Horseball: origin, rules and breeds

Por Horse TV
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In the world of equestrian sports, there is a game that fuses the elegance of horsemanship with the strategy and excitement of team sports. Welcome to the thrilling realm of horseball, a discipline that goes beyond conventional riding tracks to challenge both riders and horses in a whirlwind of speed, precision and teamwork.

In our latest article, we'll explore in depth the exciting and often underrated world of horseball. From its origin and evolution to the rules of the game and the skills required, we'll take you on an exciting journey through this team sport on horseback.

What is horseball and what does it consist of?

Horseball is an equestrian team sport that combines elements of rugby, basketball and soccer, but is played on horseback. It is an official sport and is officially recognized by the International Equestrian Federation.

The FIHB (International Federation of Horse-Ball) regroups different national federations of the countries that have national competitions and national Horseball associations and manages and organizes international competitions in the world.

The main objective is to score goals by inserting a ball with handles called "horseball" into a net suspended above the ground of the opposing field.

What is the objective of horseball and how is it played?

The main objective of horseball is to win the game, the winner is the one who scores the most goals. In other words, whoever scores the most goals with the horseball in the opposing team's net. To achieve this, the teams of riders must work together to advance with the ball towards the opposing team's goal line, since in order to score goals, at least 3 passes must have been made and 3 different players must have touched the ball.

As we have already mentioned, the game is played with two teams facing each other. Two teams of four players must pick up the ball from the ground and put it into 3.5m high baskets at the ends of the field.

When the ball lands on the ground, the players of each team must pick it up without getting off the horse with a leather tool, usually called a pick-up strap. It is also possible to pick it up with the hands, although it is somewhat more complicated. This action is very characteristic of this sport and is called "ramassage".

It is played on a rectangular field 65 meters long and 25 meters wide. The game is divided into two 10-minute halves with a 3-minute break between the first and second halves.

To enforce the rules of the game and ensure the safety of horses and riders, three referees direct and control the game. The first referee stands on a chair (tennis type) on one of the two sides and two other referees stand on foot or on horseback, one on each side of the field.

What kind of horses are used in horseball?

In horseball, horses are used that are agile, obedient and able to adapt quickly to the different situations that arise during the game. Although there is no specific horse breed for horseball, there are some breeds that would be great for the sport. The English or Arabian thoroughbred horse may be ideal, as they are quite fast, strong and hardy.

To find the ideal horse they should meet some of the following characteristics:

  • Agility: Horses must be agile and able to move quickly in different directions. Agility is essential for maneuvering in the field, especially during changes of direction and quick maneuvers.
  • Speed: Although speed is not the only factor, horses with good speed can be advantageous in reaching the goal line or defending effectively. Also valuing a good change of pace to be differential when attacking and defending.
  • Resilient: It is necessary to have a horse that is able to withstand matches and high intensity activities for quite a few minutes
  • Not too tall and stout: As we have already mentioned, the collection is an essential part of horseball, so ideally the horse should not be too tall to be able to easily go to the ground to get the "ball". Also add that the corpulence is something important because it is a sport where the horses could collide with each other due to the intensity of the game.
  • Ball Handling: Some horses naturally have an innate ability to deal with objects or balls in their environment. This ability can be an advantage in horseball.
  • Obedience: Obedience is crucial, as horses must respond to the rider's commands. This is important to ensure effective control while playing.
  • Good Temperament: A good temperament is fundamental, as horses must interact with other horses in a competitive environment without becoming aggressive.

How many players participate in a horseball team?

In horseball, two teams composed of 4 players face each other. To these four riders are added two more players, who are called reserves. The number of horses is the same, there can be a total of 6 horses per team, but only 4 at a time on the field.

Normally these four players take on different roles in the game: attacker, defender, goalkeeper and a midfielder. In each team there is a captain, who is in charge of directing his team's play and is the only one who can communicate with the referee when necessary.

One of the curiosities of this sport, which differentiates it from others, is that the teams can be mixed.

It is important that the players are skilled riders with good control over their horses. Coordination and synchronization between players are critical to success in horseball, as it is a sport that requires both equestrian skills and ball handling skills.

What are the basic rules of horseball?

As we can see in the official Horseball rules of the Spanish Equestrian Federation, we will divide these rules into several sections:

Duration of the match

A match consists of two 10-minute halves separated by a 3-minute rest period. An official timekeeper controls the playing time. The match can be stopped for several reasons.

  • When a goal has been scored.
  • When the ball leaves the field of play by the boundaries of the safety zones.
  • When a foul is committed.

In these three situations we have just mentioned, the stopwatch will not stop. However, when the following situations occur, the stopwatch will be stopped.

  • In case of penalty no. 1 (rough or dangerous play) and penalty no. 2 (obstruction or intimidation).
  • In the event of an "in-between" whistle.
  • If the ball goes out of the field at the back of the court.

Each team has one thirty-second time-out in each half. Time-outs can only be requested during a stoppage of play. The captain or coach of the team requests the time-out to the referee, and the referee requests the stop of the stopwatch.


Each time a basket is scored it is a point. For the basket to be valid, the ball must have been touched by three different players without the ball touching the floor. Whoever has the highest score, i.e. the player who has put the ball in the basket the most times at the end of the game is the winner.

Fouls: penalties and free throws

There are specific rules to avoid dangerous situations for riders and horses. Fouls may result in free kicks or penalties for the opposing team.
Free Kicks: Free kicks are taken from the spot where the foul was committed. Other players must be at a specific distance from the ball.
Penalty Kicks: Penalty kicks are taken from a specific distance from the goal line. The rider has the opportunity to throw the ball into the net unopposed.

The field

The field has to be rectangular with the following dimensions: in length, it has to have a minimum of 60m and a maximum of 75m and in width a minimum of 20m and a maximum of 30m. The normal and most used is 65x25m.

This track can be indoor or outdoor, in case it is outdoor it must have a good drainage since the track must be non slippery, as well as soft and level to guarantee the safety of players and animals.

On both sides of the track there is a safety area between 3 m. and 5 m. wide where the trainer and the grooms can be seated and where the reserves must wait.

The following lines of play should be marked on the sides of the field:

-The center of the court.

-The 5 m., 10 m. and 15 m. penalty lines measured on both sides of the court, from the basket hoop.

- Indications of 0.5 m. on each side of the center line.

Baskets and the ball

  • Two baskets will be installed on the playing field, each one in the center of both backs.
  • The baskets must have an internal diameter of 1 meter and a 4 cm white mesh net. The baskets must be 3.5 m. above the ground.
  • The baskets can be suspended from the ceiling or wall or mounted on a base.
  • The ball is a light-colored youth soccer ball surrounded by a harness with six leather handles.
  • The size of the ball for the Women's and U-16 categories is No. 3, while for Pro Elite it is No. 4. The length of the handles has to be approximately 31 cm, and the width 2cm.

The teams

A team consists of six pairs (six horses and six players), of which only four can be on the field at the same time.

A team may play with only three players, but not less.

The rest of the players must remain in the corresponding safety zones until a substitution takes place.

Substitutions are unlimited and may only be made while play is stopped (when a goal is scored or the ball leaves the court); or during a time-out requested by a team or referee.

What is the necessary equipment to play horseball?

Players' equipment

Players must:

- Wear a helmet.

- Wear high riding boots.

- Wear the same uniform as all the players on the team. Players are numbered from 1 to 15 with each player's number on the back and chest. Players may not change their number during the match.

- Spurs may be used, but star spurs, dangerous spurs or spurs that could injure the horse are prohibited. Adhesive tape may not be used to attach spurs to boots.

- Whips and whips may not be used during play, but may be used in the warm-up arena.

- Players are recommended to wear back protectors and knee protectors (made of soft materials).