An event in men's gymnastics
. It consists of a long, padded, bench-shaped figure called the horse with two wooden, semi-circular (but more like rectangular ovals) rings called pommels. The point of the event is to balance yourself on the horse and maneuver your body around it, using only your hands on the pommels.
This event is hell. Despite initial appearences, it is one of the most difficult events to perform full, consistant routines on. The key to pommel horse is to keep your momentum and center of balance continuual over the pommel horse and between your hands. This means that when your body is circling, you must be extremely exact in the way you adjust your weight from hand to hand. And that's just keeping up on the horse, performing skills such as moving between pommels, changing direction, flares, hops, etc all can very easily send off the delicate balance. And there's no recovery on the pommel horse. With every other event that requires nearly continuual movement, high bar, parallel bars, vault, you have time to readjust yourself if you've made a mistake. You get no such break on pommel horse. Once the center of balance is off, you will go flying off the pommels, probably at a rather high and painful velocity.
This makes pommel horse one of the only events in which athletes, all the way up to the Olympics, seriously worry about completing their full routine without a fall. If you get the chance, watch a professional gymnastics competition sometime. Observe the pommel horse routines. Unless a miracle's transpired, you're sure to see someone at some point who was going along, perfectly balanced, in exact alignment, fluid and beautiful, suddenly go hurtling off the event, a jumble of flailing legs and arms. Believe me, it's even more surprising to experience than to watch. There's just no time to notice you're off your center of balance until you've hit the floor with an embaressing thud. And falls have a tendency to ravage one's score very quickly.
One final dangerous bit of the pommel horse, it's the most likely event to do damage to.. you know.. those guys down there. Hard wood pommels and sudden falls don't play well together.
Despite all this hemming and hawing, when done correctly, pommel horse can be one of the most enjoyable events both as a gymnast and as a spectator. The feeling of your body fully extended by centrifical force, the smooth transition down the length of the horse and back again, the rythmic thump of hands against pommels or leather, and most importantly, the feeling of accomplishment when one finishes a full routine without falling: it's incomparable.