About the Games
Games on horseback are a powerful tool for teaching as this enables the rider to have fun and switching up the usual riding around the ring routine. These games teach riders useful skills that they practice and learn without realizing it.
These games can be played by riders of all disciplines and ages in riding arenas or even out in fields!
The horses usually enjoy this switch from the normal riding ring routine. Keep in mind that some horses may have to become accustomed to playing some of these games - they may need to get used to a rider bending down to pick something up, or a dollar bill flying off the saddle etc so precautions should be made first.
These games are great for playing in group riding lessons, summer camp, and even holding fun shows at your barn (a great idea to gain more revenue by charging entry fees!). These games are great for children at all levels - so keep in mind that all these games can be tweaked to become harder or easier for the children to play according to their riding levels.
Red Light, Green Light
Have all horses and riders line up next to each other at one side of the ring. They should be facing the opposite side of the ring, behind the starting line. You can make a starting line with cones, poles, or even flour line sprinkled on the ground.
The judge or instructor is on the opposite side of horses/riders and turns around. The judge will say "Green Light" and riders get to walk, trot, or canter.
NOTE - Define rules before you play. For beginner riders, say they can only walk or trot. While advanced riders may be able to trot and canter. If there is a mix of levels, I let each rider choose the gait they are comfortable with. I mention the faster they go, the more time they will need to slow their horses down!
After several seconds, the judge will say "Red Light" and count out loud to three. When the judge turns around and if a rider/horse is not completely stopped, they must go back to the starting line. You can give more or less time for the stop as well - define this rule to the riders. I let the horses shift their weight a little bit but if they walk off they must go back to the starting line (at a trot or canter. Gait is up to judge)
Judge will repeat between "Green Light" and "Red Light" until one rider crosses the finish line!
Another variation of this game: Riders at "Green Light" must canter. "Yellow Light" riders must trot. "Red Light" riders must halt.
Egg and Spoon
Every horse/rider combination will receive a plastic spoon and egg. I let the riders hold onto their egg and spoon in the palm of their hand until we are ready to start. You can buy a large bag of plastic spoons from the dollar store. You can use real eggs or ping pong balls for less of a mess.
When all riders have an egg and spoon, I send everyone out to the rail in a specific direction. I give everyone a minute to put their egg in their spoon before we start. Make sure riders hold the spoon by the handle when it's time to play.
Commands can be given to riders such as "All walk", "All Trot", "Reverse direction", "Get into your two-point", "Kick your feet out of the stirrups", "Pick your stirrups back up", etc. The possibilities are endless!
Any riders that drop their egg at any point of the game are out, and must wait in the center of the ring until the last person with their egg wins.
Variations: Play egg and spoon while having each rider do an obstacle course and whoever gets the furthest without dropping their egg wins. Another variation for advanced riders is setting up a low cross rail and having riders jump over the fence with an egg and spoon. You make the jumps progressively higher until one rider is left with their egg.
Simon Sez is a very popular game that all children know how to play! The judge is "Simon" and will repeat phrases like "Simon Sez ride with the reins in one hand" or "Simon Sez Trot". Riders will need to follow Simon's directions unless the judge does not say "Simon Sez" before a command. For example, if the judge says "All Canter" and a rider canters, they are out and most go to the center of the ring because riders are only supposed to follow commands after "Simon Sez".
Simon Sez can be played with riders of all ages and experience levels, tailor the game to suit your needs.
Riders will be given dollar bills which will be placed under the same body parts of every rider. I personally place one dollar bill under a rider's calf and thigh. Although you may place it under any body parts and can use as many dollar bills that you would like per rider!
You can buy fake money at the dollar store to use as well or use playing cards, paper, etc.
All horses and riders are sent to the rail in a specific direction and the judge will give everyone commands such as "All trot", "Sitting Trot", "Two Point", "Put one hand on your helmet", etc. When a rider loses all of their money, they are out and must wait in the center of the ring for the game to be played out.
If using real money, you can let the winner keep all the cash!
Cone Weaving or Pole Bending
This game can be played in either teams or individually. I find doing teams is better as individually you would need to keep track of a rider's time.
I set up several cones in the ring, evenly spaced out. You can use poles that you would use for pole bending instead of cones as well. Cones are spaced smaller for more advanced riders and wider for beginners. If playing in teams, I will have two sets of cones evenly spread out, right next to each other.
Riders will line up behind the starting line.
In teams, the goal of the game is to have everyone finish weaving in and out of the cones faster than the other team. Riders can weave the cones going up and back or they can weave going up and coming back to their team they can just ride passed the cones. If team numbers are uneven, have one rider go twice. Depending upon level, beginners I will let them chose to walk or trot and for advanced riders I let them choose any gait.
If played in singles, you must record the rider's time and the fastest time wins.
Variations: Have english riders play using one hand on the reins. If western, use your opposite riding hand!
There are several variations to this game, the version I choose to play depends upon the riders' abilities. If I have only advanced riders, I will set up chairs and spread them out all over the riding ring. I do not put any near the rail as that is where the riders and horses will be mainly during the game. I will start the music (I use a radio or even a car stereo) and riders may trot or walk around the rail in a specific direction. When I stop the music, every rider can trot or canter over to a chair, dismount, and sit in a chair. I require my riders to take the reins over their horse's heads when they dismount. The rider that is left without a chair is out and can stay in the middle of the ring or continue riding out on the rail without playing further. Everyone mounts back up and returns back to the rail, The music begins playing again and after several minutes stops again.
There will always be one chair less than riders so each round, be sure to remove a chair. This game is my favorite game to watch - its thrilling to watch the riders practice their emergency dismounts at a canter or trot and leap into a chair!
I only play this variation with advanced riders as they are capable of mounting and dismounting their horses several times throughout the duration of the game without assistance.
The second variation for riders of any level includes setting up cones all over the ring. When the music stops, a rider must completely halt their horse right next to a cone. Another rider can take their cone if the first rider at the cone does not have their horse completely stopped next to the cone. Remember, choose the gaits of choice for riders!
The third variation which I have heard of but never tried includes using poles. Using several poles, make enough three sided "stalls" for horses/riders. The stalls are lined up right next to each other like parking spaces. When the music stops, riders must ride and halt inside of a stall. Last rider without a stall is out. I have never played this version as this requires a lot of poles and I think places horse and rider combinations too close together. The other variations such as with the cones, allows me to space everyone out so horses do not get close to each other. Cones are also easier to move than poles!
This is a race that riders play in teams. I will have one bucket for each team at the opposite side of the ring - where the finish line is located - and will have the bucket hanging on a standard or on top of a barrel. Teams line up before their starting line and opposite of their team bucket. One by one, a rider from each team trots or canters (specify gait!) rides over to their bucket and pulls out one costume item. The costume must be worn somewhere on the body and cannot be held in a rider's hand.
Use parts of old halloween costumes or go to your local dollar store and find some deals. From the dollar store, I have used and bought fake hair, fake glasses, fake gold necklaces, gloves, and even a big bra!
After a rider is wearing one piece of costume, they ride back to their team and the next rider will start after the previous rider crosses the finish line!
Using plastic cups I have purchased from the dollar store, I "eye ball" the amount of green colored water (use food dye!) into all of the rider's cups. I fill the cups about 3/4 full - and feel free to change the amount of water and the color!
I will hand each rider a cup of "mint julep" and send everyone out to the rail in a specific direction at a specific gait. I will give the riders different commands as they ride around the ring such as "All canter" or "Sitting trot" etc. The rider with the most amount of water left in their cup at the end of the game wins.
There is no set time limit for this game - it is up to the judge.
For this game, I split the riders into teams. Using pool rings (you can use anything.. candy, stuffed animals, etc), I place them all over the arena: on the fence posts, jump standards, jump cups, and even in the dirt.
One rider from each team will find one item and ride back to their team. The next rider goes until every member of their team has found an object. The team that finishes first wins.
This can be played at a walk, trot, or canter. Specify the gait! Mix it up and play using one hand on the reins if your students ride english style!
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