I am SO excited to share this with you!
I did part of my Instructor in Training hours under a wonderful woman named Carrie who started HorsePower Therapeutic Riding. One of the things I learned most from her was to think creatively and educationally about the activities you use to teach riding skills. Recently she agreed to let me go through what I will call her Treasure Chest of Games – a big cabinet in the corner of the arena filled with boxes of activities and kleenex! I took pictures of almost everything and wanted to share the activities here so you can have more ideas for your classes. I hope these are inspiring, I know they were for me!
Note: As a riding instructor your primary focus is teaching riding skills. But everyone comes from different backgrounds and can incorporate their strengths. For example, Carrie came from years of experience in working with special needs children, so it is natural for her to include social skills and learning games. In your own instruction, only include what you are comfortable with and capable of, and keep your primary goal as riding skills. Carrie did this by applying horse knowledge and skills to the games – for example, matching games were used to match horse parts.
Carrie’s Treasure Chest of Activities
Animal Name Mixup
Supplies: 4 animal pictures sets, each set made of 3 pages with the animal’s letters on the bottom (eg C-O-W), velcro on back; 4 poles with velcro
Activity: Mixup the animals on the poles. The rider must unmix them.
Version 1) One animal is mixed up on each pole. Whoa at each pole and unmix the animal.
Version 2) The animals are all mixed up across all the poles! (As seen in the picture). Whoa at each pole, take off the wrong pictures, and put the right ones back on.
Riding skills: whoa, walk on, precision whoa, sidepass, direct rein steering, neck reining, holding the reins in one hand, balance
Educational skills: spelling, critical thinking, letters, words, animals, etc.
Hoop Ball Toss
This is a hoop she and her volunteers made to toss balls through. Isn’t it great? You can make up your own games for it.
Supplies: special pockets – each one opens a different way (such as snap, clasp, tie, etc.) and has a different number on it, with a task written on a piece of paper inside (such as “touch your horse’s mane” or “trot one wall”)
Activity: Put pockets on barrel, barrels, fence posts, etc. In the least the rider must whoa, open the pocket, and perform the riding skill. At the most the rider must whoa, choose pocket (you can make them use their words to describe which one they want), review the number on it, figure out how to open it, read the paper, then perform the riding skill.
Riding Skills: whoa, walk on, specific skill on the paper in the pocket, direct rein steering up to place where pocket it, holding reins in one hand, etc.
Educational Skills: critical thinking to figure out how to open the pocket, numbers, counting the number of dots on the pocket, reading the paper, figuring out how many pockets are left, etc.
Fine Motor Skill Blocks
Supplies: little blocks with different designs and holes, shoelace string attached to a block as the starting piece; these should all be able to be strung together on the starting piece – to make it easier tape the end of the string up so it will stay stiff while being poked through the hole in the block (as seen in the first picture)
Activity: spread the block in a basket or lay them out on a barrel, rider must whoa by the blocks and either physically pick out a block or ask for a specific block from the basket or off the barrel, then string it on to the starting piece – you can use this as part of a pattern, as a reward for performing a specific task, or even hide the blocks around the arena and play scavenger hunt – or require that they string a certain number of blocks before they trot, etc.
Riding Skills: whoa, walk on, steering, whatever you can incorporate!
Educational/Physical Skills: fine motor skills using fingers to string the blocks, use descriptive words to ask for specific blocks, count up to a certain number of blocks, require they get one of every color block, etc.
Supplies: fishing pole with magnet at end of string, plastic fish with magnets taped to them
Activity: hide the fish around the arena, steer to and whoa at fish, use fishing pole to “catch” fish using magnet
Riding Skills: whoa, walk on, steering, balance, looking through turns, etc.
Educational/Physical Skills: counting (ask them to catch a certain number of fish), color ID of fish, critical thinking how to get closer to fish, etc.
Fishing Game II
Similar to the game above, but fish are put on the upright poles when caught. To do this either have magnets on one side and velcro on the other, or have magnets on the upright poles too.
It also looks like the fish have pictures on them, but I didn’t ask what for – think up something creative!
You can get plenty of good forward and backward stretches out of this, as the pictures show.
The Cookie Jar
Not sure what she did with this but I bet you can think up something!
ex) whoa/walk on – pull cookie from jar, read number, walk on that many steps then whoa
ex) trotting – pull cookie from jar, read number, trot that many walls
ex) hide cookies around the arena, direct rein steer to collect them all and bring them back to the jar
Matching Game – Household Items
Supplies: printed pictures of rooms in the house (bathroom, garage, etc.) and matching household items (soap, tub, hammer, car, etc.) laminated with velcro on back, upright poles with velcro on them
Activity 1: put the house room pictures on the upright poles and the household items on a barrel in the middle of the arena, rider must pick a card (use words to describe which one they want, not just point), then practice riding skills to take the item to the correct pole and velcro it on under the correct room picture.
Activity 2: put the cards on the poles all mixed up, student must rearrange the cards on the poles so the right items are with the right rooms
(I’m sure you can thing of more activity options too!)
Riding Skills: whoa, walk on, steering, precision whoa, etc.
Educational/Physical Skills: critical thinking, manipulation of cards, problem solving if horse is too far away, discuss daily habits, etc.
Note: Carrie told me if she were to do some of these games over she would incorporate more horse skills, and this is a good example – instead of rooms in the house you can do rooms in the barn (the stall, the tack room, the aisle way, the pasture) or areas of the horse (head, forehand, forelegs, hindlegs, middle, etc.).
Supplies: clothespins with painted ends, paper plates divided in 4, each paper plate section has something written on it that corresponds with the 4 clothespins. For example, below the one of the left has words on the plate and the first letter of the word on the clothespin, and the one of the right has a math problem on the plate with the correct number on the clothespins; or you could just paint the plate section the same color as the clothespin and not use words or numbers; or you can write a horse/tack part on the clothespin and have its picture on the plate; the ideas are endless!
Activity 1: put the clothespins at various places on the horse’s mane/saddle/saddle pad depending on what stretches you want from the kid, have the sidewalker hold the plate where the rider can see it, at the walk ask the rider to pick a clip, take it off, read what is on it, and put it on the section of the plate it matches.
Activity 2: at the halt or walk have the rider put the clothespins on the horse’s mane and saddle, then do the same as above
Activity 3: similar to the above but ask them to find a specific clip and take it off (instead of pulling it off then reading what it is)
Riding Skills: balance, coordination, staying centered, horse knowledge if incorporated
Educational/Physical Skills: fine motor skills of clipping and unclipping things, balance, coordination, etc.
Fly Swatting Game
Supplies: fly images laminated with velcro on back, upright pole with velcro, fly swatter, dice. Put the flies on the poles, the fly swatter is with you, the dice is in the middle of the arena.
Activity: Introduce the game by talking about flies on the farm, why there are so many, why they are good and bad (make horses sick); the rider rolls the dice and must kill that many flies – they can kill all the flies on the same same pole, or spread the number across several poles (for example, 6 flies total, 2 on 3 different poles). When they smack the fly on the pole, take it off and flip it into the air, letting it float to the ground – she says the kiddos love that!
Riding Skills: whoa, walk on, steering, horse knowledge
Educational/Physical Skills: horse knowledge, staying centered, using both hands equally to manipulate the fly swatter, focus, sequencing, etc.
Supplies: stars with number and letters on them laminated with velcro on the back, upright pole with velcro
Activity: put the needed stars around the arena, give the student a word that has to do with the warmup/riding skill/horse knowledge they are working on, then they must ride around to collect all the letters in the word and put them on the pole in order, then do that word’s activity. For example: find all the letters in TAIL then do tail touches; find all the letters in STEER then do a steering activity; find all the letters in TROT then trot on the wall. Note: to cut down on the amount of time this activity takes, have the first half of the word spelled out already with stars on a pole then have them find the rest.
Before You Ride Game
Supplies: cards of the things you need to do before you ride with pictures and words for each step as and laminated with velcro, upright poles with velcro. Carries cards as seen below are: catch the horse, brush horse, pick hooves, put saddle on, put helmet on, ride
Activity: discuss what you need to do before you ride and why and in what order while showing them the cards, have volunteer spread cards around the arena, rider must collect all the cards then take them to the upright pole and put them on in the correct order
Supplies: horse puzzle of program horses with their names on it (To make this: print out pictures of your horses then cut into a few pieces and laminate each one separately, on construction paper put a colored area the same size as the picture and the horse’s name and laminate the whole thing, put velcro on the puzzle pieces and on the colored area in a way that matches up to make the picture)
Activity: spread puzzle pieces around the arena, rider must collect them then put them on the puzzle board in the right place. You can hold the puzzle board or hand it on the upright pole. You might want to show them the original first before spreading around the pieces.
Alternate version – horse puzzle made from magazine photos:
And here is yet another version with some awesome horse facts from I’m guessing a Young Rider magazine – I love it! Click on the picture to enlarge it.
Horse and Cow Spots
Supplies: laminated papers, laminate cows and horses cut in half with spots on one half and a number on the other that corresponds with the number of spots; barrel; upright poles
Activity: on the poles put the paper, with the spots ends of the horses and cows attached to it, and on a barrel in the middle of the arena put the numbered horse/cow ends all on it; have the rider pick a numbered horse/cow end then ride by the poles until they find the matching spots end and put the numbered end on it
Modification 1: do the other way around with the rider picking the spots end, counting the number of spots, then finding the numbered end that matches on the poles
Modification 2: hide the pieces around the arena and find them, then match them together on the poles
(I’m sure you can think of plenty more modifications, like all these games!)
Barn Animals Game
Supplies: laminated paper with barn on it that opens doors with velcro inside the opened doors and numbers in the clouds; laminated farm animals; laminated spinner with matching animals on it (see the pictures below for all of these); barrel
Activity 1: put barns on the poles and animals on barrel (or hidden around the arena), you hold the spinner; the rider must spin the spinner to determine which animal to go get off the barrel and bring back to the barn (this version ignores the numbers in the clouds)
Activity 2: similar, but whoa at the barn, read the number, then spin the spinner to determine which animal to get, and the number in the cloud determines how many of that animal need to be collected (make sure you put enough velcro in the barn doors to fit them all in!)
Note: works on memory by asking them how many do we need? What are we looking for?
Carrie notes: if she were to make this game again, she would do it with parts of the stable to incorporate more horse knowledge, for example the tack room is missing 5 reins, 4 stirrups, grooming equipment, etc.
Here is a similar version:
Ice Cream ABC Matching Game
Ice cream cone tops and bottoms, matching upper and lower case letters.
Cartoon Matching Games
More matching games! This one has cups and images that match. Each cup had a cartoon on it with 3-4 matching images – below you see Superheroes, Cars, and Toy Story (these look like things you can easily find at a party store). I imagine the cups are velcroed to the poles, the images are spread around, and the rider must find the images and deposit them in the right cups.
Note: Again, I’m sure Carrie would say she’d recommend doing this game with horse skill stuff instead
There you go! I hope that sparked some creative game cells in your brain. Happy activities!
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!