(That was me, every year).
Here is a list of Christmas games you can use in your lessons. Most of them are activities I looked up online and adapted to horses. They are in no particular order. This is just a start, please add to the list in the comments!
Christmas Games on Horseback
Use ornaments or candy canes instead of balls / beanie babies / bean bags / rings for any game you normally play.
Ornament and Spoon – like the egg and spoon race, but with round ornaments
Ornament Toss – like a bean bag toss, but make a cardboard Christmas tree with holes in it, or with velcro on it to use with velcro balls and hang it on the wall
Christmas Wreath Toss – how many balls can you get through the Christmas wreath? (tossing balls through the Christmas wreath, not tossing the wreath itself :) ) At the halt, back up one step after each throw, on the go as they walk by…you get the idea.
Tree Decorating – have a real tree in the middle of the arena, send the riders out to collect the ornaments one at a time and decorate the tree. For neck rein steering have them put on a garland, walking around the tree in circles! You could probably also make a fake cardboard flat tree and put it on the wall with something to hang the ornaments on, too.
Candy Cane Delivory – delivering candy canes, putting them on and off things, perhaps a real tree in the middle of the arena, or specific arena letters
Santa Says – like Simon Says!
Stuff the Stockings – Supplies: stocking stuffers (candy, carrots, etc.), and Christmas stockings. Put stocking stuffers at one end of the arena, and stockings on the other end. Students deliver candy to the stockings. For added difficulty, make them use spoons to deliver the stocking stuffers. If you use horse treats, they can feed their horse a treat at the end.
Snowman Freeze – walk when the Christmas music is playing,woah when it stops playing and stand still like a snowman, and don’t hit each other
Musical Ornaments – like musical chairs, but to Christmas music, and instead of chairs make big cardboard ornaments that the horses must get one or both front feet on when the music stops! This one sounds like a lot of fun to me…
Sun and Snow – like red light green light, but with the word Sun for green light and Snow for red light, according to the game I found. I would make Flurries for yellow light and Snowstorm for red light.
Find Santa’s Reindeer – Supplies: construction paper or felt cutout reindeer, and a scene with Santa, his sleigh, and no reindeer (also construction paper cutout, or felt, or drawn, or collaged, whatever you can manage). Hide the reindeer around the arena – on the fence, on the ground, in obstacles, on volunteers, etc. Introduce the game by showing the scene: “Santa’s reindeer are missing and Christmas eve is fast approaching, can you help find Santa’s reindeer and save the day?” When all the reindeer are found, have the student put them on the scene. Yay, you saved Christmas!
Ornament Skills Game – get a real tree (or make a cardboard cutout tree) and put ornaments on it that have skills written on the them (skills that the students are working on). Students are to pick an ornament off the tree, perform the skill, bring the ornament back or put it in a bucket, and go get another one, for as long as you designate
Stocking Skills – fill a stocking with cards that have skills on them. Have the students pull from the stocking, perform the skill, then pull again, until all are gone.
Christmas Trail Ride – decorate your outdoor arena or trail with Christmas decorations! Sing Christmas carols as you go!
Lead On, Rudolph – Supplies: antler headband and/or red Rudolph (clown) nose, set up arena with obstacles. Game: Select one student to be Rudolph and have them put the antlers and nose on. Explain that just as Rudolph led Santa’s sleigh, the class Rudolph will lead everyone in this seasonal variant of Follow the Leader through the obstacles they choose. Give each student a certain amount of time or number of obstacles. Then have the student choose the next Rudolf.
Hand candy canes on the horse’s crest/mane, and have the student reach close and far to get them.
Waiting area activity – make an ornament. Have pictures printed out of each student with their horse, and Popsicle sticks to make a frame.
Desensitize your horses to everything before you put them in a lesson! Such as ornaments hitting them if a kid drops one.
What about you? What Christmas games have you played with your students?
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!