5 learning games for memorable unmounted lessons
Riding lesson fact of life: if the winter winds are howling, or the arena is hot enough to melt the bottom of your boots, or your school horses have conspired to all go lame at once, your students are going to occasionally be grounded.
This can be a disappointment or an opportunity for entertaining, educational FUN. It’s all in how you approach it!
Whether your unmounted lessons are impromptu learning opportunities or scheduled well in advance, your students should feel like their lesson time was well-spent.
We’re kind of ambitious — we also like to use this time to foster barn friendships and increase our students’ appreciation of just how much there is to learn about horses.
For this reason, horsey learning games are our group lesson go-to for filling camp schedules and unexpected rainy days.
Here are just a few of our favorite unmounted games, approved by students of all ages - no equine participation required!
1) Pony Pictionary is a perfectly portable activity that we love to use during summer day camp, especially during hot midday hours when we could all use a little air conditioning.
Students can play individually or as a team, drawing on a chalkboard or dry erase board to illustrate a equine term that their teammates must guess. Art skills are NOT required.
We’ve found that particularly memorable drawings become barn legend and are talked about years later!
You’ll find rules and tips for playing the game in our Pony Pictionary sets for each Level; each set also has 48 curated terms, which can be printed as cards or viewed in your mobile browser.
You could also use ALL of the terminology in Level Up flashcards or lists – or just create your own list of terms for a particular riding discipline (e.g., quadrille) or unmounted topic (e.g., equine anatomy).
2) Scavenger hunts are a camp classic for a reason: you can pack a surprising amount of terminology and information into the activity.
Hunts can be as simple or as diabolical as you like – but they should always promote teamwork and communication between students.
Allow plenty of time to discuss items in your final tally, and don’t forget to set rules for clean-up!
We still haven’t recovered from the time we asked for “A product used to clean a gelding’s sheath” and were presented with… a shedding blade.
3) Carrot Toss Quiz – One of our most popular indoor activities is a simple variation on an oral quiz bowl.
Students who correctly answer questions get the chance to earn bonus points by tossing a carrot into a bucket. The student or team with the most points at the end of the session is crowned victor — and the horses get the carrots, which makes them the real winners in this scenario!
Of course, you can always substitute horse cookies or individually wrapped peppermints in place of the carrots.
4) Hobbyhorse sports – Did you know there are now actual official tournaments for competitive hobbyhorse riding? What a time to be alive!
We keep a small but well-loved secondary school horse string in a basket in our office. These horses are trotted out to perform various lesson duties, including:
By the way, in case you’re wondering, it isn’t just little kids that love the hobbyhorses. Our teenage Ground Buddies spent five years feuding over who was going to get to ride Nessie the Dragon Pony in camp demos.
No hobbyhorses available? Harness your students’ imagination: they can perform all of the lessons above on “Ghost, the Invisible Wonder Pony”.
5) Whenever possible, get out the toy horses. We keep a plastic tub full of ancient but sturdy model horses and their accessories: fencing pieces, grooming tools, feed bags and hay bales, miniature jumps, tack, halters and blankets.
Older, focused students can use the toys to design facilities for optimal horse management, or create “disaster” scenarios to demonstrate horse safety rules. They can set grids and courses – measured to scale, of course — or write sale ads for each model.
Teaching a group of younger children? Just turn them loose. You might be surprised by their inventive use of the models, and find all kinds of hidden lessons inside their play.
Don’t be surprised if they groan when you tell them it’s time to pack the toy horses away!