Recently a coworker lent me her master’s project from a few years ago, a binder full of Therapeutic Riding Exercises and Activities and Equine Facilitated Learning Activities, to use as a resource for this blog!
Here is her great list of Riding Mounted Activities. Enjoy!
Note: most of these games require horses to be desensitized to items and require riders to be briefed on arena spacing and awareness first
20m Circle Obstacles
- Setup: lay 4 ground poles on a circle
- Activity: student rides circle over poles, and whoas over each pole
- Progression: at the trot or canter, use ground poles to mark time to transition between gaits
Around the World
- Activity: Instructor steps in as sidewalker. At halt, rider begins facing forward, then brings one leg over the horse’s neck so they are sitting facing sideways. Next bring one leg over the horse’s rear so the rider is facing backward. Lastly bring one leg over the horse’s neck so the rider is facing forward again. Make sure to support their hips and help their leg over as needed, the whole time.
- Progression: less support, introduce walking a lap before switching positions so the rider practicing balancing sideways and backward at the walk, progress to changing positions at the walk without halting
- Notes: the rider’s strength determines the amount of time they can spend in each position, make sure the horse is trained to accept the rider in different positions, train the sidewalkers how to appropriately spot
Barnyard Round Up
- Setup: place stuffed animals on the fence around the arena, designated barnyard area (barrel, hula hoop, etc.)
- Activity: the barnyard animals got loose! The student steers their horse to collect “stray” animals, instructor asks them to ID the animals/what sounds they make/how to spell their name, then the student takes the animal back to the barnyard
- Progression: add steering through obstacles on their way back to the barnyard
- Notes: make sure horse is ok with stuffed animals and tossing them
- Setup: basketball hoop, soft balls of various sizes
- Activity: on horseback, student whoas horse to side of hoop, tosses ball into hoop
- Progression: move hoop further away or have student back horse up further away
- Notes: use smaller balls if student can only use one hand, can use to practice counting skills, desensitize horse to balls being tossed and bounced off its body
- Setup: hula hoops, cows (laminated cow graphics)
- Activity: place cows in arena, student steers toward and whoas horse by cow, then uses hula hoop to “rope” the cow
- Progression: rope the cow at a walk, use smaller hoops to increase difficulty
- Activity: Have student toss dice to side of horse (can toss both, or have student toss 1 and sidewalker toss 1), have student count/add/subtract/multiply the number rolled then perform a riding skill according to the number rolled such as walking that number of steps, trot that number of laps, etc.
- See https://lessonsintr.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/the-dice-game-i/
- Alternate: Dice with letters or pictures can be used for scavenger hunts
Follow the Leader
- Setup: obstacle course or pattern
- Activity: line up students, then have them follow each other through a pattern or obstacle course, have them take turns being leader – for a private lesson have the rider follow the instructor or a volunteer
- Progression: tighter turns, add trotting, make up their own pattern, etc.
- Notes: you may first need to teach the students proper spacing and the aids to correct their spacing (this would be a great activity to teach an arena spacing lesson)
- Setup: a line of T poles with rings on them, pole/broom stick
- Activity: similar to jousting, student walks up to T pole with ring on it, halts, uses pole to collect the ring, proceeds to next T pole, and so on down the line
- Progress: collect rings at the walk (no halting), then at the trot
- Setup: create a maze to meet the ability of the rider (smaller turns for increased difficulty) using poles, ropes, etc.
- Activity: rider steers through the maze with the goal of not stopping at any time
- Progression: add tighter turns and circles, add a time element
- Notes: make sure the rider maintains balance and upright posture through all the turns
- Setup: mail box at one end of arena, envelopes at the other end with works/letters/numbers/horse names written on them according to the student’s ability
- Activity: student take an envelope, reads it, asks the horse to walk on to the mailbox, then woahs by the mailbox and places the letter in it
- Progression: add trotting
- Notes: you can reverse this game by having the student take letters from the mailbox and deliver them to parts of the arena depending on the word on the envelope (“A” goes to the arena letter “A”, or “To: Bear” goes to the bear beanie baby)
Red Light, Green Light
- Setup: need a red light/green light prop such as a stop/go sign
- Activity: line riders up at one end of arena, provide cues for Walk On and Whoa using the Red and Green Light prop, the first rider to the end wins
- Progress: let leader help, add trotting
- Notes: make sure riders understand arena spacing first
- Activity: instructor gives directions to riders for skills to perform, directions starting with “Simon Says…” are to be followed, while directions given without it are not to be followed
- Progress: add harder skills, have students act as “Simon” for the other riders
- Notes: instead of “Simon” use one of the horse’s names, such as “Bo says…”
- Setup: attach a smiley face sticker (or printed graphic via clothes pin or tape) to the rider’s chest
- Activity: rider steers by pointing the smiley face where they want to go as you encourage looking through turns and correct body position (such as through obstacle course or weaving cones)
- Setup: give each rider a tennis racket and ball
- Activity: rider balances the tennis ball on the racket then performs and activity (such as obstacle or race) while keeping it balances. If the ball is dropped, they must halt and wait for the sidewalker or designated person to get the ball.
- Progress: add multiple balls, progress through various gaits (walk, extended walk, trot, etc.) and transitions (walk to trot, trot to halt, etc.)
- Notes: if horse neck reins rider may ride independently, if horse does not neck rein then relying the on the leader to steer while the rider focuses on balance may be best
Treasure Tack Hunt
- Setup: hide grooming and tack items around the arena, create cards with the items on them and put them in a container
- Activity Option 1: student draws a card, steers to the item, describes the purpose or use of the item, and returns the item to the tack bucket or grooming box, and so on until all are collected
- Activity Option 2: student find and collects the grooming and tack items in the order they are used to groom and tack up the horse
- Notes: sidewalker can carry the item so rider can use both reins, if needed
Up, Up, Down
- Activity: have rider start posting trot, when it is rhythmic and rider is comfortable have them ride and hold the position an extra count before sitting (counting out loud “up, up, down” may help)
- Progress: have them push their hips forward a little more on the second count to emphasize opening the hip and pushing the lower leg down and back
- Notes: this activity is for intermediate to advanced riders who already know how to post, use this activity to help them learn the ideal body position and leg placement to balance; if rider falls forward explain it’s because their leg is too far behind, if rider falls backward explain it’s because their leg is too far in front
- Setup: empty cups, at one end of the arena place 2 barrels each with a bucket of water and an empty (small) bucket on it, markers to turn around (cone, pole, etc.) at end of arena may be helpful
- Activity: divide riders into teams at one end of the arena lined up behind their team barrel, give each rider an empty cup, when the race begins the first teammate fills their cup with water (reaching over or with sidewalker help) and walks to the end of the arena and back where they deposit the water in the empty bucket, then the next rider goes, and so on until the first team to fill their bucket with water wins
- Progress: add obstacles, tortting, etc.
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!