Sarah Rogers rides in the open category.
Sarah Rogers rides in the open category.
On Friday, March 20, the last cowboy boot dropped. The Northern Nevada Gymkhana Club held out as long as it could before becoming Pershing County’s last coronavirus-related sports casualty. Up until Friday, Ann-Marie Fenner hoped to meet with the horseback riders for the second gymkhana of the 2020 season. It was to meet on Saturday and Sunday.

Fenner founded the club four years ago. The first gymkhana rolled onto the Lovelock fairgrounds on March 12, 2017. Since then, it expanded into one big family. Many of its members, perhaps most of them, got in the ground floor. Children grow visibly more confident as the years fly by like racehorses.

A few started as toddlers, led into the ring by their moms or dads. Gradually, over weeks or months, the parents let go and the riders and horses take off on their own. 

Competitors weave between barrels and poles on horses with names like Wrangle, Pretzel, Red, Shorty and Dandy. Other competitions include the Figure-8, single stake and revolving. Riders progress through each as Fenner and her mom announce from the clubhouse. On hot days, they remind people to hydrate themselves and the horses.

In 2017, newborn Riot Fenner joined her mom and grandmother in the club house. She started riding in the club last season.

Children compete in three age categories, 0-7, 8-10 and 11-13 years old. Adults and older teens can enter the open group, for experience only. They still get a buckle and trophy class award.

Goat tying clinics or seasonal challenges follow many gymkhanas. Last summer, Deni Perkins Byrd and Huntley Byrd took home prizes. The mother and daughter rode patterns without dropping a ball off a spoon in the Independence Day challenge. 

Gymkhana met for the first and, possibly last, time of 2020 season on a windy March 14. High pointers included Myles Macedo (0-7 years old), Rhea Fenner (8-10) and Lane Byrd (11-13). Runners-up were Rhoan Fenner (0-7), Rori Fenner (8-10) and Jorja Mashburn (11-13).

Every gymkhana has a Rockstar, a rider with a winning attitude and personality. Saturday’s Rockstar was Ellie Scilacci.

“We all come together and volunteer our time so kids can compete in a safe, fun and exciting environment,” says Fenner. “The mission of the NNGC is to promote horsemanship and the sport of rodeo for youth.”

Each season culminates with an awards night at the community center. Last year’s banquet raised over $1,600 and gave out over 200 awards. NNGC also receives funding from the Pershing County Recreation Board and a long list of sponsors.

The Pershing County community embraces the club. Glenn Rose, Marti Nolan and the Lovelock Volunteer Fire Department water the arena at the beginning of each season. Chad Fenner climbs on a tractor to do the rest of the prep work.

Gymkhana is a hybrid word of Anglo and Hindi origin. Once you start looking for them, hybrids are everywhere. ‘Television’ joins Greek (tele) with Latin (viseo or seeing). Other hybrids include automobile, lovable, merriment and monolingual.

Gymkhana joins the Anglo word “gym” with “jamat-khana,” a Persian name for a place of congregation. Congregating is something we can’t do right now, and may not be able to do for a long time.

“Well, folks, it saddens me to say we have to reschedule the March and potentially April gymkhanas,” Fenner announced on Friday. “We will keep you posted as we get closer to April’s dates. Stay safe and sane, everyone. It is what it is. We’ll adapt.”

For more information, visit the Northern Nevada Gymkhana Club’s website, northernnevadagc.com.