Want to get your students excited about unmounted barn lessons? Or add some fun and games to summer horse camp? Maybe you’d like some creative new lesson activities for rainy days?
We’ve spent almost two decades teaching unmounted horsemanship lessons to students of all ages — and with the soaring costs of keeping fit lesson horses, we won’t be stopping any time soon!
While we love to give our students hands-on time with the horses, we’ve also learned the importance of developing lesson plans that aren’t dependent on lesson horse participation.
These activities can be a lifesaver when the weather drives you indoors, or when your hard-working camp horses need some downtime to stay sane, or when a multi-instructor facility needs to schedule unmounted classes at the same time as mounted lessons.
Years of experience have taught us that students are most likely to retain lessons they learn in the spirit of play
Every equine learning game should broaden or deepen students’ knowledge AND leave them with a taste for more — whether they’re in or out of the saddle.
It’s important to keep learning FUN when teaching lessons without horses, particularly when you have students (or parents) who don’t yet understand the value of an unmounted education.
So we use many different learning games and challenges in our lessons.
We previously shared five of our students’ favorite unmounted activities in our most popular blog post to date, Let the Unmounted Games Begin!
Here are five more of our favorite camp-friendly unmounted games:
#1 - LEVEL UP BINGO
Help students learn important terminology in a horsey version of BINGO — an easy activity to set up in the shade, or inside in front of a fan!
Students can match verbal terms with colorful images on their Bingo cards, match terms with definitions, or go hunting through the barn for real-life answers to their Bingo clues.
Print your Bingo materials ahead of time and tuck them in a folder to create a grab-and-go lesson activity.
Download Bingo cards for several different Levels HERE.
#2 - YOU BE THE HORSE
Our students LOVE to play horse. You can incorporate horseless simulations in unmounted lessons for students of all ages — just expect that the younger the students, the more horsing around there will be!
Asking students to play horse can be helpful when teaching a number of lessons, including:
Emphasize equine communication and body language by pairing your simulations with a set of Horse Talk cards, in which students must figure out a nonverbal way to express how their horse feels about a specific situation.
Download a free set of Horse Talk Cards HERE.
#3 - FRACTURED PONY TALES
Fractured Pony Tales is a fun team-building exercise that challenges students to put their horsey vocabulary to use.
Each team is given an identical list of terms and asked to write a story or play that incorporates every single term. This can be a great way to teach terminology while relaxing indoors!
Make sure to allow plenty of time, paper and pencils. If your group is younger or finds writing to be a struggle, consider assigning a volunteer scribe to each team.
Once the stories are complete, students can give dramatic readings.
We like to let groups designate one student as the Narrator and other group members as the actors in a play. This is a great option for kinesthetic learners, and it’s always fun to watch them portray terms like “spook” and “impulsion”!
Or get creative and allow alternatives to the traditional short story: students can create a poem, a cartoon strip, lyrics set to a popular tune, or a rap.
Fractured Pony Tales once brought us great joy in the form of a summer camp rap battle, complete with a full-splits dance finale. Wish we had photos or video of that one!
Create your own epic camp experiences: download Fractured Pony Tale instructions and word banks HERE.
#4 - 20 QUESTIONS
This classic verbal game requires no preparation or equipment, can take up as much time as you like, and entertains participants in and out of the saddle. Our riding students frequently ask to play while practicing their warm-up stretches at the walk.
Get the game rolling by asking, “I’m thinking of a school horse. Which one?” Students are only allowed to ask questions than can be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer.
Clever students will quickly learn to narrow the pool by asking identifying questions such as “Is it a mare?” and “Does it have a white face marking?” After a few rounds with your school horses as subject matter, your students will sharpen their powers of observation!
This game can also be used to test your students’ knowledge of horse sports and breeds, different pieces of tack, diseases and ailments, toxic plants, and types of feed.
Let your students practice ahead of time by playing Match games in our free Quizlet classroom.
#5 - HORSEY BOARD GAMES
Have lots of table space and some time to fill during a camp session?
Challenge your students to an educational board game! Our favorite tabletop adventures include:
LEVEL UP – This simple custom board game gives students an opportunity to advance by answering questions, defining terms, or demonstrating skills.
We use Level Up flashcards, question cards, or quiz questions for this game. In fact, our database of questions and terminology was created for quiz-bowl activities like this in summer day camps!
You can create your own board, then print question/terminology card sets and decide on gameplay rules that work within your lesson or camp timeframe. Don’t forget to add game tokens — our students love moving tiny model horses around the board.
Rules are flexible: for instance, when teaching Red Level students, answering a Red Level question might allow players to advance one space, while a correct Orange Level answer allows them to move five spaces.
You can also scale the game to suit groups of mixed ability by allowing each student to move one space for answering a question at their current Level, and an additional space per Level if they choose to aim higher.
For a fun camp or barn party experience, provide art supplies and let your students design a custom board for your barn with their own game rules.
Use our free printable templates to create a versatile reusable board, using colored paper and heavy-duty posterboard or foam board.
Download printable Level Up sets HERE.
HORSE ON COURSE – Before playing this game, students must draw a large course map full of show jumps, cross-country fences, or Western trail obstacles. (Designing the course itself is sneaky education!)
Provide a big roll of paper and wide-tip markers — or a box of colorful chalk and a long stretch of pavement — and allow plenty of time for students to collaborate on their course design.
You can stretch this lesson over several days by allowing students to create miniature obstacles using common materials like popsicle sticks, drinking straws, acrylic paints and decorative craft items.
When your course is ready for gameplay, each student gets a token or a model horse and must correctly answer quiz questions or give definitions in order to “clear” each obstacle. The first horse across the finish line is the winner!
HERD YOUR HORSES – This game is an oldie-but-goodie that can occupy horse-crazy kids for HOURS.
The highlight of the game is the beautifully illustrated horse cards, each full of surprisingly detailed and accurate information on breeds, colors and horse behavior.
We’ve had our game since 1996 and it’s no longer being manufactured — but you can find buying options for used Herd Your Horses games on Amazon.
Be sure to fill your unmounted lesson time with activities that feel creative and fun to YOU as well
Your enthusiasm will be contagious, and inspire your students to love ALL kinds of horsey learning!