A while ago a coworker lent me her master’s project from a few years ago, a binder full of Therapeutic Riding Exercises and Activities and Equine Facilitated Learning Activities, to use as a resource for this blog! Here are some of her Off Horse Activities to use for rainy days, educational lessons, and team building activities!
Horse Body Parts
Participants are provided with a horse anatomy handout listing a variety of different anatomical parts of a horse, and post it notes. Students write the names of each part on the post it, and stick it on the right body part of their horse. (Desensitize the horse to post it notes first).
Participants are given a card, each 5 x 5 squares, with pictures and/or names of equine items (tack, brushes, breeds, feed, etc.). During the game the instructor brings out the physical items (or pictures of it) and students mark off the corresponding squares. The first one to mark off 5 consecutive squares wins. Use the opportunity to talk about good sportsmanships.
Discuss horse psychology (as prey animals they get scared and defend themselves by running or kicking), horse sight (range of vision, where they can and can’t see), and how these relate (if a horse feels threatened, they may try to run away or defend themselves). Explain that for these reasons certain areas of the horse are unsafe to be close to. Students are asked to place a red X on areas of the horse that are unsafe or undesirable to stand near or walk around. Red Xs are places in areas that are unsafe (straight behind the horse and underneath its barrel), and Green Xs are place on safe areas (at the horse’s shoulder, and slightly off to the side of the horse’s face). Encourage more knowledgeable participants to help less knowledgeable ones. (Make sure the horse accepts the Xs beforehand).
Participants are asked to paint on the horse relative to their feelings and emotions, perhaps related to certain situations or the current moment, using colors, shapes, and designs to interpret their feelings. Participants can take pictures of their horses to journal with later and further explore their emotions. Perhaps ask several people to work together to create a symbol for a particular emotion like loneliness. The group then takes time to explain what they have created and why. Afterward everyone helps bathe the horses.
Participants watch as several horses are let loose in the arena and allowed to interact with each other. Hay or grain can be added to encourage further herd behavior. Instructor asks participants to note any specific changes in behavior. Then discuss. Questions include: What did you observe the horses doing? How did they communicate? What are examples of how you communicate without talking? Encourage them to watch the body language of other people during group interaction.
Using the activity above, you focus on herd relationships. Ask the students to watch and determine who is dominant in the herd, what roles seem to exist, and which horses seem to have developed relationships with each other. Discuss the necessity of dominance and leadership in herds (safety, order, reproduction, etc.) and compare to human behavior in groups.
Have the participant use a measuring tape to measure the height of the horse, from the ground to its withers, in inches. Then have them convert the measurement to hands, which is a unit of measurement used to measure horses. One hand is equal to four inches, so divide by four. Clients can cut out shapes and tape them to the measuring tape every 4 inches for a visual to measure height by hands.
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!
Thank you for this site. As a sole PATH instructor of a one year old center, I have no instructors to bounce ideas with for lessons. This information has helped me keep enthusiastic about teaching and less anxious since I know if I get stuck I have this resource to fall back on. Great ideas. Sincerely Thanks!
Thanks so much for your comment! It’s encouraging to hear that this blog is helping people and a good resource. Best of luck with your instructing!
Thank you very much for these rainy day activities. They are very helpful.
I am in my final few intern teaching hours. I need something I can either have a side walker or place on horse for my non-verbal student to point to for whoa walk on trot. Any suggestions?
Most instructors at the barn I work at have the rider press the withers of the horse and call it a “button”. You could also make up 3 small cards with pictures or words on them signifying the whoa, walk on, and trot, and put them on the saddle for the rider to point to. If they have good enough fine motor skills they could point one finger for whoa, two for walk, and three for trot. I would recommend trying to teach the actual skills too – using reins for whoa, and legs for walk on and trot. Good luck! Let us know what works for you!
Thank you once again for some excellent ideas.