5 Creative Homework Ideas for Riding Lessons

Help motivated learners make the most of their riding lesson time by giving them creative horsey homework.

There are no shortcuts to good horsemanship. Learning to ride involves training the body, brain and emotions; learning to understand and care for a horse can be a lifelong journey.

Obviously, the more a student can practice, the better!

But here’s the tricky part: horseback riding is expensive, and owning a horse even more so. The average riding school student doesn’t have the time, money or expertise to devote to maintaining a beginner-friendly horse that’s why they come to us in the first place!

 This limits their options for practice.

These students often want to advance through Levels, jump fences, and go to shows — but they are riding just one hour a week, if they’re lucky. How many musicians do you know who learn to play an instrument well by practicing just one hour a week?

The older students are, the harder the situation becomes, as they’re increasingly likely to spend the remainder of their week sitting in a classroom, office or car. Yet these students often come to lessons with an expectation of visible progress.

That makes it our job to help students set realistic goals – and to help motivated learners make the most of their lesson time by giving them creative horsey homework.

In our experience, a lot of students use horses as a way to detox from the stress of school or their jobs. Part of the allure is the opportunity to get physical, get their hands dirty, and get away from screens/tasks/pressure.

So we need to make our horsey homework as fun, hands-on and approachable as possible

A few ways we’ve done this successfully:

1

Institute 5-minute challenges

When students arrive for their weekly lesson, we ask them if they’ve practiced their homework exercises over the past week.

Some respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Of the remaining students, the vast majority use the same excuse: “I’ve been really busy and haven’t had time.”

We get it, honestly. But most of the exercises we assign — such as lengthening and shortening reins, or practicing two-point off the horse — are designed to take less than five minutes a day.

Ask students (and parents, if you think the adults will be supportive and helpful) where in their day they could carve out five minutes. 

riding lesson students stand and stretch one leg for fitness homework

Can they multitask and practice their exercises while watching a video, or waiting for dinner to cook?

Explain that at the end of the month, there will be a test — and those who make time for the majority of their 5-minute practices are likely to pass and earn a reward.

For example, we often use fitness challenges as graduation tests for each Level, and give students off-the-horse exercises they can practice in a few short minutes each day as preparation.

2

Hold a contest

Contests can be structured in a number of ways to suit your lesson program’s demographics.

The only requirement is that you dangle a prize that students really want. Merchandise with your farm logo is a popular choice with students — and it’s great sneaky advertising for your business!

student studies horse homework worksheet

A few options:

Golden horseshoe found inside every Learning Levels study guide

3

Get in their social feeds

If you run a public equine lesson program, you probably have at least one social media account for your business.

Aside from being a valuable marketing tool, your social media page gives you a platform to share articles, videos and graphics you think your students would find beneficial.

Another sneaky benefit of social media posts is that they get the entire family involved.

The largest part of your online audience is probably parents of students — especially if you teach a lot of children under the age of 13 who are not legally allowed to sign up for a social media account.

screenshot of Learning Levels homework folders on Pinterest
Are your students on Pinterest? Send them HERE!

Your posts, photos and quizzes may spark conversation between parent and child about what they’re learning in lessons, and help the whole family realize just how much there is to learn about horses.

A few ideas to get you started:

Take a quiet afternoon and put together a lineup of social posts, so you can quickly publish one over morning coffee or on your lunch break. You can even use Canva, Meta Business Suite or a similar platform to create posts ahead of time and schedule them.

One caveat: keep it professional! Remember that your behavior sets an example on the internet just as much as it does at the barn. If you’d prefer that your homework assignments are for students only, consider creating a private group for your posts.

4

Create Quizlet challenges

Harness the power of the Quizlet study app by challenging your students to create a free Quizlet.com account and work through study sets of equine questions and terminology.

Quizlet sets have mobile-friendly digital flash cards that guide students through an interactive learning process. You can share specific sets that tie into your weekly lessons, and challenge students to beat your Match score. (This makes a great recurring post on social media, by the way!)

We now have over sixty sets in the HorseSense Learning Levels classroom, organized by Learning Level, that you can share with your students.

You can even create your own classroom and track exactly which of your students are studying at home, and how often.

sample horse homework game on Western saddle parts from Quizlet

Many of our students already have Quizlet accounts and are familiar with the app through school — but we’ve noticed that parents who sign up with their child often learn pony parts together!

5

Bring the homework to the barn

Your students may not do independent work on their own — but what would they achieve with a team of friends?

There is a lot of value to be gained from forming study groups and regularly scheduling unmounted group activities.

Unmounted lessons can be taught to fairly large groups, leveraging your time and strengthening the social bonds that keep a barn family glued together.

students sit together on floor to sort flashcards for horse homework

These sessions can focus on a variety of unmounted topics, and allow students to puzzle through worksheets, create conditioning schedules and training plans, hash out Stuff Happens scenarios, and practice hands on skills together.

Schedule classes by Level — encouraging students to Level Up so they can stay together.

If unmounted lesson time isn’t already standard practice at your barn, you’ll need to pitch these sessions in a way that gets your students and parents equally excited to join.

A few ideas to make your unmounted lessons successful:

No illusions here: we know that if we ask ten students to do some horsey homework, we’ll be lucky if half actually complete it

But the students that do practice active learning are the ones with the real passion, who are likely to stick with horses for the long haul.

At the end of the day, those are the students we really want to keep, and we’re happy to provide them with additional ways to reach their goals!

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We’ve been blessed with many talented photographers over the years: students who voluntarily stood in sweltering/ freezing arenas, capturing lifelong memories of lessons, camps and shows. We’re grateful to all of them!

One former student, Delaney Witbrod, is now a professional photographer with a gift for animal portraits – see more of her fine work here. We’re also grateful for photos of Western riding donated by LLPro instructors – particularly Bit of Pleasure Horse School and Joyful Hearts Photography!

You’ll find illustrations throughout our online courses and printed materials graciously donated by our friend Rhonda Hagy. Evan Surrusco contributes additional illustrations and handles most of our photo processing. Contact us for information about their work.

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