This week I am fortunate enough to be at the 2015 PATH Intl. Conference! After attending the Mentor Workshop I snuck into the Community Connections Day Instructor seminar let by Jen Donahue of Equest, Dallas TX, because last year it was one of the best I attended. This year did not fail! Like a huge brainstorming session, everyone asked questions and everyone gave answers. So I took a bunch of notes and to share with you! Some of these ideas are from other sessions and conversations I had that fit in. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re at conference, say hello!
The Living Maze
Set up the arena with pairs of colored cones, like using gates for driving. First call out the color of cones sets to go through, one at a time. As the rider progresses, remove the leaders and sidewalkers as able, an have them become part of the maze by standing between the cones to close the gate, and standing to the side to open the gate. When it’s closed the rider must decide whether to go right or left, work on dealing with change and steering. This also gets the volunteers involved.
Set up the arena with upright poles with bowls upside down on top, the bowls having different numbers/points written on them, with obstacles inbetween. Use pool noodles to “joust” (knock over) the bowls, adding up the numbers/points at the end.
Seasonal Scavenger Hunts
Come up with seasonal items to hide around the arena. For Halloween a spider, ghost, bat, etc. Make a list of the items, perhaps with icons/pictures, and have the rider read the items off, steer the horse to find the item, halt and collect it, hold it, and deliver it to a bucket on the barrel.
Baseball On Horseback
Set up the arena with bases, with a bucket for home plate, and in the bucket put cards that says different plays (single, double, home run, etc.). Riders pick from the bucket what they hit, read it off, and ride to the right base. The students get so involved they ask to trot or go off leader. It’s a good motivator and for engaging groups of little bowls.
Take turns passing each other. The first rider can halt while the others pass. Or the front riders can practice collected walk while the last rider passes practicing extended walk. Have the riders say “Ribbit!” if the passer is far enough away, and “Too close!” if the passer is too close.
Similar to leap frog, all riders go in a row working on their skill. Call out “leader freeze!” which means the first rider freezes (halts) while everyone else passes, practicing spacing, taking turns, sequencing, and arena etiquette.
Make ribbons out of construction paper and award them throughout the day for games!
Forest of Neverland
Set up two ground poles, two hula hoops, etc. and a dungeon area. The instructor is the Queen of Neverland with the dressage whip. The riders must ride across the Forest of Neverland without stepping in a hoop. If they step in a hoop they get sent to the dungeon and their friends must help release them.
When you’re feeling like you need to spice things up (and prevent instructor burnout) put out a box full of hats and wigs and wear one! If you feel like a wizard, wear a wizard hat, or if you feel like a princess wear a tutu.
Create themes for every week that all instructors utilize. Assign one instructor to decorate for that week. For Halloween do a haunted obstacle course and decorate together. Everyone gets witches hats. Decorate pumpkins together or with students. For Fall decorate barrels with fall tablecloths and set up a cornucopia to collect the items for.
Paint the horse, label parts.
Groom mane and tail and talk about brushing your own hair.
For sensory issues, introduce things on the horse then have them use it on themselves or you use it on them, like a massage brush.
Hug, Airplane, Sit up. Hug your horse’s neck, Airplane your arms, then Sit Up without using your hands (volunteers can keep their feet forward). Progress to taking feet out of stirrups.
Pony push ups – hands on mane, bend over, do pushups. Progress to 2 point push ups. Then flying 2 point “push ups” (bend overs). Lastly hands over head “push ups.”
Obstacles Drill Team
Incorporate obstacles into drill team. Like weaving cones at the same time on either sides of the arena, and circling barrels. Add music just for fun, even if they don’t memorize the whole pattern!
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 judgment!