The Train Direction Change Activity

Here is a nice activity for working on change of directions that I found in a pile of old resources. Enjoy!

The Train Direction Change Activity

Lesson Objective: 

The activity involves change of directions, so possible riding skills to use in your riders’ lesson objectives include:

  • Direct rein steering
  • Bending aids
  • Indirect rein steering
  • Neck rein steering
  • Steering by looking with their eyes
  • Steering by maintaining upright body posture and pointing their belly button the direction of the turn
  • Etc.

Examples of fully written objectives:

  • Rider will demonstrate direct rein steering 3x each direction with minimal verbal prompts and a leader.
  • Rider will apply the bending leg aids through 4 turns with verbal prompts and no leader.

Arena Setup:

  • Dressage letters in the appropriate places
  • Optional: Poles (to help with corners, turns, straight lines, etc.)
  • Optional: Signs for North/South/East/West in the appropriate places
  • Optional: Cards for each type of change of direction
  • Optional: Some type of signifier for who is the engine, such as a laminated train picture that clips to the leader’s saddle (make sure the horses are desensitized to anything you use first).

Warm Ups

  • Do appropriate to your rider’s needs and preparing for the skill

Skill Explanation

  • Discuss the what, how, why of the skill you will be practicing

Skill Practice

  • We will practice the riding skill by doing lots of changing directions today!
  • Explain the types of direction changes:
    • centerline
    • across the arena
    • across the diagonal
    • reverse (half circle back to the rail)
  • Have everyone practice on the rail, both directions
  • Ideas:
    • Have each child take turns picking which change of direction for everyone to do
    • Have each child pick a card with a picture of a change of direction for everyone to do
  • Discuss what is hard about changing directions. If they have trouble with certain figures, go over it with them.

Direction Change Activity: The Train Game 

  • Explain follow the leader – perhaps practice one time around just following.
  • Explain how to play The Train Game:
    • The riders are a train, and the leader is the engine.
    • The instructor is the conductor, who will tell the train which direction to go.
    • The conductor calls out out North, South, East or West, and the engine decides which direction change to use to get there.
    • If they make the changes too small or fast they will loose the other cars. If they wreck the train they loose their turn as engine.
    • Rotate through who gets to be the engine.
  • Here are some options for other ways the conductor can tell the train where to go, if the above activity is too complicated:
    • The conductor calls out the direction change to use and the letters to ride to, the engine leads the train through it.
    • The conductor calls out the dressage letter to ride to, and the engine decides which direction change to use to get there.
    • The conductor has the train come down the center and stop at the “train station”, where they get their “train track” to lead through. The conductor can tell them which direction change to go ride, or have them choose a card with the direction change on it. It can be specific (ride the diagonal M to K) or open ended (use a diagonal).
    • I’m sure you can think of more!
  • During the activity:
    • You may want to discuss with the engine ahead of time their plan for changing directions.
    • Give appropriate feedback related to the skill.
    • Make sure you decide ahead of time how you want them to switch engines before the next engine gets their turn!
  • Conclusion/Review
    • Have the train “pull into the station” by lining up in front of you (perhaps use cones to mark their parking spots).
    • Ask each “train car” to name a change of direction they learned that day.
    • Ask which change they most like to do.

Short and sweet! Enjoy!


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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