Riders Get Their Kicks During Horseback Soccer in Merrill

By: Ryan Wing Email
By: Ryan Wing Email

Some people call it soccer. Others call it futbol. And then there's hoofball, a game invented in New Zealand.

Every other week at Keystone Stables in Merrill, teams of three hop on horses for some friendly soccer competition.

"American Equine Soccer League is something we put together so that people would have a reason to ride in the winter," says Terry Fenwick, owner of Keystone Stables.

Just like in soccer, the goal of the game is to get the ball across the goal line. Unlike regular soccer, the ball is a little bigger and the horses are the ones who do the kicking.

"This is the most fun sport on horseback right here. This beats trail riding. It's just fun. The horses are working, we're working. It's awesome," says Joy Wilson.

"This is a blast. I've only been riding for a few years now and it's been so much fun. It's something great to do during the winter," says Michelle Lippert.

Besides being fun for the riders, it's also something the horses enjoy.

"Once he does it, you can't get him off it. They want to do it all the time. You stick him in an arena with just a ball and they want to go after that ball. It's just their toy," says Wilson.

One of the key aspects of the game is training, and it turns out many of the horses are pretty fast learners.

"Every horse is different, but most of them within 10 or 15 minutes, we can get them actually wanting to play the game, teaching them how to kick the ball, how to not be afraid of the ball," says Fenwick.

Like regular soccer, even horse soccer can end in a tie. No matter who wins, the horses still show their unbridled love of the game.

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