4 Ground/EAL Activities

I haven’t posted activities for Therapeutic Riding (TR) lessons in a while, and I’ve also received some inquiries about ground activities for Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) lately, so here are some new ideas! I found these in a huge stack of resources I photocopied from a friend a few years ago and am not sure where they are from, so if it’s yours and you want credit, lmk. It’s important to note that these activities are more EAL style, and any EAL sessions should really be done with a certified profession or in conjunction with a professional therapist/counselor. If you want to adapt these activities to TR, you need to focus on teaching a riding or horsemanship skill and using the activity to practice that skill with the discussion to include feedback on the skill. Just make sure to stay within your own scope of practice 🙂 Enjoy! I will continue to keep an eye out for more EAL style activities to share with you!

My resources lists these activities as useful for:

  • Expressing feelings.
  • Idefntifying actions/choices.
  • Group/family dynamics.
  • Parenting issues.
  • Communcation.
  • Symptoms of PTSF, ODD, ADHD, Aspergers.
  • Respecting boundaries.

Flag Race

Set up:

  • At one end of the arena set up a start/finish line.
  • On one side of the arena set up a bucket with 3 Feelings Flags in it, the flags labeled “Happy”, “Sad” and “Angry” (or customize these).
  • At the other end of the arena set up a cone or series of cones.
  • On the other side of the arena set up 6 Action Buckets, with the buckets labeled “Aggressive”, “Anger Work”, “Silly”, “Play with Friends”, “Tantrum” and “Express Feelings” (or customize these).
  • You may want to fill the buckets with sand so they don’t tip over, and put them up on a barrel or pole so they are easily reached.

Activity:

  • The participant starts at the start/finish line
  • First they go to choose a Feeling Flag on their way to the end of the arena.
  • Second at the end of the arena they go around the cone/s.
  • Third, on their way back, they place the Feeling Flag in the Action Bucket of their choice, the action they think goes with that feeling.
  • Lastly they go back to the start/finish line.

Discuss:

  • Talk about the horse’s feelings and actions in the activity.
  • Which Feeling Flag they picked and why.
  • How they picked that Action Bucket for that feeling.
  • How feelings are followed by actions in life. Can you use actions to affect feelings?

Charades

Set up:

  • A horse or two.
  • A place to act out the charade with the horse.
  • A a place for the observers.

Activity:

  • Play charades, role-playing with the horse a real life situation. You can let them choose what to portray, or give them a specific scenario or emotion.
  • Play either one person at a time with the rest observing, or with two person teams with the other teams observing.
  • After the time limit (you decide how long), the other observers/teams need to guess the situation or explain what they observed.

Discuss:

  • Observations about body language, eye contact, verbal communication.
  • Guess emotions and discuss degree of expression.
  • Responses from the horse (attention, body language, non-verbal communication, eye contact, etc.)

String Relay

Set up:

  • Set up a start/finish line at one end of the arena.
  • A simple obstacle course in a line, such as weave 3 barrels, over a low cavaletti, over 3 ground poles, circle a barrel.
  • Set up a spot at the other end where someone stands – by a cone, in a hoola hoop, etc.
  • You can set up multiple courses if there are more people and room to do it safely.

Activity:

  • One team member stands at end end of the course.
  • The first member leads the horse with a string, such as a feed sack string, through the course.
  • They hand the horse off to the team member at the end who then leads the horse back through the course and across the finish line.
  • If the string breaks, they need to stop and retie the string to continue.
  • This can be done race-style if there are multiple courses, or with a timer if there is one course.
  • I think this could also be done with two people leading the horse, one on either side, each with a string.
  • Or perhaps it could be done with one person riding, and the other leading with a string. I’m sure there’s many adaptations.

Discuss:

  • Teamwork and competition.
  • How you cooperated with the horse and team member.
  • Social/power dynamics within the group (or family members).

Pay It Out

Set up:

  • Set up a “tunnel” or “road” with ground poles or rope on either side, down the arena.
  • Inside the tunnel,  set up barrels or cones all the way down.
  • You may add “temptations” or “difficulties.”

Activity:

  • Each person leads their horse down the tunnel.
  • The person must stay outside the boundaries.
  • The horse must weave through the barrels/cones.
  • If the person/horse goes off course or crosses the boundaries, they must start over.
  • You could adapt this to riding by having the person ride it, or one person lead and one person ride, etc.

Discuss:

  • Giving and receiving with the lead rope, and respect.
  • Communication process with the horse.
  • Horse’s reactions to directions, temptations, challenges, and the leader’s respect.
  • Difficulty with specific boundaries, temptations, challenges.

Trail of Support

Set up:

  • Set up an obstacle course around the arena with a start/finish, such as: go over 3 ground poles, over a cavaletti, weave the cones, over another cavaletti, over 3 ground poles, halt in the box.

Activity:

  • Participants attempt the course leading the horse several times, each time holding a different area of the lead rope: closer vs further away from the halter.
  • Can also be done in teams with one person on each side of the horse.

Discuss:

  • The horse’s  responses to directions and limits given.
  • Which tight/looseness of the lead rope felt the most comfortable.
  • How tight does the lead rope, limits, horse, self need to be held to negotiate the course/life?
  • Where does the participant feel the most in control? If this reflected by the horse’s behavior?

If you have any EAL activities to share with the world, LMK, I’d love to share them!

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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! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!

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