Horseback Riding Games and Activities

Learning to ride horses should be about safety, technique and form, but it should also be about having fun. During our summer camps, we often play horseback riding games so that our campers are sure to have fun, and to break the monotony of riding in circles around an arena. As an instructor, it’s permissable to break the mold every once in a while and introduce a new concept to your riders.

All of the following horseback riding games offer the following:

1. An increased understanding of cues to the horse.
2. A better ability to guide and cue the horse.
3. A sense of accomplishment for even a beginning rider.
4. Fun for both rider and instructor
5. The horses even seem to enjoy them!

RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT

This is an old favorite of pre-school and kindergarten classes, but it can also be played on horseback! Riders line up on one side of the arena, and the instructor stands at the other. You can use rope or string to mark starting and finishing lines, or orange cones will work as well.

Red Light: Halt
Yellow Light: Walk
Green Light: Trot

For more experienced riders, Green Light can mean canter, but you will need a larger space for that type of game.

As the instructor, you play ‘traffic light’ and tell your riders what to do. The first to cross the finished line wins.

Purpose: This game teaches riders control over their horses. When you say “Red Light,” the riders must immediately put on the breaks. However, they cannot pull on their horse’s mouths or be cruel about it, which teaches them how to ask correctly.

RIDE-A-BUCK

This is one of my favorites because it is always hilarious to watch. Although it can be done in the saddle, I prefer to have this class bareback, as it is easier that way.

All of the riders start with two dollar bills (or two scraps of paper if you’re afraid of losing money). They put the bills (or paper) under their knees and against the horse, and all of the riders start out at a trot or canter (depending on their ability). The last rider with a dollar bill wins the game.

Purpose: This teaches the rider to keep their knees snug against the horse’s side, and tests their strength and skill as bareback riders. It is always a lot of fun, and your riders will be amazed to find out just how little strength they have!

EGG & SPOON

This game can be played with real eggs or with golf balls, whichever you prefer.

The riders are divided into two teams, and are stationed at either side of the arena. The first rider on each team scoops an egg or golf ball from a bucket with a spoon, and starts off across the arena. They can proceed at whatever speed they feel comfortable with, but they cannot drop the egg. If they do, they must return for another. The first team to have all of the riders cross the arena with an unbroken egg wins the race.

Purpose: Balance is an enormous part of horseback riding, and this is the ultimate test! Riders who can ride while balancing an egg will surely be safer and more reliable in the saddle.

KEYHOLE RACE

Using poles or rope, make a large ‘keyhole’ in the middle of the arena. The opening should be about three feet wide, and open to about seven feet at the very end (keyhole or flask shaped).

The riders take turns starting from a particular point, trotting or cantering into the ‘keyhole,’ turning their horses around, and exiting back to the finish line. The fastest time wins, but the rider must not disturb the edges of the ‘keyhole.’

Purpose: As with Red Light/Green Light, this game promotes control over the horse.

BATON PASS

This game requires two teams of four-to-five riders, a baton (or stick), and a stopwatch. Position two riders of each team on either side of the arena, and designated starting riders. The first two riders will cross the arena at a designated pace, pass the baton to the next rider, and so on. The first team to finish all four or five riders wins.

Purpose: Team playing and precision are two desirable qualities in horseback riders. This encourages teammates to work together for a common goal.

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