The Prince Philip Games are played by teams of five riders and five ponies (no horses need apply), only four of whom participate in each game. This gives ponies, and riders, a chance to catch their breaths every now and then, by sitting out one race.
Riders must be under the age of 15 as of January 1st in each year to be eligible to play "A" Division Prince Philip Games. There are no firm National requirements as to Pony Club Testing levels, but it is advisable for riders to have at least a D or D1 level. Some Regions require players to have achieved a minimum standing before competing.
Teams which qualify at the Regional level may compete for their Zone Championships. The top teams from each zone compete for the National Championship. Some Regions provide additional levels of competition for less experienced players and may have Regional Championships for several different levels of competition.
There is a Masters Games Division for riders between the ages of 15 and 21 years of age who have attained at least the "D" level. Masters may ride ponies or horses up to a maximum of 15.2 h.h. In 1995, the first National Masters Championship was hosted by the Alberta Region as an invitational event and in 1996 British Columbia Lower Mainland Region hosted an invitational Championship. The Masters Division was officially recognized by the Canadian Pony Club in late 1996.
All of the Games are variations on the relay race. Some require the riders and ponies to run a slalom course in and out around a series of upright poles from one end of the playing field to the other where they hand-off a prop to the next rider on the team. Some races require riders to vault off of and onto their ponies. Others require riders to drop objects such as socks and vegetables into buckets (and pray they don't bounce out again!). There is an egg-and-spoon race, and others which ask the rider to pick up objects with another object ("Sword" and "Litter"). Riders develop remarkable skills in the areas of timing; sense of space, speed and direction; co-ordination; agility and horsemanship. They also laugh a good deal - the only way to deal with mistakes when everyone makes some!
Prince Philip Cup Games are one of the few riding competitions in which the members of the team must work as a team, perfecting their hand-offs, rotating through the races (remember, only four out of five riders in each race) and sharing the limelight.