets for dunking items. This will improve a rider's dunking accuracy.
  • Bounce every item either off the inside front of the bucket using a technique where the ball rolls off the fingertips with palms up OR bounce the ball off the back of the bucket with the palms down. By bouncing the item off the bucket front or back, the item will tend to stay in the bucket and not bounce out. If you toss the item in the bucket from up too high or bounce the item on the bottom of the bucket, it is very likely that the item will bounce out.
  • When playing a game with a double dunk (the last rider dunks an item on the way down and also on the way back), make sure the rider who dunks the best is the last rider.

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Handoff Tips

Practice, practice, practice. That is the way to improve your handoff skills. Your teammates and you should start each drill slowly until you can handoff several types of items perfectly. Then increase the speed until you are practicing running handoffs with a variety of items. When practicing running handoffs, make sure you have an observer who is making sure you are not crossing the line ahead of the handoff.

  • Practice handoffs with different items such as tennis balls, socks, bottles, flags, batons, mugs, rings, etc. Each handoff item has a different weight, size, and feel. You should become accustomed to giving and taking during the handoffs for all the items used in games.
  • The incoming rider should hold the item out in front and aim for the outgoing rider's hand.
  • The outgoing rider should not take his eyes off of the item and should TAKE the item from the incoming rider's hand.
  • Both riders should "give" with their hands and arms to take some of the shock off the handoff. This cushions the handoff and makes it less likely that the handoff item will pop out. This is only a problem for speed handoffs.
  • The incoming rider should hold bottles, batons, flags, etc. in a vertical position (upright) for all handoffs. Hold the item so there is plenty of area for the outgoing rider to grab on to.
  • Tennis balls, socks, etc. should be held with the thumb and the first two fingers for a three-point handoff.
  • Running handoffs is another skill that can improve a team's speed. If the outgoing rider can be moving forward at a walk, trot, or canter to take the handoff from the incoming rider that will give the team a head start over a team that has not perfected this skill. The timing must be perfect because the outgoing rider can not cross the changeover line before the incoming rider is all the way across the line. Remember there is nothing in the rules that says the outgoing rider can not be behind the 6-yard line. The only rule is that if there are riders in the 6-yard line area, they can only be the incoming rider and the outgoing rider. If starting behind the 6-yard line gives the outgoing rider more time to make a running start, then use it.
  • The incoming rider should make sure of the handoff to the outgoing rider before letting go. Attempting the handoff again while mounted is easier than dismounting and searching for the item on the ground.
  • Arrange the order of go according to how well each rider can give and take handoffs from the other riders. Some riders just can not handle a handoff from one rider or another. Don't pair them up. Have riders go first who can not take a handoff well. Have riders go last who can not give a handoff well.
  • Don't ever throw the handoff item at the outgoing rider.

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Pick Up & Put Down Tips

Games players must learn to pickup and put down a variety of items. Players can pickup items from and place them back down on barrels, cones, poles, flag holders, and the ground. Games players can practice these skills by themselves with items they have made at home.

Practice picking up and putting down different items such as socks, flags, bottles, mugs, tennis balls, etc.

  • When picking up flags from containers or balls from cones, use a windmill motion with your arm. This will allow you to pick up the flag or ball at speed without knocking over the container.
  • When picking up items from an oil drum, make sure your pony is not afraid of the drum before starting. Get him used to riding up to the drum. If he is afraid of the drum, try placing his feed on the oil drum at feeding times.
  • When picking up and placing the mugs down in 3-mug, make sure that you have your eyes on the pole and the mug until you are sure you have done it correctly. Do not let go of the mug until you are sure it is firmly in place.
  • When playing ball & cone, do NOT let go of the ball until you are sure the ball is not going to roll off. It takes less time to try again, than have the ball roll off and have to dismount and start over.
  • When playing castle, make sure that the turret or orb is firmly in place before letting go of the object. It takes less time to try again, then have the item fall off and have to dismount and start over.
  • When placing a flag in a container, hold the flag near the flag, place your index finger along the flagstaff, and almost point the flag into the container. Make the flag an extension of your arm.

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Vaulting Tips

Vaulting is a very important skill for all riders on a team to develop. Having a team where all the riders can vault quickly can make the difference between a good team and a great team!!!

There are several ways to vault. Beginners often start with the belly vault. You can then move on to vaulting on a standing pony using your legs and arms to pull yourself into the saddle. Finally you can learn to perform the running vault. The running vault actually is the easiest once the technique is perfected because you can use the pony's momentum to assist in the vault.

  • The belly vault should not be used in a competition because it is hard for the rider to steer and control the pony. The belly vault should be used as a practice vault until the rider can develop the arm strength for a actual vault.
  • If you can not vault yet, practice remounting using your stirrup as quickly as possible. Lengthen your stirrup leathers to make it even easier.
  • Consider building a vaulting barrel (see the USPC Games Handbook for details) to learn and practice vaulting.
  • When playing a game, do not waste time attempting to vault. Often you could have remounted using your stirrups and continued the race quicker.. Give vaulting a couple of tries, then move on to remounting with your stirrup. Time is important NOT whether you are vaulting or not.
  • Practice vaulting on the smallest pony you can find at first. Perfect your technique on that pony and then move on to larger ponies.
  • Each rider has a different way of vaulting. Some use mostly shoulder and arm muscles and some use lots of leg muscle. Try different muscle groups when you are practicing your vaults. Some riders can only vault while the pony is moving and some can only vault when the pony stands still. Perfect your own method.
  • The different types of vaults are described below, from easiest to most difficult:
    • THE BELLY VAULT: Facing the pony's side, and holding the reins with your left hand, jump and land on the saddle on your belly. You then rotate yourself to face forward and get your feet astride the saddle. Because your feet are not astride the saddle the moment you land on the saddle, you do not have full control of the horse, and this vault cannot be safely used during a competition. This vault should be used for practice purposes only.
    • THE STANDING VAULT: Hold on to your reins and the horse's mane with your left hand firmly. You should be facing almost backwards as the horse faces forwards. Bend your knees, and with a combination of your legs extending and your left arm pulling, throw yourself in the air. You should be mostly aware of your right leg clearing the saddle and then landing square in the saddle. This is all done with the horse mostly immobile.
    • THE CORNER VAULT: The corner vault is a vault that is made as the pony is turning in a half-circle around you during games such as old-sock, potato, ball and bucket, etc. It is a variation of the standing vault except that the horse is turning around you as you retrieve your item off of the ground.
    • THE RUNNING VAULT: The classic use of the running vault is in Stepping Stone Dash. As you have just finished treading the last stone, you land on both feet, and simultaneously extend both legs. Your horse has been on your right side; you grab the reins and the mane as you thrust your legs, and use the momentum of the pony to propel you onto its back (this is the essence of the running vault) as the pony resumes its gallop. This vault gives the rider the greatest competitive advantage once it is mastered.
    • THE OFF-SIDE VAULT: The most difficult of all vaults, the off-side may be used when a correction is being made, and the rider finds that the horse is on their left side (instead of the right). The same techniques noted above are used; they are simply done from the opposite side. Mastering the off side technique will again give a games player a distinct competitive advantage.
  • Practice, practice, practice! It takes some riders several years to perfect vaulting. You must build up your muscles in your arms, shoulders, and legs before you can vault with speed. Use weights and other exercises to strengthen your shoulder, arm, and leg muscles.
  • When dismounting, first kick your feet out of both stirrups and then dismount facing forward. As you perfect dismounting, you should be able to run forward after dismounting.

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