Welcome to the Contributor [C] series on Life Equestrian. I love collaborating with other writers and influencers and started this series to curate a source of helpful tips from our equestrian community. Thank you Jacqueline Thomas for your article.
For true equestrian enthusiasts, there is no end to the fun that can be had on horseback, so long as any activity at hand is safe for the horse. And yet so often activities are limited to performance rings and equestrian complexes. In this piece we want to cover another option entirely — a fun, little-known, and even beneficial activity called an equestrian poker ride.
What is a poker ride?
A poker ride is a sort of community equestrian activity that is actually based on poker rides, which are somewhat more common. A poker run meanwhile is something that’s occasionally organized by motorcycle or bicycle enthusiasts, and which amounts to a sort of card-collecting course. Checkpoints are set up around a map, and riders have to visit them to draw cards (and sometimes have a break and a snack). The general idea is to draw a full poker hand over the course of a planned circuit, and then compare hands at the finish line. An equestrian poker ride is essentially the same concept on horseback.
How do you play?
There is no standard variation of poker that is played in poker runs or rides — though the simplest option is to play five-card draw. This is a style of poker in which each player is dealt five cards, and then gets one chance to discard however many of them he or she wishes for replacements. This would make or seven stops on an equestrian ride circuit: five to draw cards, one to exchange, and one to show a final hand at the end. Because there’s no standard option though, there are also ways of making an equestrian poker ride somewhat more complex (or at least longer). In this case, Omaha poker may be the most favorable variety. In this game, players are dealt four cards each before a “flop” reveals three community cards, the “turn” reveals a fourth community card, and the “river” reveals the fifth. Then, players choose two of their own cards and any three of the community cards to comprise a hand. What makes this an intriguing option for a poker ride is that bets can be placed in between steps. Players would make four stops to draw their own cards before initial betting, and then make four subsequent stops: three to see the flop, turn, and river, and one to meet up at the end, with betting rounds in between all steps.
What do you need?
Really, not much! You’ll want a comfortable riding outfit for what can be a fairly long day of riding, and of course you’ll want whatever you need to stay hydrated and keep your energy up. Ideally — particularly if you’re playing with betting rounds — you’ll also want a way to communicate with others. A wireless headset is ideal given the circumstances, but depending on where you’re riding and how many people are participating even a walkie-talkie can work just fine. So long as you're comfortable riding and you can communicate as needed though, you're all set!
Where can you do it?
Naturally, this depends on where you live and what kind of land you have access to. Typical poker runs on bicycles or motorcycles (or even on foot) have the advantage of versatility. One can set up a road course just about anywhere. With an equestrian poker ride you’ll be more limited, but if you have access to either trails or a vast open area, you’ll still be able to organize a fun circuit.
How is it beneficial?
We mentioned above that this can be a beneficial activity, and we also discussed involving betting rounds in a poker ride. As you may have guessed, the idea here is that these types of events are often held for charitable purposes. Whether that means it’s in support of a local cause, a personal cause relevant to the organizer, or even an equestrian charity, it can actually be an excellent way to generate funds. In the simplest of cases, you can just arrange an equestrian poker ride with entry fees that go directly to the cause at hand. However, you can also set it up such that people can bet freely, and the winner donates the pot to a charity of his or her choosing.
All in all it’s a very fun concept, and one any equestrian enthusiast will enjoy exploring. Setup can be a little bit tedious depending on the land and/or venues available to you, but in the end you’ll be in for a fun day unlike anything you’ve quite done on horseback before.