Holiday Game: Over the River

This is my favorite Holiday activity to date. Today I sat down with our volunteers and said, “Okay team what activity shall we do today? I need ideas!” After a minute of blank deer-in-the-headlight stares, someone said, “We should do something to a Christmas song!” So we made an activity to “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Only later did we find out this was originally a Thanksgiving song, or what the last line was.

Holiday Game: Over the River

Arena Setup

  • 1. Barrel with bucket of beanie babies
  • 2. Two ground poles (“Over the river”)
  • 3. Weaving poles with Christmas tree images (“Through the woods”)
  • 4. Cones course (“The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh”)
  • 5. Keyhole made with poles or rope (we forgot the rest of the lyric)

xmas (4)

Directions (and lyrics, should you choose to sing along)

During warm ups encourage them to look at the obstacles and try to figure out what Christmas song our obstacle course is based on.

  1. Halt at the barrel. Explain we are going to play a game based on the song “Over the river a through the woods.” We are going to take the beanie babies over the river, through the woods, and on a trail to grandmother’s house. Let them choose a beanie baby and where to keep it.
  2. 2 point over the river (ground poles)
    1. Over the river,
  3. Weave the Christmas trees (upright poles aka the forest)
    1. And through the wood, to grandmother’s house we go,
  4. Steer through the cones course
    1. The horse knows the way (if his rider will tell him) to carry the sleigh
  5. Steer into grandmother’s house (the keyhole) and halt
    1. Through the garage and into the living room! (we couldn’t remember the rest and made up our own half the time – the kids got a kick out of it)

Drop off the beanie baby. The rider may exit by U-turning (back out the garage) or riding straight over the pole (jumping out the window) – depending on the rider, decide for them or give them the choice


xmas (1)

xmas (2)

xmas (3)

Remember the last line?

Through the white and drifted snow!

If you like you can sing the rest!

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,
and thus the news he tells.
-“The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” by Lydia Maria Child


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!

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