(Drawn by yours truly on Photoshop, haha).
I have found that young riders love beanie babies. Actually, a lot of my older riders do too. Beanie babies are something familiar and calming, and can be great motivators. Here are some ideas.
Beanie Baby Activities
Woah at the Animals – place beanie babies around the arena on the fence. Practice woah and walk on at each animal.
Animal Rides – place beanie babies around the arena on the fence. Woah at an animal, take it for a ride 1 lap, woah back where it was to drop it off. Give another animal a ride.
Collect the Animals – place beanie babies around the arena on the fence. Woah at each animal and collect them. Try to fit them all in their lap or sitting in the surcingle handle. Take them all for a ride.
Animal Skill Demonstration – use the beanie baby to demonstrate a skill! The monkey is especially good for this. He can hold on to the surcingle, use his legs for walk on, ride without holding on…
Animal Picnic – place the animals around the arena, and have a barrel in the middle with a “picnic blanket” (cloth of any sort) on it. Practice woah, walk on, or steering to collect each animal and bring it to the barrel for a picnic.
Animal Homes – place the animals around the arena, and have barrels spread out in the arena each with a different home on them (that matches the animals). Homes can be paper printouts (jungle, barn, etc.), or objects (toy barn, etc.), or whatever your creative mind wants. Practice woah, walk on, or steering to collect each animal and take it to its home.
Animal Toes – put a beanie baby on the rider’s toes to practice heels down and toes up, or else the animal will fall off!
I had an especially young child come for her first ride. We started with introductions to myself, the horse, the leader and the sidewalkers. We took our time mounting (looking back I could have used the beanie baby to demonstrate) and first got used to walking around on our horse. The goal was to establish centered alignment and comfort on the horse while riding without holding on for several seconds at the walk. She was over the moon about riding but had a death grip on the surcingle grab strap and didn’t want to let go with even one hand. So we broke out the beanie babies and put them around the arena on the fence. First she woahed at each beanie baby, asked for it, and tucked it in to the surcingle handle – all 4 of them, so soon her hands were edged to the sides. She still was able to hold on, but her grip was relaxing as she made room for the animals. She also ungripped a hand to receive the animal. Second we delivered the animals to the corner where they sat on the fence to watch her ride (she loved an audience). By now she was letting go with both hands at the halt to handle the animals. We kept the monkey, who became our demonstrator. He showed her how to ride with her arms straight out for balance at the walk. When she was still tentative to do so, I had her show her parents in the viewing area the monkey with her right hand 2x, then with her left hand 2x, and finally with both hands 2x. Everyone cheered. I was so impressed at how enamored she was with the monkey and how much I was able to use him to motivate her that I had to share!
What about you?
In what ways have you used beanie babies in your lessons?
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!