What Is Horseball and Why Is It Sometimes Called Quidditch?

horseball sport

When it comes to equestrian sports, some of the most popular ones include dressage, show jumping, and hunter trials. I’ve written about each of these at length in my article about horse sports and events, but today I wanted to talk about a unique and interesting equestrian activity named horseball, otherwise known as horse Quidditch.

What is horseball, you might ask? It is a horseback sport that has riders shooting a ball through a hoop with a diameter of 1 meter or 3.2 feet. horseball borrows elements from other popular sports such as polo, rugby, basketball, and netball, and it is often associated with the Harry Potter-based sport named Quidditch.

The similarities between horseball and Quidditch are obvious for someone who’s familiar with Harry Potter’s wizarding world, or with other books and characters created by J. K. Rowling. However, while Quidditch is very much an imagined sport that relies on flying brooms and a magical Golden Snitch, horseball is as real as it gets and replaces brooms with horses.

(For the sake of accuracy, there is a real-life sport named Quidditch as well. It was created in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont, but we’re not going to focus on it too much today as it has nothing to do with horses.)

The rules of horseball.

If you’re at all curious about horseball’s rules, it needs to be played on a rectangular pitch, and it involves two teams of four players (and horses) each. There are also two substitutes available for each team. In order to score, the team needs to perform a minimum of three passes between 3 different players before attempting to score the ball through the hoop goal.

The game is played on a soft surface such as sand most of the time. There are different rules for the first pick-up as the game starts depending on the riders’ age group. For players who are less than 13 years of age, the horse is allowed to start the first pick up at a trot, while adult games kick it up a notch to a canter.

At a glance, horseball might appear violent or unnerving, but that’s hardly the case. Both the riders and the horses are very well-prepared for the match. Riders must wear helmets at all times. That’s one rule, but there are quite a few others that are designed to ensure the protection of both rider and horse.

Does horseball require special equipment?

The ball is a junior football that has been modified to feature several leather handles. The handles are there to improve grip and to make it easier to pick up. The riders need to throw the ball through an oversized basketball hoop. It all sounds simple enough, but performing this feat while on horseback requires a lot of training and talent.

The only specialist riding equipment involved in horseball is a “pickup strap” that ties the stirrups together. This allows the rider to lean below the horse in order to collect the ball. The strap is incredibly important because the rider could easily fall off the horse without it.

The origins of horseball.

This unique equestrian sport appeared for the first time in Europe in France during the 1970s. However, it is inspired by Argentina’s national game “pato.” Speaking of which, pato is a very gold game that’s been played in Argentina for centuries. In turn, it looks a lot like polo.

As for the name, the word “pato” signifies the duck that was used instead of a ball in the game’s early days. Indeed, players would use a duck and a basket in order to score points instead of a ball and a hoop. This sounds a bit cruel for the duck if you ask me, but it’s good to know that they completely replaced the use of an animal with a ball in the 1930s.


What makes horseball special is that it’s actually a team sport. Most equestrian activities are individualistic, but in horseball, the team needs to work together in order to have a chance at winning.

The best part is that you don’t even need to be an excellent rider in order to participate. As long as you’re comfortable on a horse and that horse has been trained to come in contact with others without spooking, you’re likely to have a great time. At the moment, the sport enjoys great popularity in France and England, but it’s also gaining a foothold in the USA and Australia.

In the States, horseball is basically described as basketball on horseback. There’s also a good chance that the game could make it into the Olympics, but we’re probably still a few years away from it being accepted.

Have you ever played horseball, and if so how would you describe the experience? Don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know!

If you’re interested in another quirky yet interesting horse-related sport, make sure to check out my take on Hobby Horsing!