Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.
Games Make Learning Fun
Putting games into your lesson plans will keep young children coming back for more because games are fun. In the beginning students have to do a lot of practicing until they have their balance on the horse and a secure seat. Games teach riding skills and horse knowledge while breaking the monotony of repetition.
The Tack ID Game - This is a good rainy day game. It is an un-mounted game and can be played in the barn aisle. Divide the group into two teams and have them "count off" so that each team has a member with a matching number. Place various items of tack in a pile equal distance between each team. Choose some familiar items like brushes, halters and lead ropes. Be sure to also include some items the students do not recognize like a balling gun, martingales, an assortment of bits, or grazing muzzle. With each team standing behind their starting line call out a number and the name of an item in the pile. Each team's number has to race to the pile and find the item and run back to its team with the item. If it is the correct item the team keeps it, if it is wrong they must return it to the pile. At the end of the game the team with the most correct items wins.
Participants will want to play over and over. Each time they play they will remember more of the unfamiliar items. Take this opportunity to explain how the items are used.
Stick the Part on the Horse - Use your most tolerant school horse or pony for this game. Write the names of the parts of the horse on labels with sticky backs. Divide the labels among the students and have them take turns sticking the label on the horse at the appropriate place. Students can guide each other to the right part by coaching "hot/cold" as they get close or away from where the label should be attached. This is another game that can be played inside the barn of bad weather days.
Musical Stalls - This is a mounted game that helps build confidence and riding with precision. Arrange ground poles into a row of three-sided boxes to represent stalls. There is one less stall than riders. The students ride on the rail while the instructor tells them to walk, trot, canter, whoa, or back. At random times turn off the music (or if you don't have access to music just call out STALLS!) and the riders must ride their horse into a stall. They have to enter the open side, no fair riding through the walls. The rider left out is eliminated. Take away one stall after each round until there is only one rider left the winner.
Musical Cones or Sacks is played like Musical Chairs. When the music stops riders must dismount and stand next to a cone or on a sack. The rider left without a cone or sack is out. This should be played with more experienced riders and those tall enough to mount unassisted. Be sure to have the markers far enough apart that riders do not collide. Again, there is one less marker than riders. Take a marker away after each elimination until only one rider is left.
"Simon Says" and "Mother May I?" are two traditional children's games that can be played on horseback. This can be played as the riders are riding on the rail. I like this game because the riders must be listening to their instructor carefully to catch whether the command was prefixed with, "Simon says . . ." They also learn transitions and pace in this game.
In Mother may I? Have the riders start side by side at one end of the arena. The finish line can be marked with poles or a stretched out rope or longe line. Depending on what the students have learned so far they can be asked to walk, trot or canter a certain number of strides. This is a good way to teach counting strides and transitions. Backing, turning, walking over obstacles, halting or even dismounting can be added to the list of commands in either game.
Relay Races are also fun with a group class. You can require that they ‘run" the race at a walk or a trot without breaking gait. The penalty for breaking gait is going back to the starting line. This teaches pace control.
Games help the riders forget their fears since their minds are occupied with playing rather than falling off. It also is a good opportunity to start teaching sportsmanship by learning to play fair and to be gracious winners and losers.
AMARI on November 08, 2012:
I WANT HORSE BACK RIDING GAMES
Donna Campbell Smith (author) from Central North Carolina on November 12, 2011:
Absolutely! I love trail obstacles in the riding lessons. Give the horse and rider some "purpose," and teaches so much while having fun.
kate on November 12, 2011:
you should try a trail cors they are so fun!!!!!!!!!!
rubie mae on November 12, 2011:
i will use some of these
imsoawesome on November 05, 2011:
another is dolly parton. :) hilarious. never played it, but it made me laugh when i read it on the internet. try it!
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on June 06, 2008:
Your learning games remind me of some of the classroom activities I used to do. What a patient pony, that doesn't mind having sticky notes pasted all over.